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Sales Personality Test - At what point to use in the Hiring Process?

By David Pearce, President,

Sales Personality Test - At what point to use in the Hiring Process?

New and prospective clients have always asked us when in the hiring process we think they should administer the sales test. Back when our sales testing was paper and pencil based and relatively expensive our recommendation was pretty well a standard reply. Give the sales test to those candidates that are on your short list; typically 3-5 people for each role you are trying to fill. This would mean one was not wasting the cost of testing candidates that are of little real interest to you. As well one was not testing so late in the hiring process that the decision was virtually made already. Testing too late means you miss out on a great benefit of the sales testing; being able to use the sales assessment to tailor your interview and therefore to focus on red flags and other issues and areas that the sales testing has uncovered.

Today, when this question comes up we have no 'standard' answer. Two factors have changed the equation. The first is the fact that sales tests can be administered on the internet. Candidates can take the test 24/7 from anywhere in the world. You don't even have to have any interaction with them at all in order to administer the test. This online capability means you can have them take it prior to an interview, after the interview or even while they are in your office for the interview itself. The second big factor that has changed things is the very low cost per test. There are still some sales tests on the market that cost $100-$200 per evaluation. With these sales tests (whether online or not) you are still realistically only going to test the short list (top 3-5) as before. Some systems though, like our own cost a small fraction of this. Our approach is to price our sales tests so low that even very low volume users can affordably test applicants early in the hiring process at the "top of the funnel".

Why is this significant and why is this approach a game changer? To understand the significance of testing people early on in the hiring process and prior to interviewing them you really need to consider the purpose of the interview. The following is a typical three-step process that companies follow to winnow down their list of applicants. Your process might be much the same.

  1. Resume sorting. After receiving resumes/applications you go through a process where you end up with a batch of resumes that seem to offer promise. You may or may not prioritize/rank these in some fashion. Whether you rank them or not you already have a very good idea about work history/experience, product/industry knowledge, education, skills, other credentials and various pieces of personal data.

  2. Phone interviews are conducted. Based on your phone interviews, another batch of candidates are ruled out for one reason or another. After further considering those candidates that "passed" the phone interview you contact some or all of these to arrange face-to-face interviews.

  3. Face to face interviews are conducted. After your interviews another group of candidates are ruled out. You are now down to your short list. Some organizations make an offer at this point or perhaps have a follow up interview via either phone or in person.

So what is the purpose of the interview? What are you hoping to uncover and identify about the candidate? Obviously there are things such as appearance and general demeanor that can only be measured face to face. But most critically what you are really trying to determine in the interview is the candidate's personality traits and temperament and motivational style. Experienced managers know that sales people very rarely fail due to a lack of product knowledge, skills, intelligence or education. They fail because their personality traits are a bad fit for what the job requires. Experienced interviewers also know that trying to accurately identify the candidate's personality traits and temperament and motivational style at an interview is virtually impossible because inevitably candidates are playing a role based on what they perceive you are looking for. This is the reason why a candidate can look really great in the interview yet turn out to be quite different once they are hired. Being completely frank about it this is one of the most basic reasons why people use a sales personality test in the first place; to avoid being fooled by candidates who know what to say in the interview.

If you agree with the need to identify the candidate's motivational style and also, that interviews are a very poor means of obtaining this information, then using a sales personality test prior to the interview makes the most sense. Our service, with it's very low per report cost and 24/7 web access, is extremely effective when used this way.

What are the benefits of testing people closer to the top of the funnel?

  1. You save a huge amount of valuable face time because you only have to interview pre-tested candidates who fit your criteria, thus enabling you to interview fewer candidates.

  2. Knowing the candidate is a good fit prior to the interview means you spend more quality time with those candidates you do interview.

  3. By having the results of the sales assessment prior to the interview you are now in far greater control of the interview and are able to zero in on red flags and other issues that, without the test results, you would be unaware.

Just how early in the process should you test your candidates? Like many things in business the answer depends on cost. In this case the cost per test. Our service is extremely inexpensive so it does not cost very much for even small companies to test quite early. In most instances my recommendation is to test those candidates who 'pass' the phone screen. By having those candidates who pass the phone screen take the test, you only have to go on to have a face-to-face interview with those high potential applicants identified by the sales personality test. For our larger/higher volume clients who are paying very little per test it makes sense to have all candidates take the test right at the beginning of the hiring process. In many instances these clients have the test automatically presented to the candidate via their online applicant tracking system.

In conclusion, if you are using a sales personality test in your hiring process it is hugely beneficial to use it very early on in the process. Specifically how early will largely depend on testing cost but even very low volume users will find the costs are vastly outweighed by the many benefits.

David Pearce is the President of Established in 1986, is North America's #1 provider of sales personality tests as well as personality tests for sales positions used to evaluate sales employees for sales competency. has over 1400 satisfied customers (97% re-order rate) who use our personality sales test to measure sales aptitude assessment when hiring. Our online sales assessment test is customized to your unique criteria, fully automated, instantaneous, extremely accurate and very economical.