Mike Saldi serves as chief customer officer at Preact, a software company that specializes in identifying and preventing customer churn. Previously, Mike was senior director of customer success at Salesforce.com, where he managed a team responsible for a $60 million portfolio of high-value customers.

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Ensuring customer success starts with hiring capable, dedicated, and compassionate employees. But how do you know which candidates are truly right for the role?

I invited Mike to Marketing Smarts to share his own hiring secrets, developed and refined over his years at Salesforce.com, further developed while building an outstanding customer success team for Preact. Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

A "unicorn" job candidate possesses three rare qualities (03:13): "A lot of it comes from my experience at Salesforce.... I've been doing customer success for quite some time now.... From a hiring standpoint, a lot of the lessons learned...and the trials and errors I had at Salesforce really translated into how I would hire here at Preact. The methodology that I came up with...is really looking for three high-level things. I call it the 'Unicorn CSM' [Customer Service Manager], because it's quite hard to get all three of these things. Usually, you can get two out of three, but finding somebody with three out of three is really rare.

"The first one is consulting and expectation management skills. Generally speaking, these are people that had, perhaps, a professional services career. Some kind of previous experience where they had a consulting hat and they were able to go in and discover what the business was really trying to do and really try to help them out on a project level, which really goes to the second one.

"The second piece is some type of project or program management experience... experience actually taking a project from the inception phase all the way through to success criteria phase, where they've completed a certain amount of things that make it a successful project...

The third is technical skill. This is one that people often overlook, but having somebody who is technical—because this is a SaaS world—having a background and an ability to be able to talk to people who are implementing, talk to the people that are responsible for the development, and just having a general knowledge of how things work from a technical standpoint is a huge, huge advantage for a CSM."

Ask scenario-based interview questions for insight into a candidate's personality (05:57): "I usually try and do scenario-based interview questions...[which] basically mean to suss out what they've done in the past and how that applies to what you're doing today. For example, I might ask somebody to describe a challenge that they had dealing with a large organization, and maybe describe what they've done to overcome that challenge. So that makes them think about something that they did in the past that was challenging (hopefully it's something that is relatable to the role that you're interviewing for) that allows you to have a conversation with people. When you describe a challenge, there's a lot of discovery questions that could go hand in hand with them telling that story....

"You can get a [sense of someone's] style when you do those scenario-based interview questions. If they went about a problem one way or another way.... A lot of problems that come up with larger organizations...are relationship-based, so there's a champion or a key contact or somebody...you maybe haven't quite formed that relationship with... That can actually suss out are they somebody who is a team player? Are they somebody who can form lasting relationships?"

To learn more about Preact, check out its blog, or follow Mike on Twitter: @msaldi.

Mike and I covered a lot more ground about how you can identity the most promising job candidates, including how quickly you can figure out whether they'll work well within your company's culture, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

Special thanks to production company Candidio, an efficient, affordable video production platform allowing marketers and communicators to collaborate and curate video content, with help from a team of professional, on-demand video editors for the finishing touches. Check them out!

Show opener music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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