My Dumbest Mistakes: How NOT To Recruit Top Talent

It popped in my mind like many of me “genius” thoughts, while in the shower. I distinctly remember the moment, because as the thought came to me as stinging shampoo got in my eye. . . and simultaneously the hot water ran out. In retrospect it was a clear sign: My “genius” idea was ridiculously stupid. But I was living the retrospect part of the story yet, I was still in genius mode. So I proceeded.

Warning: What you are about to learn is a lesson in exactly what NOT to do in your business. Do not try this at home.

The idea? I discovered a new way to recruit the best sales talent this world has ever seen. If there was one thing I had learned about sales, is that it is a 24×7 game. You’re always selling. The next big deal may happen at your kid’s Sunday morning soccer game. Or at that late night neighborhood part, where after five shots of tequila you discover your neighbor is the exact guy you need to talk to, to close the deal. Or it’s an emergency call that comes in at 3:00am. . . Thanksgiving morning . It’s at these unexpected moments that you need to be ready. Any time of day or night, when the moment happens, it’s game on.

The thoughts raced through my mind: Sales happen 24×7. You must always be ready. The best sales people in the world, know this. They nail this stuff. They are always on. Just about now is when the soap got in my eye. And just about now is when I thought, to recruit the best sales people I will run interviews at my office at 3:00 in the morning. The world’s best salespeople are always ready to go. The best sales people I could ever hire, will be the men and women who show up at 3:00 in the morning. Queue ice cold shower water.

I went right into action. The next day I shared the plan with my key employees, who instantly told me the idea was ridiculous. Ahhh, yes. Perfect! A clear sign I was onto something HUGE. If there is one thing I have learned being an entrepreneur, is that every game changing idea is challenged. Every. Single. One. I was onto the idea of the century.

Within two weeks I had everything setup. In fact my idea had matured. Not only will I interview salespeople at 3:00am. I would do it Survivor Island style. Having the salespeople pitch me in front of all the other sales prospects. The cream of the cream will rise to the top. I couldn’t wait.

Additional Warning: When I say “morning” as in referring to 3:00 in the morning. It surely isn’t morning. It is pitch black outside. There is total silence. And the only things up at that time of night were me, raccoons, UPS’s night crew and drunks, I found out.

My alarm started blaring at 1:30am. I need a half hour to get ready, a half hour to get to work, and wanted to be there a half hour early. Mistake One: I can barely keep my eyes open at 1:30am, let alone get ready. More soap in eyes.

I drove to the office and was shocked how little traffic there was. In fact there was none. I felt relief when I see a UPS 18-wheeler truck drive by on the other side of the road. As I quickly glanced into my reviewer mirror at the passing truck, is when I hit the raccoon. Let’s just leave it at these three things: 1. I felt horrible, and it was gross. 2. When you call 911 to tell them that you hit an animal at 2:00am, the 911 operator first asks “Did you enjoy any libations this evening, sir.”. 3. Moving a dead animal off the road with your foot, will leave lots of blood on your pants.

I roll into the office at 2:59am. Lights are on. Patty, my assistant at the time, was there ready to help me with the ten people we had scheduled to interview. No one else. Just Patty, me and my blood covered trousers. These interviewees are good! They must be sitting in the parking lot, getting ready to walk in as the clock strikes three.

No one shows. No one. I get stricken with momentary panic. Then it is clear. Patty must have screwed it up. Did she tell people the wrong day?

At 3:10am there is knock on the door. Oh, that’s right. The best salespeople are masters at social grace. Always arrive ten minutes late, so the host can be fully prepared for your arrival. These guys are good. Real good.

I open the front door and a disheveled guy stumbles in. Or better said, a brewery stumbles in. The stench of alcohol is overwhelming. I am in disbelief. Another knock at the door. I open it and a UPS driver stands there. He had just got off his shift and was here for the interview. I wonder if he is the raccoon murder mastermind.

Survivor Island turns into a session of attempting to sober up the drunk, while explaining to the UPS driver that this was a sales opportunity not “scales” training session.

UPS driver leaves. He walks out the door and looks back at me. “I guess I’m not getting over time for this.”

I call a cab to take the drunk guy home. He thanks me by using the bathroom on the way out and decides the urinals are totally overrated and uses the sink, the floor and the door handle.

And there you have it, the dumbest recruiting idea ever.

I guess there is a small silver lining in that I never did it again. Not that I never tried crazy ideas again, I try them all the time (including writing an article about my dumbest mistakes). But I have learned to listen more closely to my colleagues, take risks more often but on a smaller scale and to learn from other people’s experience (ends up a friend of mine tried a similar version of 3:00am recruiting and it was a disaster).

Here is what I learned about recruiting talent. Only desperate people take desperate actions (like interviewing with a company at 3:00am). The best talent is looking to be recruited. You need to impress the best. You need to make an impression on them that makes them want to come to work for you.

At 3:00am, the best salespeople are sleeping. They are getting ready to hit it out of the park come 9am.


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