The Personality Trap

Personality assessments, such as DISC or Meyers-Briggs, have an understandable appeal. They are well-known and usually inexpensive. However, according to research by I/O Psychology expert, Dr. Frank Schmidt, the predictive quality or validity of personality assessments for selecting productive sales hires is far inferior to other assessment methods.

As the graph below shows, personality tests ranked near the bottom of predicting success in a job, and other assessments methods scored much higher. This is consistent with our research and experience working with our own clients.

Even in sales, personality alone rarely correlates to success in a job. Using an inexpensive but also ineffective tool comes at a high cost – the increased chance of making a bad hire. Research data proves that using personality assessments as the primary assessment during hiring results in bad hire rates as high as 50 percent. Let that soak in – 1 out of every 2 new sales reps could be the wrong fit for your company.

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The subjective nature of personality assessments in hiring also places hiring organizations that use them at risk of violating Equal Employment Opportunity guidelines. Cornell University HR Review recommends using extreme caution when using personality assessments for hiring. Needless to say, to depend so heavily on a questionable tool could lead to costly mistakes and potential legal action.

It’s all in the KSAs

Personality tests simply don’t provide hiring managers enough relevant information about the candidate’s ability to succeed in the job. It only gives one dimension when you need to be looking at the whole person. Knowledge and behavior are also extremely vital components for identifying productive sales hires.

According to research by Schmidt and Hunter, the factors that ultimately drive performance and effectiveness are knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA). The success rate of hiring the right person with assessments that measure KSA, combined with a structured interview process, is about 70 percent. This is more than three times better than when using personality assessments alone. Again, this is consistent with our own research and client experience.

Rather than using personality tests alone, you should use an assessment that measures the traits that correlate to success in a sales role. This means:

  1. Creating competency models for each role to identify the competencies that drive success and the corresponding proficiency levels.
  2. Evaluating candidates, relative to these standards, with a multi-measure assessment that measures these competencies.
  3. Adopting a uniform hiring process to consistently evaluate candidates, and training your hiring managers in behavioral event interviewing skills to uncover the right information to make the best decisions.

This approach not only helps you make better hires. It enables consistent evaluation of candidates against established standards, reducing bias in your hiring process.

So, stop wasting resources on personality assessments and risking a bad hire. Save yourself the headache in the long run and look towards things that are more reliable and accurate. Wave goodbye to the personality approach. Say hello to KSAs.

Download our Checklist of Effective Sales Hiring Tests to help you make the best choice.

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