Dhivya Suryadevara and Mary Barra: As General Motors’ CFO and CEO, respectively, these women have made the company one of only two Fortune 500 organizations to have women in both roles. This massive stride for professional women — and others like it — has come about in the wake of the revolutionary #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that have changed how women navigate the workplace.
It’s arguable that professional women are receiving more mainstream media attention today than at any other time in history. This increased focus on women in the workplace has forced companies to acknowledge the disparities between the experiences of male and female professionals. To remain effective in their efforts to recruit highly qualified candidates and build diverse teams, recruiters must do the same — especially in traditionally male-dominated fields like sales.
Here is what recruiters must do to engage top female sales candidates today:
1. Craft More Thoughtful Job Descriptions
Your job ads and job descriptions form the gateways to your opportunities. If candidates don’t like what they see in your descriptions, they won’t move into your pipeline.
According to a recent LinkedIn report, women are 16 percent less likely than men to apply to a job after viewing a job ad. What is causing this? Where are our job descriptions going wrong?
First, you need to understand that women and men approach job qualifications and criteria quite differently. Women tend not to apply to a job unless they meet 100 percent of the listed criteria, whereas men will usually apply as long as they meet at least 60 percent of the criteria, according to LinkedIn.
There is no doubt that sales roles require very specific qualifications. In order to avoid driving away female sales candidates, you need to make sure your job descriptions focus only on the true must-haves when it comes to qualifications. Listing optional criteria as if they were required will only cause female candidates to pass over your ads.
2. Give Women Candidates the Information They Want
Sales professionals of any gender tend to be strategic, analytical thinkers. When it comes to making decisions, they want only the information that is immediately relevant. Don’t overload candidates with too much information about minor company perks and other secondary details. Stick to the things your sales candidates really want to know.
When it comes to engaging women sales candidates, that often means focusing on benefits and compensation. According to the aforementioned LinkedIn report, 68 percent of women say salary range and benefits are important, making it the most sought-after information in job descriptions among women.
Unfortunately, many recruiters are hesitant to divulge salary range information in job descriptions — if the employer allows them to divulge that information at all. If your company or client places such restrictions on your job ads, advocate for change. Explain to the hiring manager just how important this information is for attracting professional women. If they are not willing to share the full salary range, ask them to consider at least listing a minimum salary.
3. Stop Waiting for Referrals
Referrals are one of the most trusted sources of talent, as they can offer unparalleled insight into a candidate’s personality traits and performance history. However, women are at a disadvantage when employers rely too much on referrals: According to Linkedin, women are 26 percent less likely to ask for a referral than men.
Acknowledge this fact and take active steps to solicit referrals of female candidates. Reach out to your network and let people know you’re looking for talented female sales candidates. Share the short list of qualifications you wrote for your job description, and let your connections take it from there.
Try to avoid giving too many specifics about what you’re looking for, as this may limit the number of referrals you receive.When you trust your network’s instincts and insider knowledge, you might be surprised by the number of new and talented candidates your pipeline gains.
4. Speak to Their Competitive Nature
Male or female, highly successful salespeople are competitive by nature. Unfortunately, professional saleswomen often feel judged for bold, competitive behaviors due to gender stereotypes. In fact, Skyline Group reports that women who adopt behavior perceived as masculine are often perceived as less effective in certain leadership competencies.
Given the existence of these stereotypes, women candidates often want to see firsthand that a company celebrates and supports women who are bold and competitive. They will only apply to your job if they are certain they will not be judged as “abrasive” or “bossy” simply for being successful sales professionals.
Find female leaders and sales reps who are praised for their spirit, tenacity, and drive, and showcase their accomplishments to candidates. Articulate how these professional women are leveraging their unique personality traits to thrive in your organization.