Dec 7, 2018

How to Hire a Salesforce Admin

Post by 
Michael Muse

ne of the top requests I hear from startups is:

“We don't know how to screen candidates for Salesforce skills. Can you help us?”

Particularly for their first Salesforce hire. Of course, they’ve all had to hire someone with depth in a skill area they don’t yet have. Why the uncertainty to fill such a narrow position?

There’s No “One Right Kind” of Salesforce Admin

A top challenge is the range of viable personality types the candidate pool comprises, with varying drawbacks and strengths. You end up speaking to self aggrandizing smooth talkers, myopic code monkeys, prima-donna architects, inexperienced workhorses, etc. You’ll also find fairly antithetical backgrounds, where some candidates have grown into their role from Sales, others from IT. But the mess extends much further as you begin to consider matching candidates to the Responsibilities part of your JD. In your resume pile you find a veritable cornucopia of experience bullets you care about. But which candidate has the best combination of bullets? This one has built Territory Management and CPQ, but this one has designed an automated Commission system and knows how to Sync Asana and Salesforce together. This one knows how to code in Apex and VisualForce!

Sure, all roles draw a variety of candidate types. But unlike other roles, you’ll often find yourself ‘moving forward’ simultaneously with a seasoned strategist, a savvy technologist, and a hungry rookie go-getter. Feeling confident about what you’re getting (or even need, for that matter) feels impossible, for good reason. Here are my answers for the top 4 questions I get:

1) How Do I Hire to a Plan, not Keyword Soup?

Making a hiring plan is a nuanced thing. There is an incredible range of skillsets that can be drawn upon in “Salesforce Admin” roles — everything from data entry and report building (entry level) to Workflow Automation, Data Architecture, and coding (Apex/Visualforce). Different projects will require different skill levels, but your scorecard needs to know where the high volume of work will be and hire to that and only that.

New ventures typically have a glut of blocking & tackling type work. Reports, data cleanup, custom fields, validation rules, email alerts. Anyone with half a brain, as well as some time and patience, can fill this need. Not elegantly, but enough to learn if collecting the data is even worth the effort.

I also believe startups go through a similar lifecycle in staffing for this need. If you’re reading this, chances are you are preparing to do your first Salesforce hire. Probably a consortium of other roles are owning the function, or you’ve already hired and fired someone. In either case, your existing team can design team process pretty well, but needs someone to take all the aforementioned blocking and tackling off their plate.

My most frequent advice at this stage is to build your hiring plan around sourcing a junior person with software savvy and a strongly inquisitive personality. Find someone who likes to learn, and give them the leeway they need to self-teach the stuff they don’t know. Salesforce has tons of learning resources online and anyone with time, patience, smarts, and the right attitude can learn how to handle most needs in a couple of months. A minority of the needs companies encounter require any sort of deep Salesforce knowledge. Keep in mind, if you drown that type too much in data entry and busywork, they will be unlikely to learn much.

2) What Salesforce Certifications Should I Look For?

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None. I believe certs are a waste of time and to me, correlate with the least creative people. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I’ll happily recant if you can somehow relieve me of it.

3) What About a Take Home Exercise?

This is a good idea in any hiring process. I find that sometimes candidate quality presents much differently depending on the medium.

For this type of hire, I’d give them a scenario: The users aren’t entering information you need. Say you created a Validation Rule to require the information, and that the Sales team just started putting garbage in. Ask them what they think you should do next. The best admins have a user centric approach; they want to figure out why the team doesn’t like doing what’s asked. The worst ones treat their admin power like a crutch and say “if they don’t put the data in right, they don’t get paid”.

4) What If I Need a Salesforce Developer or Architect

First of all, a lot can be done these days with the low code automation tools that are built right into Salesforce. If you are unconvinced and find yourself still gravitating towards more high tech needs, or some sprawlingly bespoke object model, try to figure out if there is a full-time job’s worth of this type of work. If not, you should 100% outsource it to a consultant. Be sure to check out our post Who Owns Salesforce at A Startup? which covers this topic as well.

Being willing to pay up to get a deeply seasoned Salesforce specialist is not enough. Nobody with that skillset, who is also talented, wants to work in a job that is 80% entry level admin work and 20% using their hard-earned talent.

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