Warning – This is a short explanation of a practical understanding of measuring a candidates current level of math and verbal skills. Also, their ability to reason through and learn complex information, then explain the information back to a prospect or customer in a way in which they understand it. This is not a comprehensive explanation on the complex world of intelligence, how people learn, or all the ways to measure learning ability. This is simply some basic and usable information.

You want to know, “Can they get licensed and quickly learn how to excel as a service/pivot or sales team member.”

Have you experienced this picture?

You have hired a very charismatic, hard working, salesperson who performed well in their last sales position. A few weeks on the job with you, and they have failed the insurance licensing test one or more times. You have to spend extra time training them to learn the products. Their paperwork has incomplete and inaccurate information. Other team members’ productivity is suffering due to picking up the slack from this weak team member. When listening to their explanation of your products to customers, you are very concerned that the customer does not fully understand the solutions being proposed.

It appears that your new salesperson is not as intelligent as you originally assumed. How did you miss this during the selection process.

We might conclude that if we can learn the tasks of a job, that it is not rocket science, so almost anyone else can learn it, too.

In order to hire people who can quickly learn to do the job, we must forego this conclusion and learn what level of intelligence is needed for the position and how to measure it.

If a job is complex in nature, like insurance and financial services, and if a person has the right level of intelligence, it is 20% of what is needed in order to master the task of the job. This percent may appear to be low; however, for a single dimension, it is a large percentage relative to other dimensions we measure.

If they are not smart enough to get licensed and learn to do the job, nothing else matters. This is why we focus on measuring intelligence first.

The following are all the areas impacted by intelligence:

  • Getting licensed to sell property and casualty and life insurance, and in some agencies mortgages
  • Learning information about your products at a level where they can explain the benefits and features to others in a way they can understand what they are purchasing
  • Learning to operate your computer system
  • Paying attention to details when completing applications, recording customer interactions, and all other paper-work
  • Receiving and implementing your coaching
  • Writing skills for effective communication to customers

In this blog, you will learn the following:

  • What are all the pieces of the puzzle that make up intelligence in the context of selling financial services products?
  • How do I measure whether or not a person has the right level of intelligence during the selection process?

For some candidates it is obvious that they are highly intelligent. For others it is not so obvious and more difficult to determine.

When candidates score at or above the average score on a learning style assessment that has been calibrated for the position of insurance and financial services, like the Learning Style Survey, it is obvious that they have the capacity to learn to do this job.

When scores are below average on a calibrated assessment, you might miss out on hiring a good candidate if you jump to the conclusion that they are not smart enough. We must look at other factors related to their intelligence.

What are all the pieces of the puzzle that make up intelligence in the context of selling financial services products?

From birth until your candidate is sitting in the interview chair, they have been learning.

Factors that make up the level of knowledge a person currently possesses and the speed at which they will learn to do this job, are as follows:

  • Intelligent Quotient (IQ), which is measured with an IQ test. This is one’s cognitive skills, such as reasoning, logic, and problem-solving ability. Some studies have shown that IQ is a combination of genetics and environment, but could contain a large genetic component.

For the purposes of determining if you should hire someone, I do not recommend an IQ test. We can gain enough insight with other steps without knowing a person’s exact IQ.

We have all met or know of people for which learning comes easy, and for some it is a struggle. Some were born blessed with the ease of learning (higher IQ) and are nurtured in a learning environment, while others must work harder (average IQ), while some struggle to learn no matter how hard they work to learn (lower than average IQ).

We are mostly concerned with how much a person has learned up to now, how fast they will learn, and how hard they are willing to work to learn more.

  • Willingness to work hard to learn – Education level and grades may be an indication one’s learning ability.

If a candidate attended a challenging elementary school, high school and/or college/university, and they achieved a 3.0 or better GPA, it is mostly safe to assume that they can learn to do the job of insurance and financial services.

A 3.0 or better GPA in math is a strong indication of reasoning and problem solving skills.  Some individuals may have an average GPA above 3.0 with a lower GPA for math. This may indicate that they can memorize information, but may be weak in using information to problem solve and explain complex concepts. Always ask for grades in math.

SAT and ACT scores are good source of information. The average SAT score is 1059 . The average ACT score is 21.

Keep in mind that there are rare exceptions to the relationship of success and GPA. There are successful 2.7 GPA students who are successful insurance and financial services advisors; however, many of these individuals will admit that they must work harder to learn. You must decide if you have the resources to invest in the hard-working slower learner.

How do I measure whether or not a person has the right level of intelligence during the selection process?

  • Administer the Learning Style Survey (LSS). This 35 question, un-timed, test measures math, verbal and reasoning skills. This assessment was benchmarked by having 4200 licensed financial services reps complete the assessment.

We recommend a minimum score of “Time” <60 seconds and an “Accuracy” of 25/35. If a candidate scores at or above these levels, it is mostly safe to assume they are intelligent enough to get licensed and perform the job if they are willing to work hard at studying and learning.

If scores on the LSS are below the minimums, ask these questions:

  1. What is the most complex task you have had to learn for a past/previous job? (Have they ever had a job as complex as this one?)
  2. What was your ACT score? (Avg. is 21) What was your SAT score? (Avg. is 1059) 
  3. When we pull your transcript, what grades will we see for you in high school?
  4. What was your favorite subject in high school, and what grades will we see in that subject?
  5. What grades will we see for you in college?
  6. What courses did you take in math, finance, accounting, or statistics, and what were your grades in these courses? (3.0+ is most desirable)
  7. What was your favorite subject in college, and what grades will we see in that subject?
  8. What are the names of the last 2 books you have read? (Intelligent people read or listen to books that help them be more productive.)
  9. What did you learn from these books?
  10. How do you keep up with current events? (Intelligent people keep up with things that impact their life.)
  11. Tell me something about the current event that interests you the most?
  12. If you are traveling 50 miles per hour, how far do you travel in 60 minutes? (50 miles)
  13. What is 10% of $492.50? ($49.25)
  14. Please explain the features and benefits of your current auto policy and how it would work in this situation:You are turning right on red and hit a person in the crosswalk, which results in severe injuries. You panic and hit the gas pedal resulting in rear-ending the car in front of you. (You are not necessarily looking for the perfect explanation. You are looking to gain insight into their ability to explain details in a way in which you can understand them. Do they have a basic understanding of deductibles and liability insurance?)
  • Look at their work history. Have they chosen jobs that resemble the complexities of insurance and financial services?
  1. It is most likely possible for a college graduate with acceptable scores on the LSS and a GPA of 3.0 or better to learn to do the job without complex job experience.
  2. Candidates with lower scores on the LSS (Speed <60 seconds and Accuracy <25/35), some or no college, and entry level jobs with no advancement are most likely not capable of getting licensed and learning the job tasks.
  • Check References and ask the following questions: “How fast does the candidate learn complex information?” “How quickly did they reach high competency levels?” “What are their sales results?” “How much coaching was necessary regarding sloppy work?”

Frequently Asked Questions and Other Red Flags:

  • “I don’t do well on tests”, is a statement occasionally made by candidates. If the scores on the LSS are lower than the minimums, their GPA in math related courses are below a 3.0, and they have not had a job in a complex field, the fact that they do not perform well on test is a strong indication they will not get licensed and learn to do a complex job.
  • “They are already licensed”. If candidates are working in the field of insurance, licensed in P&C and Life/Health, and have lower scores on the LSS, ask all the above questions. Some candidates can pass licensing requirements, but they cannot necessarily learn the more complex information and duties of the job. Check references and ask the questions above.  “How fast does the candidate learn complex information?” “How quickly did they reach high competency levels?” “What are their sales results?” “How much coaching was necessary regarding sloppy work?”
  • Learning Disabilities – This is a complex area. Many people have undiagnosed learning disabilities like dyslexia and auditory processing disorder. The statement, “I don’t do well on tests” may be a sign of a learning disability. The severity of the learning disability will determine whether or not a person will have a challenge with the job. Most individuals with severe learning disabilities will have lower grades and lower scores on the LSS and will not have a history of complex jobs.
  • Is there a difference in a 3.0+ GPA with a BS in Psychology (or any degree that does not require math) and a 3.0+ with a BS in Business from a reputable university? If scores on the LSS are below the minimums for the person with a BS in Psychology, it is possible that they can memorize information to get a degree that does not involve math skills; however, they are weak in math. This may be an indication of a weakness in reasoning skills. This may lead to a challenge in learning complex information to the degree that they can explain it well to others. Use the above questions and techniques to test this.

Feel free to reach out with questions and concerns. Email me at or schedule a call at

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