Why You Need More Than Personality Tests to Find Your Next Sales Star

BY C. Lee Smith
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Are you still using personality tests to find your next sales star? You want your new employee to have great skills when it comes to prospecting, discovery and closing. Your top candidates might claim all kinds of excellence on their resume. These claims typically get them past the first screening during the hiring process. After that, some sales organizations will then ask candidates to take a personality test. But these tests won’t give you all the information you need to make the best hire.

The Importance of Soft Skills

In a recent survey, 75% of U.S. adults said they would value soft skills more than the right experience or qualifications when hiring. We can imagine that these survey takers were thinking about how candidates would eventually become team members or co-workers.

These folks wanted new employees to exhibit the following work tendencies: 

  • Willing to learn 36%
  • Excellent personal, communication and time-​management skills 27%
  • Is dependable 11%

Did you notice that these desired tendencies are more about soft skills than professional skills? Interestingly, the same survey found that 22% of younger adults, those ages 18 to 34, were willing to hire a candidate with great professional skills and not-​so-​great personal skills. Only 9% of consumers who are 35 and up said the same. It may be that younger workers don’t have enough on-​the-​job or management experience when it comes to dealing with a difficult co-​worker. As a result, they may be undervaluing key workplace behaviors that can greatly enhance culture. In any case, a basically personality test will often fail to measure for soft skills in the workplace.

The Benefits of Comprehensive Hiring Assessments

Hiring managers don’t always use the latest tools available when it comes to effectively screening applicants for open sales positions. According to our Voice of the Sales Manager survey, only 40% of sales managers ask job applicants to take assessments designed to measure communication skills and only 27% use tools to measure critical thinking and empathy. In fact, our proprietary research shows that only 42% of sales managers believe empathy is a critical skill for their reps to possess.

Tom Schoenfelder, chief scientist and head of academic research and partnerships at Caliper notes that skills are constantly being updated in today’s organizations. In flat organizations, employees must get accustomed to moving between teams and managers. They may work temporarily in an overlay group to help other sales reps close a big account or onboard the new customer. Being able to work with a range of people both on the sales team and with the customer demonstrates that a rep excels in empathy.

A personality test won’t always tell you if your candidate has the right mindset to excel in sales. But a comprehensive sales skills assessment will indicate if your top candidate has a positive attitude and is willing to learn.

When you’re hiring sales professionals, remember that these employees will be the public face of your organization. Prospects want to deal with a trustworthy individual. Our research shows that 37% of SMB buyers don’t want to do business with a rep who blames others for their mistakes. And 34% will give a thumbs-​down to a rep who lies. A simple personality test won’t reveal the soft skills that come into play when a rep has to come clean about something they messed up. But a comprehensive sales skill assessment will show if a candidate is lacking in accountability and integrity.

Go Beyond Personality Tests to Find Your Next Sales Star

The New York Times reports that the $500 million personality testing industry will grow between 10% to 15% every year for the next few years. When an organization relies only on a personality assessment, they may get a very skewed image of a candidate. These assessments tell employees and managers if a person is social, naturally competitive, or suspicious. While that information is helpful, a comprehensive sales assessment can tell you much more. To make an informed decision about which candidate to interview, and potentially hire, assessment results should reveal how the individual fits — into the job, with the manager, with the company, and with the company’s customers.