“Active” vs. “Passive” Hiring

In 2016, LinkedIn found that 36% of the talent market is actively searching for a new role. This includes those that are currently unemployed, underemployed, and unhappy in their current role. These people are often referred to as “active candidates” because they will actively seek out your firm and apply for a position. Active candidates have read over your job board, done their research, and determined that they are interested in what you have to offer.

From a talent acquisition standpoint, relying on job postings to grow your team can be effective. Active candidates are likely to see or hear about your opportunity. That 25% of the talent market will come to you. The challenge is that you’re certain to miss out on the vast majority of industry talent.

So how do you attract the interest of the remaining 75% of the workforce to increase the odds of finding the most qualified individual?

The answer is in your process. It is important to realize that you cannot treat the “passive candidate” the same as someone who actively sought you out. Passive candidates are typically successful and content in their current role. They need to be shown why working for you is better than what they have now. You will need to sell the role, the opportunity, and your company to generate interest.



  • Recruited candidates don’t know much about the job opening you have and tend to not be invested in the interview and application process.
  • It is unlikely that this type of candidate will be willing to take several hours off from their current job to come do lengthy interviews with you before hearing specific details about the role.
  • Passive candidates are often available for a longer period of time because they aren’t testing the job market. Once you engage with a passive candidate you should still move with a sense of urgency to keep their interest in your role.

To combat these issues, there are a few things that you can do. When reaching out to someone you have found that could be a fit, you need to use a bit of salesmanship.



  • Give them a job description, tell them about the company and explain why their experience is a match for your organization. The more personal it is the more likely you will receive a response.
  • When you do get a response, it is a good idea to start off with a shorter phone interview. This allows you to explain the role, sell the benefits of your organization and spark their interest.
  • This is the point where you can ask for a survey or application to be completed if necessary. Never try to get someone to put forth a great deal of effort before you’ve generated interest in the role. You will likely be ignored.
  • You can ask for an in-person interview after this step. Make sure that you don’t drag the process out too long or you run the risk of being seen as a waste of time.

The takeaway from this isn’t to change the process of interviewing entirely, but rather to restructure the steps to maximize your response rate. Keep in mind what the recruitment process looks like to both active and passive candidates. This will help you to better connect with candidates, expand your pool of potential hires, and increase your likelihood of hiring the most qualified person!

10 Hiring Red Flags You Need to Watch For

10 Hiring Red Flags You Need to Watch For

Hiring a new team member is a bit like getting engaged after the third date. You’re making a big decision with a limited amount of information. There are three methods of reducing new hire risk. Increase the amount of information you have about the candidate, draw new insights from the information that you already have, or work with an experienced recruiter who specializes in your field.

We’re going to focus on the second method and share the warning signs to watch for when hiring a new team member.

Resume Errors

  • This is pretty self-explanatory. In today’s job market, candidates must proofread and present pristine resumes. If they don’t spend the time to review a 1-2 page document what does that say about their professionalism, preparation, and attention to detail?


  • Bad traffic, accidents, and car trouble happen every day. However, lateness suggests that the candidate didn’t proactively plan ahead and build buffer time into their schedule. While not the biggest red flag on our list, it is a mark against the candidate.


  • Much like their resume, a candidate’s appearance should be professional and pristine. First impressions are critical to the job interview process. How serious can someone be about the opportunity if they don’t bother to dress the part?

Lack of Research

  • In our opinion, this is the biggest job interview sin on the list. In the internet age, there’s simply no excuse for failing to brush up on the history, products, and key players within a firm. If you ask a candidate “Are you familiar with our firm?” and they are not, you can probably end the interview right there.

Explain Their Interest

  • Ask your candidate “Why this position? Why our firm?”. There are a lot of correct responses, but just a few wrong ones. If he or she doesn’t have an answer, says something like “A job is a job”, or “My mortgage won’t pay itself” you aren’t dealing with someone who is legitimately interested in your firm.


  • Anyone who runs down their former employer or co-workers won’t hesitate to speak ill about your firm in the future. Integrity could be an issue for this candidate.

Doesn’t Take Responsibility

  • We all make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them. A candidate who won’t admit to failing or making mistakes in the past are either delusional, egotistical, or lacking self-awareness. All three traits are to be avoided.

No Enthusiasm

  • Most hiring managers want to see passion and enthusiasm from job candidates. It’s often seen as an indicator of a candidate’s true interest in the firm and the opportunity. It’s definitely noticeable when a candidate is dull or just going through the motions and it’s a red flag that there’s no drive or passion for the opportunity to work for your firm.

Doesn’t Ask Questions

  • There comes a point in most interviews when the hiring manager pauses and says “Now, what questions do you have for me?” Again, there are a lot of correct responses and just one incorrect one. If a candidate doesn’t have any questions after an hour-long conversation with you, he or she either wasn’t listening or isn’t invested.

No “Thank You”

  • A post-interview “Thank You” note is to be expected. It won’t get a candidate any brownie points, but it’s absence is likely to be noticed. A “Thank You” note is a minor sign that a candidate is professional, polite, and at least a little bit organized. The absence of such a note is a red flag that your candidate may be inconsiderate of your time and lacking some professional polish.

We’ve looked at the 10 biggest and most visible red flags you’ll encounter during the hiring of a new team member. While they may seem insignificant, these cautionary signs provide valuable clues and insights into who your candidate really is and what they might be like to work with. Watching for these red flags will help you make the best decision possible throughout the hiring process.

For more information on hiring right check out our infographic “Don’t Make a Hire You Regret: 6 Simple Tips”.

What hiring red flags have you encountered?

How to Make Internships Work for the Promo Industry

Making Internships Work for the Promo Industry

Our industry, like many others, has a rapidly aging work force. In many ways, this is a wonderful thing. There are thousands of promotional products industry professionals with decades of industry knowledge, connections, and expertise. This experience and expertise has greatly improved the service that we can provide to both customers and end-user. Experience is invaluable, but all industries need new talent in order to survive.

Where do you find the new, young talent your organization needs?

  1. Engage with the career center of your local college or university. Most institutions will welcome you with open arms.
  1. During on-boarding, establish a schedule of activities to include a company overview, short-term and long-term projects, and a rotation through sales, sales support, marketing, and operations departments.
  1. Special focus should be given to the intern’s major and how education translates to real world applications.
  1. Unlike a permanent hire, with internships you must begin with the end in mind. Plan the beginning, middle, and end of the intern’s workload.
  1. Assign an experienced mentor to monitor the intern’s daily activities.
  1. Assign an executive to provide training input and broaden the intern’s view of the business and industry.
  1. Pay your interns and expect them to provide a return on your investment. You will be amazed what they can accomplish!
  1. Stay in touch with past interns and keep them engaged in your business if you wish to bring them on as a permanent employee.

Establishing a successful internship program is a very attainable goal. However, it does require commitment and investment. Focus on making the experience a win-win for both your organization and the intern and you have the opportunity to bring some strong new talent into your business!

Are you looking to add young, energetic promotional product professionals to your team?

Contact our team today to discuss how you can effectively cultivate and attract new talent.

Top Sales Rep Manager?

Why Are Good Managers So Hard to Find?

It seems simple enough to hire a good manager for a promotional product distributorship.  You screen candidates with related experience, interview them, pick the best choice, and train them in the specifics of your business.  Simple, right?  Well, no.  It is anything but simple!

Top Sales Rep Manager?

Source of Candidates

Many distributors look to their to top sales reps to step into a managerial role within their company.  This is rarely a good choice.  First, the skill set needed to be a great sales rep is not the same skill set needed to be a great manager.  Second, top sales reps like the open-ended income available on the sales side of the business.  Owners aren’t likely to provide open-ended compensation in a managerial position.  Additionally, the owner ends up distracting one of his top sales producers with a managerial role they may not be suited for.  Also, what’s the plan for that rep’s book of business?  Third, sales reps are trained to focus on their clients and often avoid political interactions with other reps and the distributorship owner.  Accepting a managerial position places the top rep in the middle of conflict between sales reps, owners, and suppliers.  It’s not a comfortable position for them.

Respect Comes With Sales Experience

Respect Comes with Experience

A sales force will respect a successful sales rep who takes on a management role because they understand the sales side of the business and will work on behalf of the sales team.  A manager from outside the industry or one from the industry who has never sold will struggle to achieve that level of respect.  They don’t have the credibility needed to address real-life sales challenges that are unique to the promo industry.  “They’ve never sold anything.  What could they possibly know about what I’m doing?”

The Three Masters

Three Masters

Some owners agree to let a top sales rep become a manager and keep their client accounts.  This might sound good to the manager, but it is the worst possible solution.  A selling manager is viewed as competition to the sales reps.  After all, they can choose which clients they serve and which clients they pass along to other reps.  Owners want managers who are focused on company profitability.  That doesn’t always mesh with the sales team’s desire for a rep oriented manager.  Only a highly capable and talented manager can satisfy owner’s goals, maintain and grow a client base, and gain the trust of sales reps looking for support and more sales.

Management Training Program

Think Long Term

The time to hire and begin grooming a manager comes long before the day you actually need a manager. Advance planning allows you the time to slowly choose the right person for your managerial training program.  A strong training program should last 3-5 years.  It should consist of job rotations through every department in the business, with a heavy focus on sales and vendor relations.  After each department rotation, the managerial trainee is evaluated and rated on performance in their most recent role.  If performance in a particular department is satisfactory, they move on to the next one.  A trend of poor performance during the training period likely means that your candidate isn’t a good fit.  Keep in mind that success in sales is a must before the candidate can proceed to any other department.

By creating a long-term managerial training program you can avoid many challenges of picking a candidate from your sales team or from outside the company.  Sales reps respect sales experience, so sales is a critical building block for management training.  The training period gives you a chance to round out a candidate’s skills and evaluate the cultural fit they have with your team.

With full awareness of the pitfalls of hiring a manager and a carefully outlined training program, you can make hiring for this critical position a positive point in your company’s history, and not a negative blip in your path to success.

Steve Jobs on Hiring

Is Your Job Description Scaring Away the Top Talent?

Steve Jobs on Hiring

There is a war for talent going on. This war has been raging wildly in the promotional product industry for some time. It shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. The survival of your business depends on your ability to meet the needs of your top salespeople. If you fail to meet their needs, they’ll leave you for a competitor that’s crafting a more compelling story. In the war for talent, the business with the most differentiating factors and the ability to sell those factors wins.

In HR, as in sales, you need the proper bait to land the big fish. The big producer. The bright, young executive. The rainmaker. They have no lack of options. You have to separate yourself from the rest of the industry. Buzzwords like “creativity”, “branding agency”, and “industry leadership” don’t really count for much. Often times, what you need to set your business apart is a job description that cuts through all the fluff. These job description best practices will move you ahead of the competition.


Starting Elements

Every job description has to have these elements in some form or fashion. Verbiage can be different, but the general idea needs to be the there.

  • Job Title – This is just a title and a few sentences on why the position exists within your business.
  • Core Functions – List the top 5 responsibilities that candidates are expected to perform. Keep it short. Go with bullets.
  • Skills/Qualifications – What skills or experience is necessary to complete the core functions of the job?
  • Company Overview – Honestly, a decent candidate should be able to do homework on their own, but this provides them with a good start. Feel free to blow your own horn and brag a bit. This is your first impression you make with the candidate. Make the most of it.
  • Location – Where is your office located? Is work from home an option? Also, include your business hours here.
  • Employee or 1099?
  • Salary/Benefits – Many businesses hold back here. That’s a mistake. During the job search process, employers hold nearly all the power. Meet your candidates in the middle and give them a fair idea of what’s in it for them.
  • Contact Info/Desired State Date


Beyond the Basics

So you have the basic elements down and you’ve filled in all the details based on what you know about the position. There’s a 99% chance that what you’ve written is a very boring, dry, internal HR document.

Now, delete everything that you wrote. Leave the list of the basic job description elements and head over to marketing. A great job description is a piece of marketing literature. It’s the result of a combined effort of HR and marketing putting their heads together.

Great job descriptions, the ones that get real attention, help candidates to imagine themselves working at your business and compel them to act. The goal is to “hook” candidates with your job description so that they spend their own time learning your company. Don’t overload candidates with information. Instead, motivate them to learn more. Strong candidates with do plenty of research on their own to fill in the gaps.

It’s OK to hunt around on the internet and find bits and pieces from other job descriptions, but you need to make the final product uniquely yours. The more unique, the more it will resonate with the right candidates. This is a good time to mention that great job descriptions turn some people off. That’s part of the deal. Those who are put off weren’t the right person for the job so it’s no big loss.


Make it Personable

We get it. A piece of paper or a HTML page can’t be personable, but what you write on it definitely can. This is where you separate yourself from the pack and draw the top talent to you.

  • Customize your “About Us” information. Each department needs its own version. Details that will entice a sales rep are not the same as the details that will entice an accountant. Speak to their respective motivations and you’ll get more interest.
  • Insert keywords where you can. Most job board searches are performed using keywords selected by the job seeker. You, or marketing, should have a good idea of what these words are.
  • Add these 3 elements to the list that was provided above.

Opportunity – What’s in it for the candidate aside from a paycheck? What experience or tools will he or she develop in this position? What positions might be a fit for him or her after a few years of success? Appeal to their ambition and career focus.

Future – Where is your business going? What’s the mission? What does success look like?

Personality – What’s the personality of your office? Corporate culture is usually HR mumbo jumbo. Keep it simple and straightforward. What’s it like in your office?

  • Make it about them. This is copywriting 101. You have to sell top candidates on the job. Keep the focus on the reader and what’s in it for them, not on your business.
  • Be upfront and transparent. This will save you from wasting a lot of time interviewing the wrong people.
  • Just like this blog post, use a lot of bullets!

What great job descriptions have you seen?

"Your brand is your culture."

How To Maintain Your Company Culture While Hiring

Workplace culture is much more important than you think. Often, top candidates (especially younger ones) spur higher paying positions to work in an environment that “feels like home”. It’s critical that you sell your culture when courting job candidates.

"Your brand is your culture."

Corporate culture comes from the top. It should be the ongoing contribution of the founders and/or the C-suite. However, times goes by. Founders leave or become disinterested. The C-suite has enough on their plate. Your company culture can end up in the utility closet next to the broken printer and reams of matte printer paper.

We’re not going to tell you how to create a strong corporate culture. Maybe in another blog post, but not this one. We’ll assume that you’ve put in the work to create a unique, dynamic culture that sets you apart.

This article will tell you how to protect and maintain your corporate culture while hiring and ensure new hires are a cultural fit.

Be open

When discussing your corporate culture with a candidate, you need to be transparent and upfront. It’s something to be proud of, not something to brush under the rug.

If you are interviewing an outgoing candidate and are concerned about his or her fit in your button-downed, reserved organization, you owe it to yourself, your organization, and the candidate to address you concerns.  Maybe the candidate is just chatty out of nervousness. Address it and save everyone a lot of problems down the road.

Set clear expectations

Take the time to some things down in writing. You don’t want to end of playing a game of telephone with something as important as your corporate culture. Be clear about what behaviors and principles your business values. Don’t leave the candidate guessing.

Do as you say

This one is easy and is you don’t do it, you’re done for. You can’t sell your culture or effectively share it with a candidate if you don’t believe in it yourself. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk. Many things that appear on formalized job documents don’t translate at all to daily job performance. Make it clear that your company culture can be seen every day.

Recruit the right people

Drill HR or your recruiting team on your culture. Let them know how they can leverage it to get the attention of top candidates, but more importantly make sure that they are finding candidates whose values are consistent with it. You can identify candidates who would be good cultural fits by spending time learning about their motivation, past behavior, and they type of culture they are seeking in their next role.

Hire leaders who buy in

Leaders need to be the defenders of your corporate culture. They need to be on the same page and ready to buy in before they start. Extra time spent vetting, testing, and interviewing leadership candidates will pay dividends down the road.

Keep it personal

Develop relationships with your team. It’s much easier to share values, motivations, and goals with people when you know them well. The more your know about you employees the better you can relate to them.

Reinforce the community

Culture, like all things in the business world, won’t take care of itself. It’s a living, breathing, growing thing and you need to care for it. A golf outing, family picnic, or leadership retreat can go a long way in strengthening your culture and your team. Make the investment, it’s not optional.

For more information on corporate culture read our articles on “The 3 Questions That Determine Cultural Fit” and “What’s Your Corporate Culture Made Of?”

What’s your corporate culture? How do you maintain it when making new hires?

How to Attract Sales Reps To Your Business

How to Attract Sales Reps To Your Business

Sales talent is the life blood of your promotional product business. Great sales reps can boost your revenue, build your brand, and win huge orders. We all know that great reps are critical to success, but how do you get them on your team?

The first step is to make your business attractive to them. You can attract great sales reps and staff by building a strong reputation, creating a business that is easy to root for, and delivering on your promises.

Here are 8 simple things you can do to help attract top talent to your promotional product business:

  • Treat your sales reps and staff with respect, honest, and fairness. The culture of your company matters. It can either draw great people to your business or repel them.
  • Be a servant leader—you and your business exist to support your sales reps and their clients.  Providing flexible solutions is a win for everyone and will get you referrals.
  • Avoid use of non-compete agreements. Either you trust your sales reps or you don’t. You have to earn their trust and loyalty with every order. Hiding behind a non-compete agreement allows your business to provide substandard support and compensation, and forces your sales reps to put up with it. While your lawyer may insist on these agreements, they are bad for business in the long run.
  • Be good to your suppliers. This group can either refer new sales reps and staff to your business or tell them to stay far, far away.
  • Deliver on your promises and partnerships. It’s one thing to talk about how you will work with someone. It’s another thing to deliver as promised. Your reputation is a huge part of the company culture will attract new sales reps.
  • Pay your bills and commissions on time. There’s no better way to create loyalty and win fans for your business. Loyal fans will tell their friends and new reps will follow.
  • Communicate often with everyone involved with your business. No one likes surprises, but they do respect owners who tell the truth in good times and in bad. Honesty and transparency are a prerequisite in today’s business environment.
  • Be loyal to your team and they will return that loyalty. They will also help you build your business so it will be around for the long run.

These tactics aren’t difficult and should really be common practice. However, you ‘d be amazed at how many businesses fall short. Their failure is your opportunity!

Now that you know how to attract top talent to your business, where do you find that talent?

5 Places to Find Talent for Your Promotional Product Business

5 Places to Find Talent for Your Promotional Products Business

“The employer generally gets the employees he deserves.”

~J. Paul Getty

Most businesses are only as good as the people who work there. If your team is sub-par, your business will be sub-par. In some rare cases, a terrific team can become more than the sum of their resumes and unite to form an exceptional business. It’s a challenging task and finding the right people in a timely fashion is incredibly important to achieve what we all strive for—a great team.

Finding great employees in the promotional product business has always been difficult. Here are five resources that you can use to make it easier and increase your chances of assembling an exceptional team.

Networking – For years, this has been the default method for finding talented professionals in the promotional products industry. Word of mouth is free, it’s also extremely unreliable. You can ask around for months before you see results. It’s a crapshoot. Because our industry is built on relationships this is a reasonable tactic and a good place to start your search, just don’t expect speedy results.

LinkedIn – Think of LinkedIn as a job fair with 332 million people in attendance. It’s the most professional social network and our industry is well represented there. The benefits of using LinkedIn go well beyond the search for great employees. If you aren’t on it and active, you are missing the boat.

CareerBuilder – Along with Monster and Indeed, CareerBuilder is a very popular resume board. Indeed is the largest of the three, but CareerBuilder is the most well-known. CareerBuilder boasts over 45 million resumes. The trick is fine-tuning your search to provide you with just the right candidate pool. Too broad and you’ll waste a lot of time, too narrow and you’ll miss out on strong candidates.

Internal – Odds are you have plenty of talent in your organization right now. Are you making the most of it? A well-managed business should have some sort of succession plans in place. Who has the potential to advance? Who can excel with some additional responsibilities? Before looking to add new members to your team, make sure that you are making the most of what you have now.

Competitors – When it comes to employers our industry is full of compensation and benefit variables. These variables make up the chief differences from one distributor to another or one supplier to another. Some of the major areas of variance are:

  • Commission percentage
  • Pay schedule (paid on booked, paid on shipped, paid on paid)
  • Sales support
  • Marketing support
  • 1099 vs. W-2
  • Room and support for advancement
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Honesty & integrity

Promotional Product Industry Jobs

Analyzing these variables is difficult to do. Most positions fall into the middle of the job spectrum and can be considered “fair/good”. If the jobs that you are providing your employees are on the low side of the spectrum, you are a sub-par boss and are at great risk of losing your people. Being good to your employees isn’t that difficult and it needs to be the cornerstone of your business.

Our next blog post will discuss how to attract talented people to your business!