Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a training development company and also the founder and principal of Ingage Consulting. Before founding Ingage, Hackel worked at CCA Global Partners for 20 years where he was responsible for four business divisions with over 2,000 units and over $5 billion in sales operating in five countries. We recently had an opportunity to sit with Hackel to discuss hiring people in these unusual times and the following are excerpts from that conversation. You can also listen to this conversation in its entirety here.


TalkFloor: I suspect that most all businesses are experiencing problems hiring people in the present environment. What can retailers do?

Evan Hackel
Evan Hackel, CEO of Tortal Training.

Hackel: Many people have left the workforce, and businesses have an “I give up” attitude. I think the key is to build a better mouse trap; to build a place where people want to work and to have people wanting to come to you versus having to look for them. But, if you want to be effective at hiring people today, you have to really understand the shift and change to the thought processes of the people being hired. It is quite different from the way it used to be; it is a generational change. People are looking for great places to work, places where they feel they can make a difference. They are looking for places that train, where they can grow, and places where culturally it is collaborative, enjoyable and where people have fun. It is a place where they want to work.

If your goal is to hire someone that actually knew the job, say a salesperson, for example, and you needed them trained, in reality, you are actually hiring someone else's leftovers. But if you had the tools and skills to hire somebody with the aptitude to be a great salesperson, you could in fact train them properly then you are going to get a much better person. In sales, they are going to earn more and be more effective. Money isn’t everything. Having a place where people know they can go to go to work and enjoy themselves is important. 


TF: I get the impression that many younger people these days do not necessarily have to work? 

Hackel: A lot of younger people are living with their parents and their need for income is far less. As soon as I could get out of the house, I wanted to get. It was sort of a moment of pride. Now, I think kids have pride as to how long they can fool their parents to pay the rent and give them free food. There are options like being an Uber or Door Dash driver, and there is also this huge amount of people that are able to make a living as influencers on TikTok, but most people don't have those skills or abilities.


TF: Talk about the interview process. Has that changed a good deal over the years? 

Hackel: I think what people interview for has changed. If somebody is a good interviewer, you're going to ask evoking questions. You are going to ask questions about the previous places they worked and not about the money but the culture. That will help you understand what they like and whether or not they are a good fit. Asking lots of open-ended questions is really critical. Asking more questions about what they are going to like and what they are going to want is also important. In reality, it is a dual interview: I'm interviewing you and you’re interviewing me. If I am talking you into a job that's not right for you, you are not going to be happy and you are going to leave. Also, if you talk me into a job that's not right for you, you're going to be unhappy and you're going leave or I'm going to want you to leave. It is important to look at the interview process more like a partnership and as a result a real discussion is important, and the cultural fit is immensely important.


TF: How have virtual interviews changed the process? 

Hackel: A couple things have changed that are really important. One, the ability to do Zoom interviews makes the ability to interview more people much more viable. When you bring somebody in your office, they are going to expect a tour. They're going expect you to spend more time. When I am interviewing a person, I know in three minutes if I am going to hire that person. And I don't want to be impolite. One of the things my father always taught me is that every person that you interview and don't hire is a potential customer. You never want to treat them poorly. 

You get an opportunity to talk to more people, doing 15- and 30-minute Zoom interviews, an opportunity to get to know the person and get a feel for them without the commitment of bringing them in. In terms of how many people you interview, it's a combination of how good an interviewer you are and how experienced you are. I have interviewed a thousand people in my career, I'm 62 years old and I've been very involved in a lot of businesses. I feel pretty comfortable that I can assess the person easier than I used to be able to do.


TF: Say you're hiring a salesperson or an accountant. What do you want to know?

Hackel: I’ll start with a salesperson. The questions I would ask somebody as a salesperson are: What's caused you to be a salesperson? What have you done to be a successful salesperson? What got you here? What makes you different? Again, open-ended, evoking questions. I want to hear from them things like: I love to learn, I love to train, I like to spend a lot of time with my customer upfront to understand them, to understand what their mission is. I like to hear something like, my selling is consultative and building relationships where people are going to refer me. I want to hear the things that they do to make themselves really successful. If I hear a lot of nonsense, I’m just going to pause.

I ask every salesperson the same question, and there's one right answer. If they get this question wrong, I will never ever, ever hire them. And I'll tell you why it's going to make a lot of sense. I say to them: “You're thinking about buying a TV. You've done research on the internet. You know you want a 55-inch Sony or Samsung. You know all the features, which you have researched, you know what fits in your house. You go to Best Buy, and you have a price in mind, and you get there, and it happens to be on sale. And it's $50 cheaper. Now across the street is Walmart. You have a decision to make: do you buy the TV? Do you owe it to yourself to go across the street, to go spend time at Walmart or time on the internet searching before you actually make your buying decision? Which would you do now?”

I'm going to save you the pain of answering that question and maybe getting it wrong. The answer to the question is: I would buy the TV now.

It's not a right-or-wrong question because if I ask this question to the accountant, the right answer is, I'd walk across the street to Walmart because the people that would go to Walmart or online are very analytical people that want to make sure they have everything right. They don't want to make a mistake.

For a salesperson, if you believe you should go check out all these other stores, every single time a customer says to you, “I really appreciate it, I love it, I'm sure I'll be back, but I owe it to myself to check out a couple other stores,” the person that would go to Walmart, every time they hear that, will say, “I completely understand; I do it myself.” The salesperson would say, “I look forward to hearing back from you, or when can I follow up with you?” The person that would buy immediately would say, “My time is valuable.”

The salesperson is not going to say, “I understand what you're thinking.” They are going to say something like, “I'm really curious, what was it about the flooring I showed you that you didn’t like?” 

That’s an important question. You know the customer will say something like, “I like it a lot; I just want to see if there's other flooring that I might like.” 

The salesperson can then say, “What were the things that you think you might be missing that you would like to look at, because we have more flooring here.”

They would ask those questions because when someone says I'm going to go shopping elsewhere, eight out of 10 times, it's because they didn't see what they liked or they didn't like your price. And they just like to be nice. They don't want to say to you, “I'm not buying from you because you didn't show me the right thing.”

Customers would never say that. They're going to say: “This was great. I really appreciate you. You were wonderful. You know, we're going to go check out a couple other places. We owe it to ourselves. I'm sure you understand, but I'm sure we'll be back. And that is the last time you ever hear from them.