Make Smarter Sales Hiring Decisions By Asking This One Question

OneQuestionSalesHiringYou’ll pay $7 for a coffee (that would cost you $2 to make yourself) but skimp on your car payment. Think these irrational biases only affect your personal life? Nope, they’re hopping in your car and coming straight to work with you. Let’s look at how they impact hiring.

Like it or not, it should come as no surprise that us humans fall subject to a number of biases that impede our decision making ability. We’ve discussed before the Top 5 Biases of Hiring Managers and ever since The Harvard Business Review highlighted McKinsey’s “Case for Behaviour Strategy”, businesses have begun to take note. McKinsey discovered when companies consciously worked to reduce their biases, they raised their returns on investment by seven percentage points. This finding has evoked major shifts business areas notorious for being short on data and long on bias, case in point: hiring.

Thought leaders in this area include Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner in economics for his work on cognitive biases and Srini Pillay, author of Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders. Pillay’s recent HBR piece highlights specifically how bias seeps into the business world. What can sales hiring professionals learn from these decision making professionals? The short answer is, a lot. But you’re busy! Lets start with one easy step to work into your thought process today.

Starting today, before you lock in a hiring decision, commit to asking yourself:

“Is it possible I’ve fallen in love with this decision?”

Why it works: This question, pioneered by Kahneman in a reflection checklist for business leaders, simply brings consciousness to decision making. Just by reflecting on your decision you’re attacking bias. Specifically, the affect heuristic, a mental shortcut we take when we attached emotion to our decisions (you can use this tidbit at your next cocktail party).

Although helpful in fast tracking some decisions in our lives (ie. avoiding dangerous dogs), the affect heuristic is detrimental to business. This is further amplified in sales hiring because it is especially easy to go with your “gut feel” when thinking of your sales team. Avoid settling with your gut feel by reflecting on whether or not you’re attaching emotion to your judgment. If you find you’re hiring is swayed by a “love” for one candidate, strive to increase rigor and data-backed processes to your hiring. Your budget will thank you.

The first step to better sales hiring is admitting you have a problem. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Successful hiring rates are hovering around chance and a failed hire is coming with a $114,957.00 price tag. The second step is getting help and the good news is the second step is easier than ever. Forward-looking companies are using sales hiring tools to add rigor and data to their hiring. Begin asking the tough questions today for a stacked sales team tomorrow.


Have you experienced the affect heuristic in hiring? How do you quiet your emotional response?


Kahneman’s Full 12 Question Checklist

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Kayla Kozan

Kayla Kozan

Director of Marketing at Ideal
Kayla spent the last few years studying Marketing and Entrepreneurship on 3 different continents. Now covering the latest in predictive analytics, workplace diversity and big data. She has a keen interest in tech and discovering underrated brunch spots.
Kayla Kozan