Hiring Scientists and Salespeople Can Make or Break a Company. Here’s How to Do it Properly.

As a young manager of scientists in a biotech sales organization, I learned quickly that scientists and sales team members could be like oil and water. Managing team members who are at odds with each other was a nightmare. What is the best way to get scientists and sales team members to work well together? Hire as a team, for a team!  This blog post will highlight tips for ensuring a better coexistence between sales teams and scientists throughout the hiring process.

 

Include the sales team or scientist’s manager/supervisor

It is always important to involve the key stakeholders in any decision-making process. This is especially true when hiring, as the new employee will be working closely with the team. Including the sales team or scientist’s manager/supervisor early in the selection process ensures they have a say in who is hired and feel invested in the outcome. They can also provide perspective on how the team members might get along. The two managers have different approaches to their work and responsibilities. It is critical they trust and respect each other, or negative feedback can result in conflict if one manager likes the candidate, and the other doesn’t.

Use an assessment tool

To build team cohesion, it is essential to assess the profiles of both the scientists and the sales team candidates. One way to do this is to use an assessment that measures how well someone will fit into the desired role. My personal favorite is the Caliper Assessment which is designed specifically to evaluate candidates in sales-related roles. When using an assessment tool, select one that is not just another pre-employment assessment and personality test. Choose one where the data can be extracted and used at both the hiring and developmental stages of employment. The tool should be able to pull reports to map candidates and employees to a job fit, gather interview questions and coaching recommendations, and even provide training to target behaviors or skill gaps.

Don’t ignore the results. When I did, I paid the price for it!

In my experience, I learned that it’s crucial to pay attention to the results of the assessment stage in the hiring process. Ignoring the results can lead to team conflict, which can be costly in terms of time and money and can cause morale issues in the sales organization.

 

Include the salesperson/scientist in the final interview process

Including the scientist and the salesperson in the final interview process ensures both parties can assess whether there is a good fit in terms of skills, personality, and working style. Including the future colleague in the interview also allows for a more comprehensive evaluation of the candidate. They will be able to provide first-hand insights into areas such as scientific knowledge and commercial awareness. Here are two interview styles that could be used to accomplish this:

  1. Have them get together for coffee

If you’re looking to get to know someone better on a more personal level, one of the best ways is to have coffee one-on-one. This gives all the parties involved a chance to talk without interruption, and it’s more intimate than meeting in a group setting. They can ask questions about their life, interests, work, and anything else on their mind. Meeting in a casual environment is more comfortable, and often more information is shared.

    2. Have a dedicated interview session

If you are looking for a more formal approach, have a dedicated interview session. I would often have the team member’s manager present for this style of interview. This allows the salesperson/scientist, manager, and candidate to have uninterrupted time to get to know each other. As a result, the team member and manager will better understand the candidate’s personality and ability to handle the job’s responsibilities. In addition, the candidate will be able to ask any questions they may have about how the team interacts and works together. This dedicated interview session can help create a more open and positive relationship between the team and the candidate.

Provide a list of questions

All interviewers need to be prepared with a set of questions that will elicit critical, objective, and fact-based feedback from the interviewee. There are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to questions. 

  1. The questions should focus on the skills and experience relevant to the job. 
  2. Ask open-ended questions to probe the job candidates’ thought processes. These questions allow employers to objectively evaluate candidates’ communication and problem-solving skills and determine whether they are an ideal fit for their roles.
  3. Ask each candidate the same question to compare their answers fairly. 
  4. Remember that the goal is to obtain objective feedback and avoid leading or biased questions.

Advise on feedback

As a hiring manager, you need to provide clear instructions to the interviewers so they can give the most accurate feedback possible. Remind them that the feedback should be critical, objective, and fact-based. When interviewers know that they need to provide honest feedback, they can ask pointed questions and identify any areas of concern. With critical and objective feedback, you can be confident that you’re making the best decision for your team and company.

Provide interviewing guidelines

While some interviewers may have previous experience, others may not, so it’s vital to ensure everyone is on the same page. Provide clear and concise guidelines for interviewing potential candidates. This should include the following:

  1. Determining what questions are appropriate.
  2. Setting the tone, format, and duration of the interview.
  3. The type of feedback will be provided afterward.

Taking the time to establish these guidelines upfront can ensure that the interview process is fair and efficient.

Heavily weigh the feedback

Heavily weighing the feedback received from the team is imperative. I like to have the entire interview team gather and share thoughts. Each person has 10 minutes to give their thoughts, and others can ask questions. A team debrief allows everyone to hear the same feedback and understand the considerations that went into the decision a hiring manager will make. Red flags may come up during this meeting. For example, if the sales/scientist says, “there is no way I can work with this person,” this must be weighed very heavily. It might not mean the candidate will be bad at their job, but there is guaranteed potential for conflict. Conflict can be incredibly disruptive to a team and difficult for the managers to navigate. Not everyone can always be pleased. Highly negative feedback from a prospective team member with goals to generate revenue together should mean the candidate is not a fit for the team.

Concluding Remarks

Overlooking the team component when hiring scientists and sales team members can break a sales organization. No matter how talented the scientist or salesperson is, sales numbers suffer if they don’t get along. When they work synchronously towards a common goal, sales numbers will grow! It is simple chemistry; oil and water can mix in the right environment. You can create that simply by hiring effectively.

Every hiring manager in this field has faced similar issues, and I was once in the same boat. I have since learned some critical components of what it takes to hire these professionals properly, so they are set up for success for themselves and, naturally, the company. As a result, I have a strong track record of high staff retention in these departments, where the industry standard tends to have a much higher turnover. Feel free to check out my LinkedIn recommendations to see testimonials from other professionals within the industry.

At Insight Recruitment, we pride ourselves on our industry knowledge and candidate relationships. If you’re looking to recruit in the biotech market, don’t hesitate to contact me at Kristi@InsightRecruitment.com or call me at 402-429-9456.