Hiring the Salesforce Way

Salesforce has been named one of the best places to work and has been praised for inclusive hiring practices. So how can you hire the Salesforce way?

April 18, 2016

6 Min Read
Hiring the Salesforce way could teach you about how to hire the right fit for your company
Hiring the Salesforce way could teach you about how to hire the right fit for your company.

By Derek Handova

No doubt CRM powerhouse Salesforce has captured the imagination not only of everyone in the cloud computing industry but also people far afield of the business world. For example, just this week, US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called out the company for its proactive policies on equal pay in the workforce. 

And it’s no accident that Salesforce is one of the highest rated large employers on Glassdoor. It makes an effort to find and hire the right employees. Recently, to augment that endeavor it turned its external training program, Trailhead, inward to give hiring managers insight on how to onboard employees the Salesforce way. Other companies could also benefit by following these processes. The following is based on a Salesforce training deck.

Putting Yourself in the Place of Interviewee

Like any great place work, Salesforce is only good as its employees. Hiring the right people is the first step toward building a great company. And learning how to effectively interview candidates is where the hiring process begins.

To ask effective interview questions, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewee, according to Salesforce. Think about the most unusual question you have ever been asked as a job interviewee. Did it catch you offguard? Was your response impromptu and unrehearsed? Getting the most candid and relevant information from an interviewee requires that she moves out of her “comfort zone.”

Unusual job interview questions provide insight into the thinking process of candidates and can reveal if they fit the culture of Salesforce.

It helps to reflect back on your personal recruiting experience at Salesforce, the company says. What unusual questions were you asked? Were you asked, “If you were a plant, what care instructions would you come with?,” which is one potential leftfield question Salesforce lists on its blog.

Because Salesforce cares so much about its culture of Ohana (which means “family” in Hawaiian), it would rather take the time to find the right person then regret hiring the wrong one over the long haul.

Lead the Interview Process and Depend on Others

On a football team, there can only be one quarterback. In the Salesforce interview process, the quarterback is the hiring manager.

While Salesforce does not expect all its hiring managers to be Joe Montanas with four Super Bowl wins to their credit, most can be Trent Dilfer, an efficient Big Game manager bolstered by effective support players.

As the quarterback of a Salesforce hiring team, managers should always keep an eye out for new draft picks (i.e., talent). So they should go to college bowl games (e.g., startup events), check the transaction wire (i.e., see who’s working for the competition on LinkedIn) and so on.

Recruiters and others on the Salesforce talent management team do a lot to source new personnel, but Salesforce feels it helps if hiring managers give them leads. Working together, Salesforce hiring managers and their offensive line of HR partners can move the ball down the field and score in the endzone of employee success. But let’s get serious for a second. Here are the steps to the Salesforce recruiting process:
•    Recruiters conduct screening of candidates, keeping hiring managers in the loop
•    Managers use a tool called Talentforce to review resumes and provide feedback
•    Managers identify interviewers on their teams who:
o        Know the position best
o        Have previous interviewing experience
o        Provide diverse perspectives based on role, function, etc. (at least two)
•    Managers define who will cover which job competencies
•    Managers ensure a consistent candidate experience
•    Managers meet quickly with their team post interview to integrate candidate information—same day if possible

Next: Preparation and structuring interviews 


Preparing for the Interview

Now that Salesforce hiring managers have some candidates lined up for in-person interviews, they have to get ready! As famed strategic thinker Sun Tzu once wrote, “Every battle is won before it is fought.” Not that interviewing is a battle, but preparation is still important. To prepare for interviews Salesforce hiring managers should:
•    Review job requirements
•    Look over candidate resumes, LinkedIn profiles and recruiter notes
•    Assign interview topics to designated members of the interview team
•    Be on time
•    Not bring up compensation under any circumstances—recruiters handle this

Structuring Interviews for Maximum Candidate Input

During the job interview process, Salesforce hiring managers should strive to let candidates reveal themselves as much as possible. As in many business processes, ideally this follows the Pareto Principle—more popularly known as the 80-20 rule. In short, Salesforce interviewees should speak 80 percent of the time; hiring managers 20 percent of the time.

Also, Salesforce asks its hiring managers to stay away from asking yes-or-no questions (i.e., closed-ended questions). They should ask open-ended questions that prompt the candidate to explain herself. Instead of asking if she is experienced, ask what her job experience has been. Finally, Salesforce hiring managers are told to pay attention to non-verbal cues—both the candidate’s and their own. These include:
•    Eye contact
•    Smiling
•    Nodding
•    Pausing

No single input will be decisive. But Salesforce feels that if hiring managers can synthesize all these inputs they can make more intuitive determinations about interviewees over the course of a 45-minute interview.

Recognizing and Creating Behavioral Questions

In the stock market, investors are often told, “past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future results.” However, job candidates are not stocks and actually more like creatures of habit. Using this phrase as a maxim and not a disclaimer, Salesforce hiring managers should use behavioral-based questions in interviews.

Behavioral-based questions are premised in that future performance can be predicted by past performance. These interviewers should ask candidates about work situations in previous jobs in order to determine their chance of success at Salesforce. Follow up questions should hone in on details to probe the accuracy of prior answers.

Salesforce feels asking situational questions allows candidates to give hypothetical answers that they think hiring managers may want to hear. Behavioral questions can lead candidates to divulge descriptive stories that can prove very useful in judging their job fit.

Behavioral questions usually start with a prompt for a candidate to tell a story. Salesforce wants hiring managers to get candidates to share both positive and negative experiences to obtain a complete picture of their experience. They’re advised to use opening phrases such as:
•    Tell me about a time…
•    Describe a situation…
•    Provide an example of when you had to…

If necessary, Salesforce feels hiring managers may find it useful to have candidates elaborate by employing followup questions. These can elicit more explicit details about their roles and job results. Salesforce hiring managers may follow up with a probe like:
•    Say more about…
•    Can you explain further the part where…
•    What was YOUR specific role?
•    And then what happened?

Behavioral questions can apply to any part of Salesforce employee experience—from negotiation skills to communication style. The only limit is the force of the hiring manager’s dreams.


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