A VP of Sales Hiring Scorecard For Startups… Get it Right the First Time
Let’s face it; you don’t have time to hire the wrong Vice President of Sales (VP of Sales).
This blunder not only costs you time and money, but leads to painful frustrations and too many headaches to count.
So if you and I both know this, why do so many startups still make this same mistake?
The truth is, finding the best VP of Sales that won’t churn within 19 months for your team shouldn’t be difficult. And yet, it’s the hardest executive hire startups make:
True story, when you post a job, it sees over two hundred and fifty applicants, couple that with introductions and referrals, you’ve got plenty of options to peruse.
But quantity isn’t the issue here.
It’s the time it takes to comb through all of the people that come your way to find your perfect fit — that one person that just works for your startup, stage, and the work that needs to be done.
You want them to fit seamlessly into your executive team and have no trouble building a team of sales people that are hungry to hit and surpass quotas and maybe even turn into great leaders themselves.
Is that so hard to come by?
Actually, it is if you’re not clear on what good looks like for your startup while using the wrong approach. And that’s the same trap so many of my clients fell into before I came along.
I call it the “shiny object” syndrome.
You know… that burning desire to see a ton of people before making a final decision because you’re unsure of what you want, know what good looks like for your startup, or hoping you’ll know once you see it.
Another problem that I often see with my clients is having a scarcity versus abundance mindset where you feel like there aren’t enough good candidates coming your way so you keep interviewing more with the hopes of finding that one gem.
But the truth is, the right person could already be sitting in front of you and, if you’re using the wrong approach to the hiring process (unfortunately, the majority are), then there’s no way to see this clearly.
This costly mistake leads to:
The good news is that the solution is easier and more effective than you may have imagined, and it’s also probably something you’re probably not using.
Enter: my hiring scorecard for startups.
This handy sales hiring tool is the secret sauce to success. It not only helps you find the right VP of Sales for your startup, but also reduces the time it takes to hire and reduces the likelihood for turnover.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but I promise it’s not.
I’ll show you everything you need to know about a hiring scorecard below, including why it’s worth your time and how to build the perfect one (P.S. I’m also sharing the exact hiring scorecard I use later in this guide so keep your eyes peeled for it).
You’ll start reaping all the benefits I mentioned earlier, and you won’t have to settle for a lousy hire.
I think you get the picture by now, so let’s dive into:
What is a Hiring Scorecard, and Why Is It Worth Your Time?
To make sure we’re all on the same page here:
A hiring scorecard is an unbiased system used to evaluate candidates based on the same standards and qualifications you’re looking for.
After reading that definition, you may be thinking, I know what I’m looking for, so I must already be using a hiring scorecard, right?
The short answer is: Nope!
The validity or reliability of an unstructured interview is around 20%.
Think about it, this translated to only having a 1 in 5 chance of making the right hire. It also translates to the candidate and their decision to work with you once you make them an offer.
Unless you create a hiring scorecard, which is also known as an interview scorecard, all you’re doing is conjuring up a list of “nice to haves” in a candidate and mentally checking them off, relying upon hope.
The problem is, the stories we start to tell ourselves aren’t always rooted in reality. If you’re a technical founder trying to suss out who is right for your stage with over 48 different kinds of VP of Sales, how do you know if you’re making a good decision?
And let’s be honest with ourselves… These are people in sales that know how to tell an incredible story. When these all-stars provide perfect answers to all of your questions, you feel as if they’re somehow reading your mind. Then you get swayed into thinking they’re a better fit for your company than they actually are.
Chances are though, you’re going wide versus deep to really get to the root.
A hiring scorecard flips this whole scenario on its head. It helps you cut through the shiny BS to uncover whether this VP of Sales truly has the skills and will to excel in your role for your stage of startup.
This methodology allows you to evaluate all of your candidates without gray areas or a margin for error: someone either fits the bill or they don’t… and if there are areas that are unclear, you know where to spend your time to better understand.
Before I show you why a hiring scorecard is so effective, I want to first share a story from my own experience.
How I Learned This Lesson the Hard Way
I too got caught up with the shiny objects of making more money.
Despite feeling off, I muted my inner voice and gut instincts that told me someone wasn’t quite the right fit. I became enamored with the big statements and fat paycheck.
Fast forward to the first day and insert me calling my husband crying because I deeply regretted my decision. The same things I muted, came back to haunt me and then some.
I vowed to never make that mistake again but the only way to do that was to get out of my own way.
Since then, I’ve had countless conversations with startup founders that also struggle to hire the right sales leaders.
They find themselves living the turnover statistics churning people within 18 months, hampering their ability to truly scale. You may have even been there or are there right now too.
But there has to be a better way, right?
Luckily, there is and it happened once I found the hiring scorecard.
I’ve tweaked it over the years to make it work with my own methodology and it has paid off since.
Here’s how it works:
What Makes a Hiring Scorecard So Effective?
A hiring scorecard is so effective because it narrows down candidates who are truly the best fit for what you’re looking for.
Your hiring scorecard becomes a roadmap to follow in all future interviews. It helps weed out the bad apples, so you can find candidates who are most likely to stick around long-term and succeed at doing so.
Use one, and you’ll be able to:
Ask deeper, probing questions during interviews. A hiring scorecard goes beyond asking basic interview questions like “Tell me about your previous successes” and “Tell me about a time when you faced adversity and how you overcame it?”
It lets you dive into the real meat and potatoes of each candidate’s experience, qualifications, and work traits, so you can quickly uncover what this person would be like if you hired them. While providing an easy way to compare and contrast against the required work to be successful for your startup (contrary to popular belief, there is no playbook or one-size-fits-all).
So rather than wasting time on generic questions and canned replies, you can get right to the point and conduct more effective interviews in less time.
Reduce churn rates and time to hire. From experience, a hiring scorecard has helped my clients reduce their turnover rate by as much as 76% and one in particular saw a 37% decrease in their hiring process time all from using this one powerful tool.
This extra time can then be spent on growing your business instead of having to find another VP of sales who may or may not work out. Think about the compounding effects of getting it right the first time around.
Quickly expand your high-performing team. It works so well, many of our clients use this methodology for all of their roles. This effective system is easy to replicate and hand off to your hiring teams. It ensures that everyone in your organization knows what to look for and stays on the same page to measure what matters for the actual work that needs to be done for your business.
As I’ve seen with my clients, it’s a game changer.
How to Create an Effective Hiring Scorecard: A Step-By-Step Guide
This is the part where you roll up your sleeves and get to work. But before you do, it’s critical to read this guide in its entirety, so you can avoid the most common pitfalls and get this right the first time around. There are no hacks here.
Once you’ve wrapped your arms around the process, come back to follow this part of the guide step by step.
Step 1: Nail Down The Work
Long before you create your hiring scorecard, you need to pinpoint exactly what you’re looking for this person to accomplish for your current stage and what might come next. Don’t get caught up in what you hope to be in 5 years from now… this is where most get it wrong.
Of course you want a VP of Sales who can build an exceptional sales team that hits their number and then some, but this is just the beginning of what makes a great fit for this role. You’re looking for more.
So how do you do that?
You work backward.
What superpower does this VP of Sales need to have walking through the door to illuminate your business?
Think about your buyer journey, what does it look like today, are you able to retain your customers, are you able to keep up with the market, and what are they asking you for?
- Define what you need from this person to get to your next milestone
- What kind of people leader they are and their approach to building and scaling a sales team
- What an ideal workflow looks like
- How their process unfolds and the tech stack they use to back it up
- And other key details, so you can quickly evaluate whether someone fits the bill for your startup and stage… remember, building is different than maintaining and there are many shades of grey in between.
To visualize what this ideal person can do for your startup and finding the right fit, you can start by using probing questions like:
- Simon Sinek is spot on, it always starts with why… why does this hire matter and why now?
- What’s not getting done today/near future without this person in place?
- Do we know what our ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) is?
- What is our market (SMB, Mid-Market, Enterprise, Global, Channel, a mixture, inbound, outbound…)?
- What is our current sales process and methodology, if any?
- What stage are we at and how much sales strategy/go to market will this person create, fix, maintain, or grow?
- How involved will they need to be in the sales process? What does our pipeline look like today?
- Who will they be working with internally, why, and what are the dynamics at play between each department?
- What are the elements of a successful compensation plan?
- Will they need to find salespeople and build a solid team or work with your existing sales team?
- What is their approach to the hiring process? How do they lead a remote team and what do they do to reduce the margin for turnover?
- What does onboarding and training look like for the sales team and what do they need to do to boost productivity?
- What specific KPIs should this person hit (daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly) to be on track six, nine, and 12+ months from now to help us reach our goals?
- Do they need to be familiar with your company’s lead generation tools and sales management software to ensure they find people who understand these programs well?
- Are they going to be stuck at a desk managing their team or will they need to be out in the field meeting with your sales team in person?
- How much flexibility will they have in their schedule to get the job done?
- How will we support this critical hire once they’re in place to set them up for success? Will they have a seat at the table? Will they be in front of the board?
These questions should give you enough information to run with, but you can always add more as you see fit.
Consider both short-term and long-term needs as you do this too. Just because you need someone to do XYZ now, remember, you’re a startup and things will change quickly. Make sure you pay close attention to the ability to adapt.
Here are some questions that can help you figure out some of the ways you might change:
- What are you hoping to achieve next year, three years, and five years from now?
- What will change in the next year, three years, and five years in order to reach those goals?
- Will this person manage a small team to start and eventually double and triple this in size a few months from now?
- What is your fundraising strategy and how will that affect the go-to-market strategy?
You should be able to find candidates who can grow with you, so you don’t have to keep hiring a new leader for every new milestone that comes your way.
Step 2: Determine Your Must-Have Traits (and Your Absolutely “Nots!”)
Most hiring teams consider a candidate’s must-haves, but many forget about defining their absolutely “nots”, even though they’re just as crucial to the success of your company.
Listen, I totally get it.
It’s easy to come up with qualifications in an ideal world or get caught up in what everyone else tells you should look for, but somewhat harder to determine what you don’t want in a candidate for your business specifically.
It’s important to think about this like software… too many “And” statements and you’ll make it impossible. It’s helpful to reflect on what fell short before and why to understand exactly what you want to avoid.
I know all this can seem like extra work, but it will pay dividends when the time comes. Think about going slow now with an intentional “blueprint” to go a heck of a lot faster later.
Every factor — both good and bad — will help you effectively evaluate every candidate that comes your way, so it’s crucial to define what you need now before creating your hiring scorecard.
This translates to less time with the wrong people, more time for you to think about the business strategically versus getting bogged down in the details, and ultimately growing your sales to scale the company. Versus chasing your tail to figure it out on the fly increasing your chances of making a costly mishire.
So let’s start with the good before moving on to the bad:
How To Determine Must-Have Traits
Must-have traits are the qualifications an ideal candidate possesses in a perfect world. Think of these as the absolutely necessary skills, traits, experiences, and behaviors that you’d like in a new hire.
Are they already comfortable leading sales teams?
Or would this be their first time doing so?
How much experience do they need to have at this level?
What stage of startup, if any, have they worked within?
These are all examples of some of the must-have ingredients.
Pro Tip: As you’re asking yourself these questions, remember to quantify and qualify the answers with the why’s, what’s, how’s, when’s, with whom’s, and desired outcomes.
It’s essential that you define why you need these traits, so you don’t get swayed by a good conversation, and you can make a clear decision quickly.
How To Determine “Absolutely Nots”
Absolutely Not traits include everything you don’t want in this critical hire that will hurt your ability to grow and thrive. Based on your hiring experience, these red flags signal trouble down the road and tell you to keep looking.
Does a VP of sales from a big, well established brand generally lead to someone that doesn’t know how to build and unable to figure it out?
Is there a certain minimum amount of experience that guarantees you don’t have to hold their hand?
Are there some traits, such as being unwilling to work in the office or travel to be with your team, that just don’t jive well?
Think of the traits in your recent bad hires as you try to come up with your list of “absolutely nots”, and you’ll have no trouble ID’ing the bad apples.
Spend some time on this step so you can breeze through this next one.
If you’re still struggling to pinpoint these critical details and aren’t ready to create your hiring scorecard, my approach to journaling will help you suss out the important bits and pieces.
Step 3: Build Out Your Hiring Scorecard
Once you’re clear and specific on what you need and what to steer clear of, you can move onto creating your hiring scorecard.
Don’t worry; this is far easier than it sounds, especially if you’ve spent serious time outlining everything in steps 1 and 2.
So the best way to build out an interview scorecard is to:
- Open a new spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets.
- Define your hiring committee and make sure everyone is clear on their role and what they’ll be responsible for.
- List your ideal traits at the top of each column.
- Use one row for each candidate you interview.
- Prepare key questions for each trait and cross-reference them to each candidate in case you need to tweak them… every person is different and you want to make sure you dig below the surface to understand.
You’ll enter your evaluation scores for each candidate’s traits in their own row and under each column.
Save this as a template and share it with your hiring committee. As interviews start, you may also want to create a copy for each interviewer to avoid creating bias to influence their time with the candidate. Make sure each interviewer is clear on the criteria (no more than 3 per interview) to ensure they’re able to have an in-depth, two-way conversation where both parties can get their questions answered. This paves the way for excellent candidate experience.
By doing this, you’ll be able to easily refer back, compare, and make a strong hiring decision. And if for some reason something falls short in the future, you can easily pinpoint what and why.
The scorecard will serve as your roadmap to making well-informed decisions moving forward.
This is my hiring scorecard:
Step 4: Understand How to Use Your Scorecard Effectively
While you have the basics under your belt, there are a few tips and tricks to using your scorecard most effectively. So you’ll want to:
Score candidates on a scale from 1 to 5 in each category. You can use half points, but try not to fall too far down the decimal rabbit hole and make this harder for yourself.
Add extra weight to crucial categories, so your final averages reflect this importance. Since they carry more weight, your team should dig deeper here specifically.
Assign a minimum score threshold to each trait. This means anyone you’re interviewing should meet a certain score to be seriously considered.
A good rule of thumb here is each candidate should be a close match on 75% of the scorecard and deviate on just 25% of your must-haves… nobody is perfect after all. You just want to make sure you can live with the 25% that’s missing.
Once your interviews wrap up, calculate the averages to see how each person stacked up, and make your decision from there.
You’ll have an objective, results-focused way to evaluate potential candidates and compare all your options. All you have to do is look at the scores between candidates and use the hard data as your guide.
This allows you to make hiring decisions based on facts instead of emotions, who was the most persuasive during their interview, or the referral introduced to you with a glowing seal of approval. You can hold yourself and your team accountable by leveraging the scorecard results.
Step 5: Use Your Scorecard in All of Your Future Interviews
Now that you have a template ready to go, make sure to use it during every interview you and your team conduct moving forward.
Should it be the only criteria you use? Probably not. But, as you’ve just seen, it’s highly effective and objective for narrowing down the best fit.
Remember, you and your team should carefully review all of the supporting documentation presented by each candidate (emails, presentations, social media postings/comments, articles, suggestions they’ve made to you…). You may even want to add categories to your scorecard that represent these details.
Evaluate and score these details beforehand, so you get the basics out of the way and get to focus on the more important intel collecting during your interview.
Does this mean you really only have to set up a scorecard once and be set for life?
You should plan to update your scorecard (no more than quarterly) as your business needs change, and for different positions.
Still, most of the heavy lifting will be done. And now that you already know the process, updates should be no sweat. That’s why it pays to get this first one done sooner than later.
So let’s wrap up with the biggest do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before you start crafting your perfect scorecard:
6 Hiring Scorecard Best Practices
The scorecard is only as strong as what you put into it and how you use it.
- Do get specific about what successes and failures look like. When you understand these upfront, you and your team can easily and immediately flag a good or bad fit. This will save time throughout your hiring process and make it much more likely to connect with the right candidates. The faster you get to “yes” or “no” the better it is for everyone involved.
- Do ensure that everyone on your hiring team uses this scorecard so you can easily compare notes using a universal system. Make sure everyone understands how each category is weighted too… BEFORE the hiring process starts.
- Do update your scorecard as often as necessary to ensure you find the right candidates to fit your current and future needs. You also don’t want to use the same scorecard for different positions, as some of the must-haves and must-avoids won’t make sense.
- Don’t forget to keep copies of your scorecards for future reference. You can compare this data over time to see what specific features/traits turned into productive and not-so-productive team members. This is priceless data to benchmark against.
- Don’t update your scorecard mid-way through your hiring process. You may spot errors or things you want to change as you go through a few candidates, but it’s best to wait until you finish your entire round of interviews. You want to compare candidates using the same metrics, after all. Make notes about what you’d like to change, why, and then use the updated version next time.
- Don’t revamp your scorecard all at once. This will make it difficult to pinpoint what worked in the past and how to replicate it moving forward. So if you’re going to make changes, start with one variable at a time before tossing out your entire scorecard.
If you need more guidance and help with these best practices, don’t forget to save, bookmark, or visit this guide when you’re done here.
Final Thoughts on Creating Your VP of Sales Hiring Scorecard
Congratulations! You crossed the finish line and should feel confident in knowing exactly what a hiring scorecard is and why it’s so darn effective for this critical hire.
You have the framework and now know how to create one and the best practices for using one. You’re going to be one unstoppable hiring machine (after you create your first one, that is).
So take this opportunity to figure out precisely what you want in a VP of Sales. Brainstorm your ideas and wishes, dump everything on a sheet of paper, and organize your list of must-haves, must-avoids, and ideal future outcomes.
You’ll have all the intel you need to build out your scorecard, share it with your team, and use it for all your future interviews across departments.
While it may sound like added work right now, it will save you time, money, and frustration in the short- and long-term, making it SO worth your effort.
Okay, are you overwhelmed by all of the details? No worries! Just reach out to me, and I’ll help you get through it!. My hotline is always on with an ear to listen and a mind to brainstorm.
Cheers to defying the odds while hiring a VP of Sales that will stick around to meaningfully grow your startup!