Improving Hiring Decisions by Using Sales Tests

A client asks, "I've been hearing a lot about sales assessment tests. Do they really work? How do I choose one?"

Depending on your needs, assessment tests can be used as part of your hiring process and/or as part of assessing your sales team. This month I will focus on using tests in the hiring process. In a subsequent newsletter I will talk about using them as a diagnostic tool.

Tests do work. There are numerous scientific surveys that demonstrate the value of testing (e.g. for finding strong contributors, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and improving retention rate) and it puts one more tool in your hiring toolbox. A bad hire has a lasting impact which can be particularly damaging at a smaller company. Testing can help mitigate your hiring risk. So the decision should not be about whether to test, but about which test is right for your sales organization. Briefly, there are several types of tests:

  • Personality: Assesses an individual’s character traits, and provides insights into how they might fit in with your company’s culture.
  • Intelligence: Evaluates an individual’s reasoning, memory, comprehension and numerical abilities.
  • Aptitude: Shows skills an individual has learned and is capable of performing.
  • Executional: Examines whether or not an individual has learned certain skills and whether they will execute those skills when they need to.

Handle the search for a sales test just like you would handle the search for a good house painter: ask your peers and sales executives in your network if they use sales assessment tests and if they were satisfied with the results. Call the various companies they suggest, and talk to them about validity, delivery, and price. Ask to see a sample test and a list of companies that they currently do business with.

When reviewing the tests, be sure to consider only commercially reputable EEOC-compliant assessments supported by a substantial body of historical and statistically validated data. Make sure that they allow you to “benchmark” so that test results can be compared to your ideal candidate. For salespeople execution is critical, so executional tests deserve most of your attention.

Testing is only one part of the hiring process. Writing an accurate job description, crafting insightful interview questions, meeting with candidates several times, and conducting thorough reference checks are all equally critical to helping you identify and hire the right candidates for your company.