It is high time for target Service Level Agreements in the tech sales hiring process…but before all sellers get all militant, pull their placards out, and organize a candidate march, I actually think that these SLAs should apply to BOTH clients and candidates. The basic premise here is mutual respect – for each others’ time and effort and the opportunity cost of that interview time and effort for both parties.

Given the power balance currently still lies with candidates in the SaaS sales arena I will start with what these SLAs should cover for hiring firms but, buckle up sellers!- your obligations follow in Part 2, and if this economy keeps moving the way it has in the past few months, your candidate-side SLA obligations may shortly trump that of prospective employers.

HIRING FIRM SLAs – what should they cover?

So what should an SLA for a sales or sales management hiring process look like for hiring firms? Well, it needs to cover a few things…

  1. TIMEFRAME FOR THE PROCESS

A target end-to-end interview timeframe. 2.5 weeks is likely about right.

2. STEPS IN THE PROCESS / TOTAL TIME OBLIGATION

Hiring firms should provide a clear explanation upfront (before first interview is scheduled) of what the steps are involved in their process – how many interview stages, the duration of each, the people involved (titles, LI profiles) and an idea of what the interview might be focused on. Finally hiring firms should be clear on when references are requested relative to an offer being received.

For more demanding requests of candidates such as

– 30/60/90 day plans

– long-form psychometric tests

– Mock Product presentations (their current solution or yours) or discovery calls

– “Novel” steps. (We have seen TED-like talks, Requests for “Artifacts” of prior success)

Hiring firms need to also be cognizant of candidates being involved in multiple processes so it is unreasonable to ask for more than one of these time-consuming requests.

Full details should also be provided upfront and expectations set around how much time is expected to prep for each item. For presentations focused on the hiring company’s solution, templates should be provided (this should never be a PPT design contest) and any fake role-play needs to have clear expectations as to how the role play will work and how much discovery versus pitching is expected.

It should also provide details on the expected TOTAL time obligation including homework for these demanding requests above.

3. SUPPORTING INFORMATION

Candidates should obviously be motivated enough to do some of their own research on the company and the interviewer but the hiring company should proactively provide answers upfront on the obvious questions every smart seller will ask – The Quota, average deal size, territory (vertical, geo), size of team, target verticals etc – anything about the role specifics and team dynamics that cannot be readily gleaned from their own research.

4. UPFRONT BENEFITS INFORMATION

It is fast becoming a legal requirement in some states to show comp ranges upfront but it is also important to show wider benefits information upfront including health (medical/dental/vision), 401k, stock options (and transparency on what they mean when an offer is given – percentage of outstanding #of shares, valuation at last round, discount to last round price etc.)

5. REFERENCES DONE POST OFFER

The offer might be contingent on successful reference calls but it is unfair to ask candidates to provide references in advance of a formal offer letter. Those formal letters can be contingent on reference checks but it is unreasonable to expect a candidate to prepare their references for being contacted without having received a formal offer in writing first. if you call their references and then don’t make an offer, they look like chumps and they are then forced to ask those references to do it all again for the next role.

6. QUICK REJECTION (ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT) WITH CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK (IF FEASIBLE)

This sounds like such an obvious common courtesy but it is so patchily done that is still a massive frustration of candidates. The candidates put the effort in and then get ghosted on the formal rejection for a whole variety of reasons. For every candidate that is formally engaged by a company, it should be an absolute requirement that they get told of the rejection of their application within a day of that decision being made. This needs to be a hard SLA with no exceptions.

What format should this SLA take?

I think the SLA should read like a hiring mission statement with clear, stated targets. It needs to be at the top of every careers page and clearly stated in every JD.

Remedies to broken SLAs?

Speaking of hard SLAs? Exactly how hard should these SLAs be / what should the retribution be? Being realistic, no hiring company is going to sign up for serious punitive damages against themselves-. My suggestion of a hiring SLA is a best-efforts attempt to improve the process, provide as much up-front documentation as possible, and respect candidates’ time. If a candidate gets the job, that is obviously a reward in itself. If a candidate doesn’t get the job – especially after time-consuming late-stage interview steps have been completed – what they need is a quick rejection, with constructive feedback, and a genuine personal note from the hiring manager acknowledging the effort put in. A token reward (such as a gift card, t-shirt etc) for candidates putting effort into an interview process is a bit of a double edge sword – it might be appreciated by some but I think it might, more often than not be resented by the rejected candidate.

Where that reward idea might be appropriate though is a token mea-culpa acknowledgment if the process goes too long or a rejection isn’t forthcoming fast enough. This could also be something as simple and as inexpensive as a $20 Starbucks gift card. Think of this as mitigation against negative Glassdoor reviews on your hiring process and the negative employer brand impact they can have! In this competitive market, your hiring reputation matters, and adopting a hiring SLA can help you differentiate your company long-term in the market.

So that’s my take on where we need to get to on the hiring company SLA side – Next up, next week – Part 2 the candidate side. 

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