When Hiring Seek the Help of a Bad Cop

I checked my email first thing this morning and got a resignation letter from someone on my team, a relatively new hire. She couldn’t put up with the ambiguity of working for a small entrepreneurial business. Having come from working with architects and engineers, she is now aware, she likes the square box. Over there, it was simple… there was a deadline for RFPs to go out. All she had to do was meet that deadline and her life was great. Creativity, not her bag.

I should have seen this, but I was blind. She gave me a hint when I met with her after she was hired. I was telling her about some of the projects I wanted to get done and the many opportunities we have here to spread your wings and fly. Her head almost exploded (but I didn’t acknowledge it). She told me she was a checklist lady and I thought: “That’s good”. Then I was back to a creative idea I wanted to get out of my head, before it exploded.

That’s why I needed a bad cop. Someone who didn’t care if she got hired. Someone who had one objective – find out who she really was. You could probably use a bad cop too, for hiring producers.

The problem with hiring is that you get fatigued interviewing people. You start to miss stuff that is apparent to others, but not you. You get emotionally involved and a relationship begins. You project: “I bet they would do fine in this role,” but in many cases, they won’t. When you find that out, it’ll be too late. You’ll have spent a ton of money training them and then, they will resign or you’ll fire them. Or even worse, you’ll let them hang on to a job they don’t want. The swamp just gets dirtier, nastier and well, swampy. So what are you going to do?


Bad Cop 101

Hire a bad cop to help you out. Bad cops have a cool job. They get to dig in deep, ask probing questions and do it all with no guilt, remorse or shame if the candidate gets up and walks out the door. By the way, they never walk out the door, but it could happen. And you want your bad cop to be edgy enough to where it’s always a threat. Someone might walk out. Here’s why:

In the dating phase of any relationship, everyone is putting their best foot forward. You want a great employee. They want a great job. The problem is that there is a lot of mutual persuasion at hand. You’re selling them on your firm. They are selling you on their capabilities. Generally, there’s a lot of smiling and courtesies extended, such as, “Could we offer you some coffee or a bottle of water?” and the “real them” gets missed. It’s like fake news, only this is a fake candidate.


Duties of a Bad Cop

So, what does the bad cop do? They push back, dig deep, make the candidate do exercises. The bad cop knows that if this particular producer candidate won’t prospect, it’s going to be a bad hire. They know that if this producer candidate isn’t smart, it’s going to take forever to learn the business. They know that if this producer candidate isn’t good at relationships, no one will want to hire them as an agent. And that’s when it gets really dangerous – when the candidate is good at relationships, but not much else. A bad cop won’t fall for it when someone else would.


How a Bad Cop Works

We call it evidence-based exercises. If this were basketball instead of selling, it would be easier. We’d give you a basketball and put you and a defender out on the court. We’ll quickly see your speed, your ball handling skills, and how well you shoot. All visual evidence that you either can or cannot play basketball. In selling it’s a little more difficult, unless you want to ask them to take a day off work and go make some physical cold calls. That is very time-consuming, although very powerful, in terms of the evidence it will produce.

One of the things we recommend is to have the producer candidate read a sales book and do an executive summary.  It produces several things that have proven worthwhile:

  1. Can they follow through with an assignment? (Follow-through, follow-up is big for salespeople.)
  2. Can they write? (Written communications – could be emails to prospects or executive summaries for underwriters – is a very powerful skill for producers.)
  3. Can they express their point? (You’ll quickly find out if they can get their point across, which is at the heart of selling.)

Once you get that executive summary, you can now read excerpts and ask them to explain it. This has the ability to create a lot of pressure on the candidate, which opens the door to who they really are. After all, these are their words, their summary, their thoughts. Digging into this reveals a lot about how they think, what they consider important and a fair amount about their intelligence.

Sometimes entrepreneurs have to get out of their own way by getting someone that is totally objective to ask the tough questions and press the issue. That’s why it’s good to have a bad cop on your hiring team. You want to know with great certainty:

  1. Will this candidate prospect?
  2. Can they sell?
  3. If they can, you should hire them. If they can’t it’s easier to take a pass.

Article by: Randy Schwantz

Source: Insurance Journal