Using Four Interviews to Find the Right Sales Hire

Written by
Lucas Price
May 31, 2023
4 min
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Bad hires have a huge impact on your company. Bad hires in the sales organization have ripple effects that touch every aspect of your business, from financial forecasts and future growth.

So why do companies still get sales hires wrong so often? 46% of new sales hires fail, which costs companies as much as 70% of their annual quota. It’s a big problem with big consequences.

In the fast-paced hiring world, where decisions often need to be made swiftly and confidently, finding the perfect candidate can sometimes feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Many companies compensate with extended hiring processes, trying to get so many people involved in the hiring process that candidates can go through 7 or 8 interviews for one position.

Candidates start dropping out, and many companies still feel like they’re taking a shot in the dark on whether a candidate will work out.

Enter the Rule of Four – a fascinating approach to hiring with research showing that it can revolutionize your hiring strategy. The Rule of Four suggests that rather than engaging in excessive interviews, striking a balance at four carefully orchestrated interactions with candidates can yield reliable insights for your team’s informed decision-making.

Here’s the basic idea: with fewer than four interviews, each subsequent conversation sheds new light on an applicant's suitability for the role and can effectively change your opinion on their suitability for the role. Yet, intriguingly, extending the interview process beyond four encounters may not significantly influence your perspective or sway your decision.

Ready to learn more about how to revolutionize your hiring strategy?

Let’s jump into understanding more about the Rule of Four, exploring how it can streamline your hiring process, save valuable time and resources, and ultimately bring you closer to finding that ideal candidate.


Why Four Interviews Work

The Rule of Four initially came from Google.

They have a robust hiring process. Laslov Bock, author of Work Rules and a former leader of Google’s People teams, said Google spent the time upfront to refine their hiring processes and get the best candidates in the door.

In the beginning, that meant candidates could go through as many as 12 to 20 interviews before being hired, a grueling process that wore on candidates and the internal hiring team.

However, when they reviewed the data, Google discovered that after four interviews, each additional interview only increased their confidence in the hire by one percent. After just four interviews, the hiring team could predict the success of the candidate with 86% accuracy. Beyond four, each subsequent interview only increased confidence in the hire by less than 1%.

Candidates may have been willing to go through a grueling hiring process and 20 interviews to work at one of the largest companies in the world. But they aren’t likely to stick around to a process that intense for every company.

On the other hand, leaders need to develop a robust enough process that can withstand an interviewer's desire to hire someone based on gut instincts or factors that are truly irrelevant to the position.

Depending on the organization, it can be a delicate balance. But the Rule of Four gives your team a framework to build on and a way to create a consistent process across roles and candidates throughout your sales team.

So if you use 4 interviews as the magic number for your company, how can you make sure you’re getting the most out of those interviews?

Making the Most of Four Interviews

First, ground rules for the four-interview process that will make it successful for your organization.

  1. Make sure interviewers are forming opinions independently. If interviewers talk about candidates or exchange messages before everyone has completed their interview, then the rule of four doesn't work. Interviewers need to form independent opinions based on a structured hiring process.
  2. Structure your interview process and questions to identify successful traits. If hiring managers or team members are winging it with their interview questions, then the number of interviews won’t matter: they won’t be effective. Training interviewers to use effective questions that are the same across candidates will help you explore the traits candidates need to be effective in your sales role and will help make each interview impactful.
  3. Let the interview process help you get context to past performance. While a candidate may be honest when they say they were a top performer or exceeded quota, use your four interviews to dig into why and how they succeeded. Perhaps they were only a top performer for one quarter, or perhaps they only exceeded quota in 2021, when many tech companies had an easy job selling. Using a consistent framework for interviews with structured interview questions ensures your team will get the whole story of past performance for every candidate.  
  4. Use the interview process to rule out bias. Processes that allow interviewers to discuss candidates before everyone has completed an interview or ones that allow hiring managers to base decisions on gut feelings unintentionally introduce bias into your hiring decisions. Creating a robust hiring strategy built around the structure of four consistent interviews across your top candidates for the role allows your team to successfully eliminate bias and consistently find top performers.

Tips on Tailoring Interviews for Sales

Let the first interview or two be a feeling-out process. Get to know how the candidate measures up to your goals for the position and get context on their past performance.

Use tools like job simulations to get additional important information to make the hire. Depending on the role, these can include mock discovery calls, demos, or prospecting exercises. These need to be realistic, but make sure you are giving the candidate time to prepare and ask them about the process.

Who is involved in the four interviews can vary by role. But typically, you should include:

  • a direct hiring manager
  • a peer or colleague working in the same department or team
  • someone from a different department who may interact with the position
  • a senior leader or executive

Using this magic number of 4 interviews as the foundation for your hiring process will both help your team feel more confident in new hires and will give you the framework you need to fairly and consistently evaluate candidates for a role.

Yardstick has the tools to help your team develop a robust hiring process. From guiding interviewers to the best questions to helping teams gather to debrief on candidates in a structured way, your team will have the best tools and practices to help you find the right hire. To learn more about Yardstick, reach out to our team today.

Spot A-players early by building a systematic interview process today.

Connect with our team for a personalized demo and get recommendations for your hiring process.
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Learn the strategies and best practices on how to hire and retain the best people.
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