How Do You Know Your Top Candidate Won’t be a Toxic Hire?

BY Kathy Crosett
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You’ve finally got the green light to bring on a few sales reps. The only catch is you’ll be hiring remotely, so how do you know your top candidate won’t be a toxic hire? Now is not the time to make a hiring mistake, and without any in-​person contact, it could be easy for a sales professional with toxic tendencies to make it through your screening process and join your workforce.

The Damage Inflicted by Toxic Employees

Is toxicity really a problem? Absolutely. Manuela Priesemuth, in a summary of her research for the Harvard Business Review, writes that, “Millions of people face abusive supervisors and bullies at work.” Our research, in our Voice of the Sales Rep survey, revealed that nearly 70% of sales reps have had to work with a toxic co-​worker or for a toxic manager. In addition, nearly 30% of sales reps have left a position because they didn’t like their co-​workers or the team culture.

It’s expensive to make a hiring mistake that involves a toxic employee. By the time you realize the extent of the problem, you may have invested six months training them. And you’ll likely need another three months to get them out of the organization. Don’t forget you’ll have to start your hiring process all over again. 

This scenario doesn’t begin to calculate the cost of lost productivity that has rippled through your sales force. If you had to fire a psychopathic manager, (which Priesemuth calculates as being as many as 10% of the total) you’ll need to repair the damage that was done. Admitting your mistake and promising to do better in the future is a good start. But you may need to hold a few skip-​level meetings and talk with sales reps who may feel discouraged and worthless as a result of their toxic manager’s bullying.

How Do You Know Your Top Candidate Won’t be a Toxic Hire?

For the long term, the best strategy is to avoid hiring toxic individuals in the first place. Your hiring team may believe they need to meet a candidate in person in order to gauge their potential toxicity. But that’s not true. In fact, meeting candidates in person can actually make it more difficult to understand the extent of toxicity a candidate might display in your workplace. So, how do you know your top candidate won’t be a toxic hire? One of the best ways to identify these individuals is to ask your best applicants to take a sales skills assessment.

The results of a comprehensive assessment will reveal tendencies an individual might have to turn into a Glory Hog once they are on the job. In a managerial role, this individual will be busy taking credit for what their reps have done. And when something goes wrong, they’ll be the first to blame one of their reps for the mistake. In a remote work environment, a Glory Hog may go undetected even longer than usual. After all, it may take a while for a sales rep to dare to speak up to someone else in a position of authority about the Glory Hog. And many reps may decide to leave your organization instead of complaining.

In their research, Michael Housman and Dylan Minor showed that avoiding a bad hire, i.e. toxic, is vastly more beneficial to an organization than hiring a superstar. They report that when an organization succeeds in avoiding a toxic worker, they can realize “returns of nearly two-​to-​one compared to those generated when firms hire a superstar.” Invest in a sales skills assessment platform that can help you identify the toxicity levels of the candidates you want to hire.