When Hiring Salespeople, Personality Traits Predict Character Traits

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Hello, I am Steve Suggs, sales recruiting expert and author of the book, Can They Sell. Welcome to my sales recruitment video blog where you learn to hire the best sales people.

When hiring salespeople, it’s tempting to look at the sales performance of the candidate and jump to the conclusion that they’ll be a good fit on your current team.

It’s also tempting to conclude that a person with a charming personality who’s never sold before will quickly take to your training and get off to a quick start. So to avoid a hiring mistake, you make your candidates take a personality assessment which tells you that they are in fact naturally wired for sales.  You hire them, and during the first few weeks on the job, things are going well. They’re hitting their sales targets and appear to be getting along well with everyone in the organization.


One day, you get a phone call from an existing customer who tells you about how your new top salesperson was rude and arrogant during their last visit with this important client. You’re able to reassure the client that you’ll take care the situation, and fortunately, there’s no collateral damage. You dismiss the situation as an overreaction to a misunderstanding.

However, a few days later, one of your customer service reps comes into your office, closes the door, and begins to tell you another story of where this same top salesperson stretches the truth when making a large sale. You have a talk with your salesperson who quickly dismisses the situation as a simple overreaction by a jealous customer service rep. Your top salesperson is very convincing, so you again dismiss the situation as someone being too sensitive.

Over the next several months, similar situations continue, and you eventually have to make the decision to fire this top salesperson because of their struggle to get along well with others and their dishonesty. So you’re asking yourself – what did you miss during the selection process that caused you to hire a high producing salesperson who struggles with the character traits of concern for other people and honesty?


Lesson #1:

A personality assessment only gives us the picture related to one of 5 dimensions that must be measured when hiring a salesperson, which only adds up to about 20% of the information that we need.

Lesson #2:

Even though a person has the right hardwired personality traits for the job, we must also look at the corresponding character traits necessary to perform the job well.

There are four character traits that must be measured during the interview process:

  1. Honesty
  2. Hard work ethic
  3. Concern for others
  4. Accepting responsibility for the outcomes of our decisions

We can look at the personality traits and predict which character traits a person will most likely struggle with.  Therefore, during the interview process, once we have the scores on the personality assessment, we can predict which character traits with which our candidate will most likely struggle, then measure these character traits with behavioral interview questions.

For example…

We have found that top salespeople typically have a high resiliency to rejection. The personality traits that cause this resiliency to rejection are

  • High Social Confidence
  • High Good Impression
  • Low to moderate Need to Nurture

If we think about these personality traits, we have a very confident person who works hard to leave a favorable impression, and who is more task oriented than people oriented.  We can look at the character traits and quickly determine that the two most likely areas of struggle will be

  • Concern for Other People
  • Honesty

Confident people with a low to moderate need to nurture are more likely to struggle with being insensitive and running over people to get what they want.

To determine whether or not this lack of character is present in our candidate, we simply ask behavioral interview questions that relate to concern for others and getting along with people. We also ask good questions during the reference check focused on how well our candidate gets along with others and blends with the team. Salespeople with a high resiliency to rejection could also work so hard to leave a favorable impression that they embellish the features and benefits of the product to the point of lying. Again, we simply measure their historical behavior in the area of honesty to predict whether or not they will be honest when they come to work for us.

A list of behavioral interview questions, reference check questions, and more can be found in the Field Manual at  www.CanTheySell.com

As you can see from this example, the best personality traits that help a salesperson be a top salesperson also have a dark side which can cause salespeople to struggle with the corresponding character traits. Many managers tell me that they want to hire a salesperson who is coachable. When I ask them what they mean by coachable they usually respond by saying, “I want someone who will follow instructions with no pushback and never question or resist the rules and procedures.” I encourage them to think differently about coachability.

The key personality traits which help a salesperson confidently execute the sales process and resist rejection carry with them a high degree of independence and entrepreneurial spirit which typically doesn’t carry a high degree of quiet compliance and acceptance without question. What sales managers really want is a top salesperson who, even though they may give some pushback and objections to your methods, eventually they do the right thing for the team and the company.

You really want the confident, independent personality who also has the character traits of honesty, hard work ethic, concern for others and personal responsibility.

It’s that right combination of personality and character. If you actually hired the person with the ideal personality traits for easy coachability, you would be hiring a person who is not hardwired for a high-activity, high-rejection sales job. So be prepared to handle the resistance and independence that comes along with top salespeople. To make your job easier, hire that salesperson who not only has the right personality trait combinations but that also brings all the character traits to the job.

Here are some other helpful hints.

Just like the highly confident person who has a high resiliency to rejection may struggle with the character trait of concern for other people, the person with lower confidence and lower resiliency to rejection will most likely struggle with being easily taken advantage of by others. These principles are different when it comes to personality predicting work ethic. A low work ethic is not as easily predicted by personality traits. However, it’s important to understand how low work ethic manifests itself in different personalities.

Work Ethic

Salespeople with the personality trait of low goal orientation and the character trait of low work ethic is the person who we refer to as ‘lazy’. This is the person who

  • avoids work, and
  • is very unproductive.

The salesperson with high goal orientation and low work ethic can often

  • work at a fast pace, and
  • be very focused on accomplishing a lot in a short period time,

However, their low work ethic is characterized by a lack of discipline. This is the person who is

  • eager for immediate results and always chasing after the easy money,
  • evidenced by several jobs over a short period of time,
  • many projects started but never completed,
  • big ideas and big goals with very little results due to their lack of discipline to follow through when the job or the task gets really challenging.

Accepting Responsibility

Finally, the character trait with which we suffer from a chronic epidemic in America – accepting responsibility for the outcomes of our actions. Many people find it easier to blame others than look in the mirror and admit their contribution to the mistake. The salesperson with the ideal personality traits of high social confidence and high good impression, which contribute to the high resiliency to rejection, many times are missing the character trait of accepting personal responsibility.

You’ll notice this during the interview process if the candidate

  • has a difficult time admitting mistakes, or
  • spins a weakness as a strength.

I’ve had many situations where I ask the candidate, “please tell me about a situation where something went wrong and tell me what you did about it.” I’ve heard answers from, “I can’t really think of anything right now” to stories about where something went wrong but it was because of many things beyond their control, having nothing to do with the decisions they made. These types of answers indicate a struggle with the character trait of accepting personal responsibility.

Keep in mind that our hard-wired personality traits predict the character traits with which we will most likely struggle. Knowing this information, we can spend time during the selection process focused on those particular character traits.

Thank you for joining me. See you next time on the Can They Sell video blog for more sales job recruitment training. As always, please leave your comments below and forward this video to anyone who will benefit. Now go enjoy recruiting the best, and learn to use personality traits to predict character trait struggles.


Learn more about the following:

 Where to find sales people, where to find sale reps

• What to look for while recruiting salespeople – 5 Dimensions of the Best Salesperson Profile Hiring sales, hire salespeople, hire sales people, hiring sales people, hiring sales reps, IT sales recruitment, recruiting sales people, sales job recruitment
• How to look for the 5 Dimensions – get questionnaires – interview questions for sales, interview questions for salespeople, sales interview, interview questions for sales people


To YOUR Success,

Steve Suggs




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