Hiring sales people is always a challenge and an important consideration for HR professionals and hiring managers. Hiring an effective sales staff increases revenue and drives organizational growth. But what should you be looking for in a candidate? Previous experience? Consistent work history? Someone who can learn on the fly? A recent grad? Something else?
There has been a good deal of research on this topic given its importance in organizations. When I speak with sales managers they typically tell me that they look for candidates with relevant sales experience who have shown success in a previous sales role. This makes intuitive sense and for the non-trained interviewer -- what else can they ask to predict success in sales?
While experience and technical skills are important considerations, there are other aspects that are almost always more important to consider in the hiring process. More specifically, it is important to consider the functional competencies needed for successful job performance. By functional competencies, I am referring to those skills and abilities that drive performance. Things like work ethic, teamwork, adaptability, stress tolerance, cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, etc.
These functional competencies are typically ignored in the hiring process because hiring managers had no means or methods for collecting this info. They defaulted to what they knew best; previous experience and performance collected via resume reviews and interviews. Now that we have more sophisticated assessments we can dive deeper into the candidates true skill sets and identify if they possess the functional competencies necessary for successful job performance.
The research is also very clear that competency based assessments often out-predict resume reviews and interviews. Why you ask? It is because a computer based assessment is non-biased and a reliable measure of personality traits and cognitive ability. This reliability is a key consideration in the hiring process. How can a hiring manager select candidates when they are using an unstructured and unreliable process? Next time you have an opening in sales, consider using a competency based hiring assessment to help identify your top candidates.