How to Ensure You’re Hiring Based on Actual Skills Rather Than Just “Personality”

Published on Sep 11, 2020

Have you ever encountered a candidate who oozed charm and charisma? Who said all of the right things? Who had the “it factor?”

People with great personalities naturally make a great first impression, and more often than not, they end up walking away with the job. In fact, personality was deemed the single-most desirable quality in an employee by 78% of hiring professionals, according to an executive survey. 

And while it’s certainly a nice trait to have, it’s important to ensure that you’re hiring based on skills rather than solely on “personality.” Here’s why. 

A Long-Standing Misconception 

SG Partners, a professional sales training and coaching company, wrote an eBook entitled The Top 5 Reasons You Are Failing at Recruiting Consistently Great Sales Teams. In it, the first mistake they mention is evaluating “personality” rather than job skills. They talk about how many CEOs and sales leaders think that personality traits like high energy, honesty, and strong work ethic practically guarantee success. But that just isn’t the case. 

“Many consultants and distributors of pre-employment tests maintain that certain personality factors help ensure management or sales success and offer psychological theories to support that belief,” explains SG Partners. “However, solid statistical research from many objective sources shows little correlation between personality factors and any specific job factors. Producers of these tests (like the Myers-Briggs) admit that they are useful for self-awareness and training but not for hiring.”

While having a great personality can certainly help a sales rep, especially when it comes to interactions with leads and their colleagues, there’s no clear evidence that it will result in success. And on the other end of the spectrum, just because someone is shy and doesn’t have a magnetic personality doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. Geoffrey James of even talks about how introverts often make the best sales reps these days, mainly because of the growing distrust of “fast-talking, backslapping salesmen” who come across as hyper-aggressive. 

These days, many leads prefer to deal with more introverted reps because they tend to be better listeners and take a more empathetic approach. 

The Dangers of Hiring Based on Personality

And in some cases, CEOs and sales leaders can get themselves into trouble when they focus so much on personality that they overlook a candidate’s obvious lack of other skills. As humans, we can’t help but form first impressions of others. It’s how we make a baseline assessment. Jean Baur, a career coach and author of The Essential Job Interview Handbook, even says that it only takes about three seconds for someone to form an initial impression. 

But it’s far from foolproof and can often be a red herring that leads to making the wrong hire. After all, someone with a stellar personality may be likeable and get along with everyone, but it doesn’t always mean they’ll necessarily add value. If their ability to close deals and general skill set are lacking, they could be quite costly because you’ll have to start the entire hiring process all over again. 

With the U.S. Department of Labor calculating that “the average cost of a bad hiring decision is at least 30% of the individual’s first-year expected earnings,” this can be a major blow to your company. 

How to Objectively Assess Potential Sales Reps

This begs the question. How exactly do you make an objective assessment and ensure that a candidate checks all of the right boxes? 

We recommend using a tool like the sales candidate assessment from Objective Management Group (OMG). This assessment is based on an immense volume of quantitative data, where OMG analyzed over 2 million salespeople across 30,000+ companies in 200 industries. 

From their findings, they were able to pinpoint some specific factors that determine a salesperson’s likelihood of success, including the will to sell, possessing the right “sales DNA,” being coachable, having core competencies, and more. 

And the numbers speak for themselves. By using the sales candidate assessment, a staggering 92% of salespeople who were recommended reached the top half of the sales team within their first year. 

On the other hand, three quarters of candidates that weren’t recommended but still hired failed within six months. 

At the end of the day, it’s about taking a science-based, data-driven approach to hiring that gives you a comprehensive, objective view of candidates. That way you can efficiently narrow down the candidate pool without getting caught up in surface level traits like personality that don’t guarantee success. 

Keeping Your Hiring Process Objective

Hiring isn’t easy. It’s something that even the world’s top companies struggle with at times. 

Therefore, it’s common to fall back on natural human tendencies like confusing having desirable characteristics like a great personality as being an indicator of success. But as we’ve just learned, taking this approach comes with some definite pitfalls and can be more of a hindrance to hiring than an asset. 

The key to making consistently sound hiring decisions is to focus on actual skills, ideally using a tool like the sales candidate assessment, to gain an objective understanding of a person’s abilities and likelihood of success. And while having a likeable personality is a plus, it should by no means be the main factor when selecting a sales rep. 

To learn more about this common hiring mistake, along with others, check out The Top 5 Reasons You Are Failing at Recruiting Consistently Great Sales Teams by SG Partners. 

And to learn about how to improve your hiring process, check out Best Practice to Recruiting The Hardest Role in the Company

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