Article | August 8, 2017

Four Hiring Strategies for Channel Executives

Theresa Schwab, Principal Consultant at Theresa Schwab Consulting

Four Hiring Strategies for Channel Executives

Many successful MSP and VAR leaders dread hiring new employees when they need to be relishing the chance to dramatically change the results of their business. Yesterday, I received a call from an extremely frustrated MSP owner. He had just come to the realization that two of his newest team members were not going to make it to the ninety-day mark.  For him, that epiphany feels like taking two huge steps back, distracting him from growing his business. I challenged him to view this as an opportunity to uplift his entire team’s performance.  It’s important to view hiring as an opportunity to raise standards even if your standards are already high. 

Avoid the Painless New Hire

One mistake I see quite often is hiring the Painless New Hire.  The scenario goes something like this. Your friend, Bob, just got laid off from Microsoft or Best Buy’s Geek Squad. Both of which have announced layoffs recently. You like Bob. Bob can probably do the job well enough. So you hire Bob. Rarely is this Painless New Hire the best hire. This usually plays out as a prolonged, mutually unsatisfying relationship. The kicker is it usually works well enough such that you tolerate mediocrity at the risk of ruining the relationship and avoid the hassle of replacing him.

Establishing a clear strategy and direction for hiring your open positions will avoid this type of “shiny object” candidates and allow you to focus on the best candidate that fits the position. Does it make sense to fill the open position with an existing team member as part of their career progression? Should you redefine the role to match your future vision?  How about bench strength? Where do you need more depth of experience? Thoughtfully answering these questions before interviewing will position the organization to make the best possible hire.

Qualify on the Key Essentials

Many Reseller and Service Provider owners are strong technically and can effortlessly assess a candidate’s technical skills and abilities. While a candidate may be technically qualified, how do you know if he will be successful in your open position?  Looking beyond technical skills is the key to ensuring a quality new hire. 

Specifically, I look for prior small business or MSP experience. Candidates who work for large corporations generally do not fit well within the MSP environment. They tend to view their jobs through a narrow lens with strict boundaries. Corporate experience cannot prepare one for the fast paced, ever changing work environment that our teams experience every day. It takes a special kind of person to deal with the sometimes chaotic, sometimes ambiguous situations encountered in our world.

After confirming she’s technically capable and has valuable experience, I confirm and further verify with two assessments to better understand the candidate’s behavior styles, motivating forces, and overall job match. I don’t consider these assessments deal-breakers, they do guide me in designing very specific questions for a second interview.

Consider the Culture Match

Ever had an employee that never quite fit in with the team?  Culture fit is key to driving collaboration and cooperation among team members. If your organization is casual and fun in nature, does the new technician need to have a sense of humor and not be easily distracted?  Then interview for those qualities. See if she laughs at your G-rated joke. If your team frequently gets together after work, how important is it that the new team member joins in the tradition?  In some organizations, the team members are like family. I recently interviewed a Tier 3 engineering candidate coming from a corporate job. He missed the comradery of working for a small business where he and his coworkers would grab a beer after work periodically. He was a perfect fit culturally for this 10-person MSP.

Question what matters

Most of us take our personal values for granted. They are innately imbedded into our being.  And it’s difficult to fathom others not understanding them. When discussing their most frustrating employees with VAR and MSP leaders, I often find that the employee is not aligned with their values.  Sometimes it takes being burned by an employee for us to include value questions in the interviewing process. My cardinal rule for Help Desk teams is “Never belittle or make fun of a client EVER.”  My interview questions revolve around having the candidate tell me about one of the most frustrating clients they had to help. What was the situation? How did the client feel? How did the candidate feel?  How did the candidate handle their own feelings?  These questions will generally shed light on whether they treat clients with patience and empathy or frustration and an eye-roll. Which organizational values should you question candidates to ensure alignment? Collaboration? Personal Growth? Continuous improvement?

Learn to love hiring again. These simple, yet powerful, strategies are essential to assure hiring the ideal employee for your organization.

Theresa Schwab crafted a successful exit from her Austin based MSP three years ago. As president of Theresa Schwab Consulting, Theresa advises MSPs in all phases including launch, growth, and succession. Theresa has a long history of transforming teams from average to highly impactful. Her clients describe their team interaction as moving from “energy sapping to rockstars.” You can reach her at or twitter @TheresaWSchwab.