Why Depending on the Referral Wagon Wheel is Dangerous

I’ve been in the audience at a sales tech conference plenty of times, where the topic springs up on how to hire salespeople effectively to match the scale of a growing company. It’s tough, which is why so many sales leaders struggle to keep up with the blistering pace of a successful, growing company. The answer I tend to hear a lot lately on this topic is only hiring referral candidates from your existing sales team and while it’s definitely one successful channel, it’s a slippery slope that potentially leaves you with a very one-dimensional sales team.

The quickest path to a homogenized frat-culture on a team is to only use internal references. They’ll bring in clones of themselves, who in turn will bring in more clones and perpetuate the cycle.

This post was influenced by the Sales Engagement Podcast with Scott Barker, where I was a guest speaker. I spoke about the above topic as well as others, check it out! 

While an army of clones could be good for a sci-fi supervillain, it makes a sales team pretty off-putting for anyone who doesn’t see themselves in the type of clique you’ve created. Think about how many times you get exposed to other points of views, different ways to solve problems, unique angles that make one person successful at sales that you have never thought of and as a sales leader, if you’re not building a culture that has diversity in thought and background, you’re missing massive opportunities to grow yourself as well as your people. 

What should you do instead? Keep a Network-First Mentality as the prominent way to keep your funnel constantly full. 

Including diverse viewpoints is important. It’s how you fill any gaps your team might have in skill, knowledge or ability.

Look out for Potential in People

Maybe you have a different problem. You are bringing in great candidates, but they become not-so-great employees.

In that case, your hiring process needs to improve.

A common hiring trap people fall into is thinking every new hire needs a strong background in a particular market. If you sell a healthcare product, you need to have salespeople that have healthcare experience; if you need an Enterprise AE in Marketing Technology, then you need to recruit an Enterprise AE from a different Marketing Technology company. Huh? 

If you only try to hire people who have decades of experience doing the exact same thing you’re doing, they might be stuck in their ways and less able to adapt. Why would you leave a company to only to the exact same thing as you were doing at the other company? That may certainly be true in massive Enterprise Software Sales where the AE can make over $1M / yr, it’s not the common formula for the majority of tech companies out there. 

In reality, candidates with diverse sales backgrounds often end up working harder and with more passion than candidates seasoned in your market, who usually have less to prove.

And new hires aren’t showing up with a full Rolodex these days. It sounds much better than what transpires in reality. 

A rigid focus on a particular type of background can backfire in other ways, too.

Someone who isn’t perfect, but demonstrates potential is always preferable to someone who seems to already know everything. Chances are, they don’t. And when it comes time to teach them, they might not be able to learn new tricks.


Want something actionable you can use to discover a candidate’s potential?

Instead of asking them to do some tedious mock presentation, try running them through a scenario where you present them with a scene, an obstacle, and then role-play the solution with them. Give them feedback on their performance, then repeat the process with a different, similar, scenario.

How did they adjust to your feedback?

Sometimes, the best candidate isn’t the one who has already learned everything, it’s the one who can learn anything.

As with anything, the secret to recruiting is to always look to improve your own hiring process, your own recruiting funnel and most importantly, yourself. 

This post was influenced by the Sales Engagement Podcast with Scott Barker, where I was a guest speaker. I spoke about the above topic as well as others, check it out! 

Sales Podcast Alert!

A few weeks ago, a former colleague of mine, Mike Petrosyan reached out to me and asked to tell my story (thus far) in sales. Sales people aren’t born, they’re made through constant practice, discipline and drive to master your craft.

Mike and I worked together 12+ years ago, during the recession and very challenging times. The sales environment those days were very different than today but kudos to Mike for staying in touch and working on his own journey. You have to have the “Why” to keep growing as a professional, everyone’s path is unique. Here’s a sneak peak of mine:


Bonus: I use the word “Lame Sauce” at some point.

Bonus 2: The book I was thinking about is “Sway” (https://www.amazon.com/Sway-Irresistible-Pull-Irrational-Behavior-ebook/dp/B0013TTK1W

Thanks Mike!

Drop “the hustle” Mantras

I used to love the hustle rally cry, dearly, but I can’t take any more odes to “the hustle” anymore. Because it’s hollow and without any depth or purpose. 

For most of my career, I chose to interpret “the hustle” as a way for those with very little to outsmart those with a lot through clever steps and genuinely outwork the competition. Finding leverage where you had none. Beating out the more experienced person that may be more talented but lacks hunger. Doing things that weren’t supposed to scale or even work, and making it happen. Grit to succeed above all else. 

Yet while my original interpretation was once connected to the term, I can no longer pretend that it is. The hustle has become synonymous with the grind. Pushing through pain and exhaustion in the chase of a bigger carrot but never appreciating the last carrot. Sacrificing the choice bits of the human experience to climb the ladder of success. I can’t connect with any of that.

The grind doesn’t just feel apt because it’s hard on an individual level, but because it chews people up and spits ’em out in bulk. Against the tiny minority that somehow finds what they’re looking for in that grind, there are legions who end up broken, wasted, and burned out with nothing to show. And for what?

Even more insidious about the concept of the hustle and its grind is how it places the failure of achievement squarely at the feet of the individual. Since it’s possible to “make it” by working yourself to the bone, it’s essentially your own damn fault if you don’t, and you deserve what pittance you may be left with.

Its origin from a dog-eat-dog world has been turned from a cautionary tale into an inspirational one. It’s not that you need to hustle to survive, it’s that you seek the hustle to thrive, and still at the expense of yourself and others.

Now this opposition mainly comes from a lens focused on the world of creative people. The writers, the programmers, the designers, the makers, the product people. There are manual labor domains where greater input does equal greater output, at least for a time.

But I rarely hear about people working three low-end jobs out of necessity wear that grind on their popped collar out of pride. It’s only the pretenders, those who aren’t exactly struggling for subsistence, who feel the need to brag with bravado about their beat.

It’s the modern curse of having enough time to try to find a meaning to it all. And when an easy answer isn’t forthcoming through shallow inquiry, you just start running from the void. But you can’t outwork existential angst. At best, you can postpone it. Or temporarily bury it. But it doesn’t go away.

The truth is you’re going to die, and it’ll be sooner rather than later, the more feverishly you devote your existence to the hustle and its grind. Life is tragically short that way.

What really gets my goat, though, is that it doesn’t even work. You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour. Creativity, progress, and impact does not yield easily or commonly to brute force. It comes with patience, inspiration and situations you don’t put yourself in because you’re working yourself to friggin’ bone and have no time to experience anything. 

You want to be more productive? That’s great. First, of course, figure out what you’re actually trying to be productive at and make it happen. Then learn how to manage your time to focus on that without sacrificing everything else. Everyone loses if you’re just staying in the office for the sake of staying in the office. 

Here’s my cheat sheet and counter to the hustle:

1) Get a great night’s sleep. The studies on sleep deprivation and its cognitive effects are unanimous and devastating. You take a bigger hit on your productive and creative powers through lack of proper sleep than almost any other neglect.

2) Get plenty of fresh air. The latest studies on effects of CO2 accumulation, volatile organic compounds, and other indoor air quality killers are shocking. And unlike sleep, it’s far less known just how much cognitive impairment you can suffer from poor air quality. Running outside in the morning has been my saving grace later in life, so much do I wish that I discovered this earlier in my life, it would have saved so much built up stress. 

3) Get regular exercise. This isn’t about “staying fit” or “looking good”, although those are noble reasons in their own right. It’s about what moving your body does to your brain. And it’s good. These are moments to connect with your body and you should cherish every moment you have to connect closer within yourself. 

4) Read some classics. You probably read the equivalent of a few books a month in tweets, hot takes, and other low-calorie material. What if you shifted some of that consumption to not just what’s most recent, but the best humankind had to offer over the last few millennia? I’m all for great business books but I’ve found the more you are able to disconnect from the constant stream of business thought, the better you are when you return to that space. The influences compound and tickle your creativity in more profound ways than I can list. 

5) Say no. Engage with fewer things but at a higher intensity. Stick with it. Stop chasing so much.

6) Meditate on the regular. Your mind is a muscle, and perhaps the most important muscle you have, it needs work as well. I find myself quick to react when I pause meditation for a spell versus when I’m in the zone, I tend to listen more, reflect on my decisions and generally be more thoughtful in both business and personal life. 

7) Find a coach. Someone who is disconnected from your business and can offer you radical candor and accountability on yourself without needing to tie it to a business outcome exclusively. 

Finally: for God’s sake, relax. Pumping your mind full of anxiety about whether you’re getting enough, doing enough, chasing enough, good enough is no way to live. Background stress like that is literally lethal. 

Put in a good day’s work, then close the damn laptop. Stash the iPhone. Waste some time on the rest of the human experience. At this time of the year, eat some duck. Watch a shitty Xmas movie. Help decorate that stupid tree. Cuddle up with your kids or someone that’s young enough to appreciate the intense intimacy needed in the early years. There’s a desire for time from kids, asking to play, asking to be a part of things, perhaps they’re aware of how fleeting these years of intimacy will be with their family. Dare to be so bold as to embrace the beautifully ordinary every now and then.

Then help me whack the hustle with a shovel and bury it in the backyard. We can plant a tree in its honor, and maybe sing the best song we could every write, because after all, we’ll be more creative in the process.

Days filled with this crew make everything complete. Whether it’s non stop singing around the house, imaginary bear hunts on trails, Pickles vs the world in soccer or just cuddling for indefinite periods of time, being a father gives me a reason to continue to progress and be the best I can be. Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers pushing to be your best for your crew (at Fort Funston)

My daughters deserve nothing less than what they’re worth

Equal Pay Day was first created in 1996. Back then, the National Committee on Pay Equity, an all-female group of volunteers, coined the term to bring awareness to the discrepancy in pay between men and women. It was not about women receiving less pay than men for the same work, it was about women as a whole, making significantly less than their male counterparts. Since then, a Tuesday in April is chosen each year to be Equal Pay Day, because that date represents how far into the next week (or next year) most women must work to earn what men typically earn in the previous week. Because Hired has unprecedented access to salary data – both candidate preferences and company offers – we’ve taken it upon ourselves to study what the wage gap looks like for tech workers specifically for the past four years in our annual State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace study.

For the first time in four years, the wage gap has shrunk slightly from 4% to 3%. This may seem small, but represents a major leap from awareness to execution. We’re seeing small changes happening across the board. Last year, men were offered higher salaries for the same role 63% of the time but that dropped to 60% this year.

Yes, companies have taken an active approach in shrinking the gap but our data points toward a bigger culprit: women are being paid less because they ask for less. More importantly, women and men (outside of California) are being asked for what salary they’re currently making and not based on what their skills are worth. This only perpetuates the problem by continually stacking on top of the existing wage gap and pushes the issue down the road for the next company to solve when they choose to hire. The only way to fix this issue is for women to understand their value in the marketplace as opposed to basing their next salary off of their previous one. I personally feel proud as Hired has paved the way on encouraging transparency at the beginning of the process but also has been committed to informing the marketplace, regardless of gender, of their worth. Women ask for less money than their male counterpart 61% of the time, which is an improvement from the year prior at 66% of the time and 69% in 2017. We’re definitely headed in the right direction but significant work still needs to be done. Building awareness through data is key in arming women with the understanding of their worth will build the collective confidence needed to ask for more.

Skills are genderless, especially in a digital world 

One of Hired’s key tenants is to offer transparency with our data to inform tech workers exactly what their worth should be, regardless of gender, either in our State of Software Engineers and informing companies what candidates truly find important in our Employer Brand Health Report. Skills are genderless, and in the world of software almost all work is done digitally what factor does gender and race play in work production?

Since passing the Salary Privacy Bill, the bill which makes asking someone what they’re making currently illegal, California has made significant progress specifically in San Francisco / Silicon Valley where the wage gap is the lowest but still exists. However, female candidates in our SF Bay Area candidate pool represent only 22% of the entire pool compared to 31% in NYC.

Consider this: if the gender pay gap was eliminated, the US economy would add $513 billion in new income each year. Not only will this benefit women but also the economy by a considerable amount. Getting more states to adopt the Salary Privacy Bill is one step that will eradicate the existing gap and ensure that new paths emerge in where women are paid out for their skills and not their gender. Until that happens, women need to know their worth, have the data ready to inform their request and ultimately ask for what they deserve. More than any other method, empowering women through awareness is half the battle but the war is won in arming women with the confidence they need to ask for more, nothing less than their male counterparts, nothing less than what they are worth. As a father of two strong girls, my daughters deserve nothing less than what they’re worth.