Looking for a new salesperson? Most companies not only post recruitment ads, they also seek employment referrals from within the salesforce on the theory that good salespeople know other good salespeople. "Salespeople tend to have like personalities," says Bill Frazier, owner of Austin Gutterman, a gutter and gutter cover company in Austin, Texas.

"You love referrals, but there are never enough of them," says Seth Cammeyer, president of ImproveIt Home Remodeling, a home improvement company in Columbus, Ohio.

One method of getting more employee referrals is to pay bonuses to salespeople for new recruits. Frazier pays a bonus of $300 when someone on his company's salesforce of nine recommends a candidate who ends up being hired. Not that a referral and résumé are the only criteria. To evaluate candidates, Austin Gutterman also uses DISC profiling to spot the assertive personality that makes for successful selling. "We find referrals work pretty well," Frazier says. "We get much better people than you would off the Internet."

Pros and Cons

ImproveIt Home Remodeling, too, pays bonuses to salespeople who recommend candidates good enough to get hired. That bonus could consist of "several hundred dollars, based on the guy's first net sales," Cammeyer says. "We may even give them a percentage of the [new] guy's volume for the first 90 days."

But instances of really successful sales candidates arriving by referral are rare, he adds, because reps who are already successful fear that the newcomer will get leads that might otherwise go to them, or even show them up.

David Braymiller, president of Braymiller Builders, in Hudson, N.Y., says that his optimal candidate is a referral with selling experience in an area other than home improvement. The newbie who sold cars or vacuum cleaners "works out better," he says. "They tend to be more open-minded to the training."

Hire Anytime

Owners and managers tend to look at a candidate's skills and experience first, notes president and CEO of Pinnacle Group International, Grant Mazmanian, without considering whether "they have the attributes to sell this product to this customer for this company."

Not only must candidates have the right skills and experience, they need to fit in with the company's culture and be able to acclimate themselves to whomever is managing them. Failure to match candidate to culture is taking a big chance. "Some candidates are high-five, ring-a-bell. That's about production," points out Mazmanian, whose company, in Media, Pa., has hired many home improvement employees in its 27-year history.

That kind of candidate might not fit in with companies using a methodical, two-step close process to sell upper middle-class homeowners a high-end product. He suggests creating a "behaviorally based" ad that describes both candidate and company, and that compels candidates to call because "it's so much them."

While ImproveIt offers its referral bonus, the company also maintains ads on recruiting websites. "We look for good people every day," Cammeyer says, on Monster.com. "We don't just wait for people to respond to an ad. And we only hire the ones we think are must-haves and can't-misses."