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Beware of Buddy Hiring

Beware of Buddy Hiring | Relentless Recruiting

Is it ever a good idea for sales leaders to hire their former employees?

Given my work experience, I am in a unique position and believe I can offer insight many people cannot. What makes me rare (maybe a little crazy) is I left an excellent career as a medical sales leader to become a sales recruiter. If I had to guess, 99 percent of medical sales recruiters were never medical sales leaders. Hence, I understand both sides of the hiring process—which few people do. 

A Little History

Of course, when I was a sales manager, I thought I was God’s gift to hiring salespeople. Looking back, it’s comical how little I actually knew and how egotistical I was about the topic. As any sales professional worth their salt knows, you should always be learning and be open to reevaluating your processes. 

Truth be known, I made a lot of mistakes as a sales leader, which I never recognized until I became a recruiter. The people who know me would agree; I have a true passion for sales, leadership and recruiting. I hope my insight doesn’t offend any of my former or current peers. All I’m trying to accomplish is sharing my experiences in hopes of helping others. 

So, regarding the question is it ever a good idea for sales leaders to hire their former employees: if you had asked me this question before I was a recruiter, I would have said, “Yes! It’s a great idea! It shows how great of a sales leader you are and your ability to pull your current team to the new company.” 

A Chance to Learn

However, when I was building out a salesforce for a rare disease start-up company, I had the privilege of working with a very sharp VP of Commercial Development. During one of our hiring strategy meetings, she explained she wasn’t a big fan of sales leaders hiring their former employees. She coined it buddy hiring—which opened my eyes to a different point of view. 

She asked me a question, to which I was certain she already knew the answer: If you had 10 sales reps on your team, how many of them are truly superstars? Given I have sat in countless managers’ meetings with 100+ sales leaders evaluating sales teams, I can say with certainty you are lucky if you have three superstars on your team. She agreed and provided a couple of examples of why it’s the kiss of death for a start-up company to allow uncountable buddy hiring to happen. 

For starters, if some of the reps leave, does the sales leader have the ability to actually hire and develop top talent, or are they just good at buddy hiring? Secondly, it fragments the culture and causes cliques within the salesforce. Cliques ruin morale faster than college kids can drink beer. 

It’s What You Know, Not Who

To be clear, my client did allow hiring managers to include some of their former superstar reps into the interview mix. However, she made it clear that those reps were the baseline and we developed a hiring process that ensured the most talented candidate received the position vs. a buddy hire. 

Out of the 50 sales reps salesforce we created, only 20 percent of them came from the same company. This process helped establish a cohesive culture, brought different ideas and helped bridge the diversity gap. It was extremely rewarding when the VP of Sales told us that his new salesforce was the strongest team he has ever been associated with in his 25+ year career. 

I have no doubt that buddy hiring has lost medical companies hundreds of millions of dollars, been the catalysts for non-compete lawsuits and sabotaged new companies’ cultures. I hope you find this story beneficial and may it help you avoid a common issue that is rarely discussed. 

Also, I want to thank that VP of Commercial Development for teaching God’s gift to hiring a valuable lesson.