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The Missing Step In The Salesperson Hiring Process

Most people who conduct interviews figure they’re a pretty good judge of character. Many have, unprompted, shared this opinion with me. Then there’s that old Human Resources notion: past performance determines future potential. Combine these two ideas and you have the foundation of most businesses’ hiring practices.

Problem? Both premises are bad.

The stats have long shown that the majority of people hire because they form a split-second liking for a candidate. The resume got the candidate the interview, but the hiring decision was made because of emotion.

Bringing the wrong candidate on board costs more than rehiring. Employers frequently and unknowingly lead candidates into looking and sounding like a good fit with leading questions (“Tell me about a time when you…”, and of course they do! Great story: you’re starting to like this person already!). So the truth is that most hiring managers are not a good judge of best fit.


Now the second premise: past performance determines future potential. Really? What if the candidate was stuck in a poor situation, with no coaching, bad management and an unsupportive or nonexistent sales process? I have met with insurance salespeople who, thanks to Do Not Call legislation, were forced to prospect by calling receptionists of businesses! Are you going to tell me that doesn’t suck? That failure to perform in that situation means this person can’t sell??

I hope you’re with me now, in the contemplation that perhaps resume and interview are an incomplete set of steps in finding the best fit for hiring salespeople. Resume screening seems to eliminate candidates who shouldn’t be in consideration; interviews can elicit deeper answers to specific questions and demonstrate how candidates will react to certain stimuli. What, then, remains? How are we to determine best fit?

A third step, one between resume and interview, can be taken. This is the Assessment step, where the candidate is asked to complete a questionnaire. Depending on the structure of the test, and the quality of the questions, a great deal of information can be uncovered. First, the three most important questions to answer are:

  • Is this person trainable?
  • Is this person coachable?
  • Will this person actually sell?

Yes, assessments do exist that provide reliable answers to these questions. Good assessments will also uncover data such as:

  • The buying cycle preference of the candidate – if the items to be sold are high-value, with a short cycle, and the individual has a long buying process in which he checks out all the particulars of many vendors, it’s not going to be a fit
  • Is this candidate a hunter (goes after new business) or a farmer (manages an existing set of accounts and gradually expands the business you do with them)
  • The stress level the candidate can handle, ranging from entry level up to top executive.

If an individual is a good farmer but a lousy hunter, and your role calls for a hunter, would this knowledge affect your decision? An effective assessment will tell you whether or not the candidate has the experience, skills and supportive beliefs to match your position. Are these factors things you would like to know before you choose to schedule an interview?

Assessment results also change over time. An individual may learn new skills, get different experience. Their belief system may erode or strengthen. Think of an assessment result as a sort of balance sheet for the candidate: how they are at this moment in time. Again, wouldn’t it be good to have an indication that, while a candidate has performed well in the past, the assessment shows that their belief system is in turmoil at the moment? Wouldn’t that lead you to asking some uncovering questions in the interview?

Resume, assessment and interview. These are the three steps of an effective hiring process. If you’d like more information on how assessments can dramatically improve the quality of your salesperson hiring process, send me a note.


Jason Kanigan, EzineArticles.com Basic Author