Education vs experience: what makes the perfect Salesforce professional?
By Andy Mason
A great CRM is only as good as the people behind it; whether that’s its users, its administrators, or people like developers who work to make the software the best it can be.
With this in mind, making sure you hire the right Salesforce professional to work with your platform can seem like a daunting task. It’s not just about finding someone with the skill set you need; ideally, you also want someone with experience in your industry, with similar projects under their belts, and of course, that fits into your company culture.
The Salesforce market is becoming increasingly competitive; it’s a candidate’s market, with particularly technical roles outstripping available professionals by 10 to one in some areas. Since talented Salesforce professionals aren’t exactly falling out of the sky, we’re not proposing you hold out for a unicorn—you need to build a bit of flex into your Salesforce hiring profiles, otherwise you could be waiting around forever for someone that just doesn’t exist.
Though you should be prepared to make a couple of concessions when it comes to finding the right person, there are definitely some areas on a Salesforce candidate’s resume you should pay close attention to.
Let’s take a look at what makes a great Salesforce professional, and how you can make sure you choose the right candidate for your team.
When hiring Salesforce professionals, education definitely isn’t the be all and end all. In fact, when asked about the significance of education in building a Salesforce career, only 30% of respondents to our recent independent Salesforce salary survey felt that a having degree was important.
Formal education can equip candidates with a broad range of skills—communication, organization, problem-solving—but with so many routes into a Salesforce career, product knowledge and experience are often better indicators of a candidate’s suitability.
That’s not to say that business management or computer science training might not be a useful, complementary thing for a Salesforce professional to have, but a lack of education should by no means disqualify a candidate from your shortlist; there are far better ways to measure up a potential member of your team.
They say that no amount of theoretical education is a match for hands-on experience, and this is certainly true of the Salesforce ecosystem. Salesforce is a complex and rapidly evolving product, and familiarity and knowledge gained from working with the platform on a day-to-day basis is arguably the most important thing to look for when hiring Salesforce professionals.
Firstly, your ideal Salesforce wizard should have experience with the right products. Remember, Salesforce isn’t just one app; there’s a very leafy family tree of services on offer, from sales and service to marketing and collaboration.
Though they’re all closely related, each product is a distinct piece of software, with unique features, workflows, and configurations, which is why it’s important that your Salesforce pro has experience with the products you’re using in your business.
Secondly, and just as vitally, your Salesforce professional should have experience working in your particular industry. Being a highly customizable system, how your business utilizes Salesforce will be fairly distinctive, but still, there’ll likely be some cross-over between the functionality used by you and your peers.
For example, how a retail business uses Salesforce will be different to that of a healthcare or manufacturing business. The infrastructure might be the same, but the automated processes, workflows, dashboards and metrics that are tracked will be a whole other ballgame.
A professional who has worked on comparable projects, or at the very least, for similar businesses will be able to use their vertical experience to help you address pain points, organize processes, and develop the system for maximum efficiency.
If you’re hiring a Salesforce professional on a contract basis, ask around your peers and industry contacts to see if they can recommend someone who’s worked on similar projects for them.
You can get a feel for a candidate’s experience from their resume, and by talking through their work history with them. But how do you go about corroborating a candidate’s concrete, technical skills before they get to work on your system?
Salesforce is famous for its extensive self-directed education platform. Trailhead not only offers free training at every stage of a Salesforce pro’s career, but allows professionals the chance to prove their stripes through official certifications.
Salesforce certifications help you determine exactly where the candidate’s capabilities lie, and to what level they’re qualified. These credentials verify a professional’s technical expertise on a deep and practical level, so you can be sure that you’re hiring someone with the right proficiencies to help you solve real-life challenges.
Certifications are becoming increasingly common in the Salesforce ecosystem—77% of Salesforce professionals now hold at least one certification. There are 22 certifications currently available, covering a variety of products and job roles, so make sure you’re looking out for the badges most relevant to your business when reading through resumes. Check out the full list of credentials offered by Salesforce to find the most appropriate one for your job role.
Technical prowess and in-depth product know-how are, of course, essential when it comes to hiring Salesforce talent, but the importance of soft skills should not be underestimated—after all, there’s no use in having an expert Salesforce Administrator who can’t communicate with users.
Your Salesforce system is likely to be accessed by branches across the business, by users of varying technical ability. Your perfect Salesforce professional will be able to communicate clearly, patiently, and appropriately at all levels of your organization.
They should also have a good grasp of business management. Knowing how a company like yours typically works is key to understanding how Salesforce fits into your operations, what it needs to achieve, and how it can improve your processes.
This kind of context will enable your Salesforce professional to help users across all departments and job roles get the most out of the platform. A candidate that can demonstrate an appreciation of how business is done, both on a company-wide and a departmental level, is a catch; having an overview of processes will enable them to deliver practical solutions that will make a real difference to your productivity.
Perhaps the most fundamental non-technical quality to look for in a Salesforce professional, however, is enthusiasm. Tech is constantly shifting industry, and as products are developed and new apps released, the competencies you need in your business will evolve. It’s impractical, if not impossible, to bring on-board new people with new skills with each update, so having a professional on your team who is willing to keep growing and learning throughout their careers is essential.
If you can find a pro with experience working with your product, in your industry, who is passionate about Salesforce and hungry to learn more, you have a fantastic foundation to shape the perfect Salesforce professional for your business—the rest will fall into place.
Download our independent Salesforce salary survey in full to learn more about the typical experience level of a Salesforce professional.