Homogenous teams produce homogenous outcomes. But diverse teams, built around different perspectives, experiences, and sets of skills, enable creativity and innovation”  - Professor David Slocum, academic director at Rare, a Google platform.

You will agree that hiring a diverse PreSales team is a goal that many of us are trying to achieve. However, hiring a diverse team is easier said than done. Like me, if you are a manager and spend a good part of your time recruiting new members for your PreSales team, then you know how to recruit but you probably have difficulties in diversifying your team with new profiles.

I hope with this post, to share 4 strategies to hire a PreSales diverse talented team.

1.  Recognize your own hidden and irrational biases

Renee Navarro, Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Outreach defines the unconscious biases as “social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.”

In her Ted Talk, Kristen Pressner, an international HR leader admits that even if she doesn’t want to, she realized that she had bias against women in leadership. She also affirms that to move forward to build a world of equality, we need to address them.

Even if you believe you don’t have any unconscious biases, the reality is that we all have some and we have to acknowledge it to progress and make a first step in the good direction when it comes to hiring a diverse team of PreSales.

In recruitment, you may have bias only by looking at a resume. For example, only the name of a candidate can bring back positive or negative memories and can lead you to make a decision based on personal sentiment and not on what is best for your team or the company. You could also prefer a candidate because he attended the same school you did.

Recognizing your own hidden and irrational biases is the first step of your path to hiring a diverse team.

2.  Avoid “the mirror effect” - don’t hire people like you

In my early days as a manager, a piece of advice that was given to me by a colleague manager was to be careful not to hire only profiles who resemble us. His argument was valid: we all have a tendency to hold on to what we know. Look for people with a profile similar to ours, with the same interests, aspirations, motivations, ambitions etc…. I call this the "mirror effect".

Certainly, this can be reassuring: because, yes, we all think we have the good profile for the role. After all, if we are now a manager, it’s because we have done a good job. However, this will have strong consequences: an obvious lack of diversity, a lack of initiative and creativity in your SE team.

Referral programs and their limits. If your company offers a referral program, it is possible that SEs on your team have already referred someone for the role, perhaps from a previous company they both worked for (I have done it myself in the past). These candidates probably have a profile “on paper” that looks like the one you are looking for. However it is very likely that this profile is also identical to the person who made the referral. This isn’t a step towards diversity in your team. Be aware of it.

3.  Diversify your source of candidates

From my experience, here are 3 sources you could explore, that can help you diversify your PreSales team:

  • Look internally: ⅓ of my team is made of internal candidates. Have you thoughts of developing your internal SE team brand awareness? This can give you a great pipeline of candidates that already know your product (which means they will ramp up faster) and what is expected from them in your team. A couple of leads I have explored myself: Post-sales roles such as Customer Success Manager or Technical Consultant and also sales roles: Business Development or Account Executive.

  • Source new profiles: LinkedIn is probably the most popular platform for sourcing candidates. I have, in the past, outsourced  this task to recruitment agencies but I felt that I was struggling to explain to them exactly what I was looking for. So even if it’s time consuming, I have found that reaching out to people (as the hiring manager) is  far more rewarding. You can look for interesting, atypical profiles that would usually not apply for the role and get a great quality of “passive” candidates in our recruitment pipeline.

  • What about graduate students?  I have seen some great companies developing a PreSales graduate program internally. This allows to introduce the SE role to young motivated (future) professionals, to train them and then offer them a role in your  team. Also it is quite a good way to bring new  creative profiles into your team, even though the investment in time/money can be really important. You could also work in partnership with college/university to recruit for the more junior roles in your team.

4.  Be more inclusive: Review your SE job description

A couple of weeks ago, after 3 long months looking for a Spanish SE for my team, I finally decide to look back on this inconclusive experience. I still don't have strong candidates in my recruitment process: among the 90 applicants, I realize that less than 5% are women, 50% of the candidates do not correspond at all to the profile I am looking for and the candidates with a good resume all have the same profile.

From there, I decide to sit down with several recruiters and quickly realize that the role description that I advertise is "scary". I use words such as "expert" or "the best". These words are considered “masculine” and imply an overly masculine culture, which scares women as well as other minority groups.

A few days later, I published my job description again. I had removed the non-neutral wording ​​from the description - here is a useful tool to test if your description is gender friendly.  The terms used are gender neutral and I limited the number of required skills to focus on the main ones (as it has been proven that women usually don’t apply for a role if they don’t meet all the requirements).

As a result, the number of women who applied for the role has doubled and more interesting profiles have emerged.

Biased wording in your recruitment process. Biased wording ​​is also an element to take into account during the interview phase. Hiring managers should talk less, listen more and be curious. In order to make your hiring process more thoughtful and inclusive to all candidates, it’s time to revisit your recruitment techniques and to implement new ones such as using behavioural interview questions that use past behaviour as a predictor of future success of a candidate.

To Sum Up

  1. Recognize our own hidden and irrational biases
  2. Don’t hire people like you and avoid the “mirror effect”
  3. Diversify your source of candidates
  4. Review your PreSales job description and your recruitment process to be more inclusive

This article is only scratching the surface of strategies that are easy to implement in order to do a first step in the good direction.

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Sorry, this content is available for Leadership Collective Members only!

The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

Join Leadership CollectiveAlready a member? Login →