Why Using Behavioral Assessments to Hire Sellers Requires Caution

By Hope Eyre on Dec 4, 2018

2 Minute Estimated Read Time

I drive too fast. This according to approximately 11 police officers and my boss, who recently banned me from renting cars and made taking Uber a condition of my continued employment. (In Dallas on business, I dutifully delivered him to DFW in a Dodge Challenger with a Hemi engine and evidently he had issues with his passenger experience.)

So what can we predict about my behavior the next time I’m behind the wheel? That depends on a number of factors, some of them random. I’ll get to how this relates to hiring sellers in a minute.

But about my alleged driving speed. It might be raining. I might be behind a school bus. Waze might alert me to police presence (though evidence suggests that’s not a particularly influential factor for me). My 12-year-old nephew might be in the car.

We can predict essentially nothing about my future driving behavior based on past performance. Nate Silver, and my insurance company, can certainly apply probabilities but they can’t predict my future.

I’m on this topic because I recently evaluated pre-screening assessment tools for hiring sales professionals.

I took one called PXT Select that measured communication and math skills. I liked it because it actually measures aptitude and can be modified to fit the role you’re hiring for. It’s not just for sales.

Another assessment I took attempted to predict my motivations for selling. In other words how much am I motivated to do it. My results seemed to indicate I should change jobs immediately, so I had a colleague take it. Her results were less looking-glass-ish, but both indicated that neither of us should be in jobs where problem-solving is required.

We’re management consultants.

Now, I admit to a negative bias against assessments that profess to predict behavior as a pre-screen for hiring. While in business school, I interviewed with a company whose assessment stated I lacked the ability to be assertive and would be prone to acquiesce in situations involving conflict.

Anyone reading this who actually knows me just laughed out loud.

I understand why behavioral assessments are seductive for recruiting. The results give us the illusion of being able to scientifically predict the future performance of a sales candidate. How much easier and less expensive would THAT be?

And to be clear, behavioral assessments that help us better understand ourselves, after we’re hired, are awesome. We make very frequent use of one called HBDI, which measures thinking preferences. But never for hiring purposes. Its developer does not allow that because it measures preference, not actual capability.

If you’re looking for an assessment that predicts sales performance or future selling behavior, use caution. Test the assessment with sellers of known performance in house before you apply it to your recruiting process. And don’t use assessments as a way to compensate for lazy interviewing.

I, myself, love to interview people. I’m good at reading them. At least that’s what my last assessment said.

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Hope Eyre

Written by Hope Eyre

Hope Eyre is a sales effectiveness expert who takes a roll-up-the-sleeves approach to building winning sales organizations. She regularly works side by side with sales teams around account segmentation and planning and has helped numerous complex organizations rethink they way they serve their largest accounts. Hope’s specialties include sales transformation, sales capability development, leadership development/coaching and performance management. If “sticky” could be a word to describe a consultant, it would be a perfect descriptor for Hope, as clients like to keep her around.

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