Hiring for business development is not a simple job. It is different than just hiring a regular employee to perform operational tasks. A great business development associate needs to be able to have specific connections to help grow your business, and they need to be able to properly close deals. A business development hire’s major responsibilities include identifying business opportunities and managing relationships with key existing or potential clients or partners. You will need to be on the lookout for specific skills and a certain experience level when hiring these vital associates.
Let’s find out what you should look for in a biz dev professional and the interview questions that can reveal the ideal candidate.
The Specific Skills
Every candidate will be different, but the top ones should reveal specific skills that are essential to effective business development. They should be:
- Intelligent. This person needs to be creative and able to think on their toes.
- Communicative. Communication is a vital characteristic for this role. There needs to be extreme follow-up in a timely fashion.
- Sales Savvy. It takes a certain type of personality to ask the tough questions, which is exactly who this employee should be. They should be comfortable asking potential clients and partners the right questions at the right time, all while keeping focused on the real task at hand: closing the deal.
- Detail-Oriented and Structured. This may seem like a cliché for every single job out there, but it’s incredibly important to hire a business development employee who is completely detail-oriented (i.e. they need to read and reread contracts on a regular basis).
- Pragmatic. Your business development hire will need to be able to see the big picture and know when to and when not to walk away from a particular deal.
- Entrepreneurial and Legal-Minded. They may not have very much much legal experience or entrepreneurial experience, but this hire needs to be able to wear both hats from time to time, especially when making these deals. The more you think, “this sounds like a lawyer,” or “this is how I would do things as a business owner,” during a candidate’s interview, the higher the likelihood that you’re staring at your next business development hire.
First and foremost, your potential business development hire should have a big Rolodex of connections. The best business development candidates will already have an established relationship with partners and clients in your industry. As this is possibly the most critical element when hiring a business development employee, it’s essential that you use every available resource to learn about and critique your candidates’ networks:
- Internet Searches. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting his or her name into Google or Bing and seeing what comes up. If your candidate is linked to a number of successful companies and individuals, they should be easy to find. If they’re not, it could be a red flag that they may not be a good fit.
- Social Media Searches. Check out his or her profile on Facebook, Twitter and especially LinkedIn. Take note of the number of connections he or she has on each site. See if there are any mutual connections, and don’t hesitate to inquire with these connections about your candidate’s suitability for the position.
- Ask Your Own Network. Get on the phone, and call your peers in your industry. If your potential hire has work they can be proud of, then the people they worked with should be able to vouch for them.
- Look for His or Her Former Projects. Prior work can be a good indicator of future work. See if you can find a potential hire’s earlier project or other people that worked on it, and see what you can learn from what you find.
In addition to the network, you should always make sure that your potential business development hire can provide:
- Evidence of Revenue Growth. There should be some evidence of growth at another company.
- References. There should be reputable references already at the interview process. You should not have to ask for these ahead of time.
There’s not necessarily a set background experience that this person should have, but they should possess the qualities to ensure they can get the job done. Potential employees might look like they bounced around from company to company on paper, but for a business development role, this shouldn’t be held against them. When business development professionals aren’t a good fit, they sometimes don’t feel challenged enough and simply move on. That is why you need to make sure this person has a good fit with your company’s current culture and its goals.
With all of that in mind, there are certain questions you can ask in order to ensure your hire will fit in well.
Interview Questions to Ask
“What do you think about working for our company?”
This is a good opening question because it lets you know why they applied for the job and what research they conducted on your company.
“How would other people in the past describe you as a co-worker?”
It’s important for any employee to understand how others see them. If he or she can articulate that to someone else, it makes him or her more valuable.
“What are the key traits you possess that will help you to excel at this role?”
These should be answered along the lines of the characteristics listed above.
“What would be some of the first things you would do as a business development employee?”
There should at least be one task or deployment they have on their mind to make your business grow.
“What relationships have you garnered that would help our business grow?”
This is where they will describe their “big book” of contacts.
“What obstacles do you anticipate while in this role?”
If they say “none,” then they really don’t know what they are applying for. This hire will understand that there will actually be quite a few obstacles in their way, which they should be able to accurately articulate, along with a few ways that they plan to overcome them.
Describe a hypothetical project, then ask, “Which contact(s) would you call to help with this project and why?”
When presented with a hypothetical project, your potential hire should be able to rattle off relevant names and why they would aid the project.
This list of skill sets, relevant experience and interview questions will at least give you a good idea about what you need to be looking for in a business development hire. Hiring the right person might take you longer than you would think, but you shouldn’t rush it. Yes, your business needs to grow, but finding the right person to make it grow is worth the patience and the time.