Sales Personality Tests – Are You Really Seeing What You Think You are Seeing?


Over the years there have been many expert studies and a huge body of research that clearly shows that face-to-face interviews are just not a very effective means of evaluating job candidates. As bad as face-to-face interviews are for evaluating candidates generally, I would venture to say they are even less effective for evaluating sales candidates. This is certainly no great revelation to any manager whose job it is to hire sales people.

Despite the widespread skepticism that hiring managers quite naturally have towards the effectiveness of interviews, the practice is so ubiquitous as a hiring tool that it is definitely not in any danger of being curtailed any time soon.

In this context there is another thing that bears mentioning and that is this attitude we humans all seem to share about our individual abilities as ‘good judges of character’.   In other words everyone thinks they are good judges of character. This belief in one’s ability to ‘read’ applicants and to not be fooled in interviews can be a real impediment to acquiring an objective understanding of the candidate’s true strengths and weaknesses.

So as the question in the title of this article suggests, you may very well see things in interviews with your own eyes but are you really seeing what you think you are seeing? Below are some common examples of ways we get fooled.

Candidate Role Playing

The reality is that most candidates play a role in interviews based on what they perceive you are looking for. This is normal and is in no way dishonest. As well it is fairly easy to play a role for an interview or even a series of interviews. The reality though is that once hired and settled into the role they, as all of us do, revert back to their natural operating style. If you based your hiring decision on your face-to-face impressions, which of course you would do unless you used a sales test, then you could easily make a hiring error. Complicating your ability to truly understand the candidate is just how well armed they are today with all of the online tools and research at their fingertips.

Two typical alterations in style made by sales candidates are firstly, in the area of assertiveness and secondly in sociability. For example it is very common for the non-assertive candidate to portray a high level of assertiveness, because it is almost a given in the minds of applicants that high assertiveness is a desirable trait from the perspective of the hiring authority. Even when a job advertisement does not specifically mention high assertiveness one certainly gets that loud and clear message by reading between the lines.   So when these non-assertive applicants elevate their assertiveness as they can and usually do for the interview, you are quite likely going to see them in a far more positive light. In other words what you are seeing is the act and not the real person.

The same effect is at play when a reserved (introverted) applicant is being interviewed. They will typically play the role of the extrovert. And of course you will see them as such and base your judgment around what you saw with your own eyes. Again though what you saw was the act and not the real person.

Misunderstanding Traits

The second way one can be fooled by sales candidates has nothing to do with role-playing. In these cases you see the candidate either in a more positive or negative light due to a misunderstanding or mis-identification of the person’s personality traits. There are lots of examples of this. A typical one is to misread highly extroverted types as being very confident and therefore having a lot of drive and self-motivation. Unfortunately, some extroverts have drive but a lot do not, they’re just very sociable. The flip side of this is to see the rather introverted and more socially awkward type as lacking the drive and self-motivation. Again, some introverts have a lot of drive and some do not. As this article explains, some of the very best sales people are introverts but it is the presence of the drive that makes all the difference.

There are other examples. Impulsiveness looks a lot like decisiveness but it is something very different and can have a very negative and wide-ranging impact.

Independence can look like self-motivation. It is true that a lot of self-motivated people are independent but not all independent people are self-motivated. This becomes a real problem when you hire this type. They definitely need direction because they are lacking in self-motivation but balk at taking direction because they are independent-very frustrating!


If what I have described rings true with your experience, perhaps you should consider using a sales personality test. I would be very pleased to hear from you to discuss your specific sales hiring challenges.

Sales Personality Test – 7 Common Sales Styles


Sometimes labels are helpful because they can assist you in conjuring up a visual image. Every sales manager is familiar with the hunter and farmer names, widely used to refer to two well-known sales personality styles. The very names help to evoke a certain set of sales strengths and weaknesses. I thought I would devote this article to describing 7 very common sales styles. In addition to naming them they are accompanied by a brief description. Hopefully the combination of name and description will help you to visualize their sales styles also.


Hunters are assertive, outgoing, impatient and independent. They will tend to be results and goal-oriented and will have a drive for achievement. They will exhibit persuasiveness and will try to convince or ‘sell’ their ideas but will become more forceful and direct when sensing resistance. Their communication style should be thought of as ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove’.  Their strengths are prospecting, closing and a sense of urgency. Their weaknesses are that they can be hard to manage and they tend to be weak with the details.


Farmers are outgoing, structured and non assertive.  They are optimistic and enthusiastic individuals who will have a strong drive for a lot of people contact, combined with a need for a busy working environment supported by policies, procedures and guidelines. Their drives are directed towards helping other people. This is why they are quite effective in farming sales roles. They are very altruistic people and are conscientious ‘team players’. Being outgoing and poised communicators they can seem to be quite self-motivated and results driven, but they are not as assertive as they appear. Their strengths are that they are customer service oriented, they follow up well, they are helpful team players and very conscientious. Weaknesses are prospecting, closing and possibly needing too much support from management.

Hunter-Farmer Hybrid

Hybrids are outgoing, structured and moderately assertive. They are optimistic and enthusiastic and will have a drive for a lot of people contact, combined with a need for a busy working environment supported by a structure. They demonstrate confidence when operating within policies, procedures and guidelines, but when encountering risk will involve a higher level of authority. They can be effective at prospecting and closing as long as they are not expected to be very assertive. They tend to be organized, systematic and thorough and so can be quite good at customer service aspects of sales. In essence, they combine some of the qualities of a hunter along with some of the qualities of a farmer. As such they are often very effective at sales roles that need to blend these two approaches.   Strengths are organization, sense of urgency, persuasiveness and service orientation. Weaknesses are when a high level of assertiveness is required.

Driven Introvert

Driven Introverts are results-oriented perfectionists. They are motivated by a need to achieve and also a fear of failing. They are analytical, thorough and technical. Demanding of themselves and goal oriented they will push themselves hard. They tend to work well with numbers, facts or technical matters and can be quite effective in technical sales roles when selling to engineers or other technically oriented customers. When communicating they will be business-like, direct, consultative and professional. They tend to have the high assertiveness found in hunters but being reserved they tend to have difficulty with rejection. Their strengths are that they are very hard working, results oriented, organized and disciplined. Their weaknesses are prospecting and a tendency to over plan.


The Promotional is highly extroverted, moderately assertive and very independent. They have a strong drive for lots of interaction, especially when there are few guidelines and details. Very gregarious, they relate to others easily and can be effective at contacting prospects for the first time as long as they are not expected to be very assertive or to get into too much detail. Because of their optimism and poise they seem to be more confident and results oriented than they actually are. While good at making new contacts when assertiveness is not required they can have difficulty with harsh rejection. Their strengths are that they are highly social, optimistic and persuasive. Weaknesses are closing, lack of technical depth and organization.


The Technician is an exacting, very reserved person with a low level of assertiveness and a high degree of patience. They have a strong fear of failure and demonstrate a careful, thorough and craftsman-like approach. They are suited to very technical sales that are structured and supported by guidelines and procedures.  Loyal and conscientious, they seek direction and follow it closely. Focusing heavily on details, they tend to work well with numbers, facts or technical matters and therefore are often found in highly technical sales environments. Their strengths are that they are organized, hard working reliable and conscientious. Weaknesses tend to be that they can require a lot of support and structure, situations needing high assertiveness and tendency to get too bogged down in the details.

Friendly Social

These individuals are outgoing, patient and non assertive. Amiable, relaxed and tolerant they get along comfortably with just about anybody. Approachable and reassuring, they are easy to get to know, to get along with and to like and are adept at getting others to open up and talk about themselves and their concerns. This style can be quite well suited to routine oriented sales positions such as many customer service kinds of roles. Sales activities needing assertiveness or an independent sense of urgency can be areas of weakness. Strengths are a service orientation, patience, likeable, a team player. Weaknesses are areas needing some assertiveness such as closing and prospecting and can need too much support and direction.

The seven styles above are by no means an exhaustive list. There are many other sales styles uncovered by our sales aptitude test including some that are not very common at all. If you enjoyed this article I would be very pleased to have a conversation with you. I would enjoy learning about your sales challenges and perhaps discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of the sales styles that might work best in your organization.

Sales Assessment Test – How Does a 10 Minute Test Reveal So Much?


I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the disbelief and amazement people express when seeing how much information our test is able to uncover.   I have to admit that even now, after more than 30 years in business I still get a real kick out of this. Typical comments all follow a similar theme: ‘Your test only took me 10 minutes to complete, how can it possibly tell you so much about me?’ This is usually followed by a discussion of the science behind the test and by my offering reassurance that it’s definitely not just smoke and mirrors.

For most people the process of taking the test for themselves or giving it to a known employee followed by seeing the accuracy of the results is very convincing. This is particularly so, since we have no hesitation about taking them ‘under the hood’ to explain things, as well as to answer their various questions. Even if they were initially skeptical, this is usually enough to bring them around.

So, since the skepticism is really just a symptom of a credibility concern I wanted to cover two things. Firstly without getting into the technical weeds of how our test works I wanted to explain it somewhat, and to provide a little background and history. Secondly, since there are numerous well known and respected testing organizations that use the very same type of psychometric methodology, I am providing links to their websites so you can do further research if you wish. Instrument

Our test, which when introduced in 1986, consisted of two printed pages, is now presented on two screens. After logging in, test takers are given an instruction and based on how they respond to that instruction, check off their choices from about 100 adjectives. Following this, they go to the second screen and are given a different instruction and are asked to make their choices on this screen also.

Testing Methodology

We cannot take credit for inventing the testing methodology that we use in our test. Instead, like almost all of the dozens of tests that use an adjective based system, our psychometric test developers created the test, using as their foundation, the previous research of some of the most eminent names in Industrial Psychology.   That research, which dates back nearly a century shows that people with similar traits tend to respond to visual symbols in a manner that is similar and consistent. In the case of our test and the others mentioned below the symbols used are adjectives.

Origins of the Research

Rather than attempt to summarize the origins of the research behind our testing methodology I have listed below various links to information about the psychology and the psychologists who did the original research. And of course the following pages have still further links:

Adjective Based Tests

Below I have listed links to ‘adjective based commercial’ tests. Their familiarity to those in the business world varies widely.–Briggs_Type_Indicator – The_Birkman_Method

On this page you will also find a link to a listing of many others and further links to other information about testing:


While we did not invent the testing methodology that we use in our sales assessment test it is based on extensive psychological research with a long history and an impressive reputation.   Given the number of test instruments that are based on this same psychometric methodology it is not an exaggeration to say that literally millions of businesses worldwide are using it as part of their hiring regime.

Sales Testing – Bitter Truth #5


 You’re a Lousy Judge of Character*

*but you’ll be a good one when you use a sales test

After I wrote that title about being a bad judge of character I thought about softening it but then I had a change of heart. After all, this article is about a bitter truth so in that context being told right off the bat that you are a lousy judge of character does seem to fit. If it is any consolation it is not meant as a personal slight but a comment on a flawed process.

If your job entails interviewing and hiring sales candidates then obviously a core requirement of your job is to learn about, and to understand, what makes those candidates tick. Sure, you can verify facts like education, skills and experience, but that’s not what I’m talking about. If you’ve been hiring sales people for any length of time at all you already know that while important, these things rarely have much to do with sales success.

No, what you need to judge is their character; motivational traits, drive, sense of urgency and myriad other personality aspects of the candidate that ultimately determine how they match the requirements of the role. It is this that inevitably determines their sales success or failure.

Are you still with me?   If so, then you are also painfully aware that relying on face-to-face interviews with sales candidates in order to obtain an accurate measure of this is much easier said than done. Why is that?

The overriding reason is that interviews are just not an effective way to evaluate job candidates, especially candidates for sales roles.   This is not just my opinion. This has been the topic of many research studies and articles by numerous highly respected experts. This New York Times article by Jason Dana, Professor of Management and Marketing at Yale School of Business explains this issue very nicely: The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews.

Management’s use of interviews as a selection tool is so entrenched in our hiring methods, systems and procedures that, despite all the evidence demonstrating that interviews are a waste of time, it is simply not realistic to think that you or anyone else is going to stop conducting them. So if as I suspect, you will continue to interview sales people, all the while operating in the knowledge that the process itself is fatally flawed, the question is what, if anything, do you intend to do about it?

You certainly have the option of maintaining the status quo in the mindset that ‘it is what it is’. You have to admit though, that if you were stuck with a ‘flawed process’ in any other area of your business, and particularly one with such costly implications, that you wouldn’t waste a minute before getting to work trying to find a way to fix it or work around it.

On the other hand, adding a highly accurate and proven sales assessment test such as is fast, easy and very economical. The sales assessment will cut through the typical role-playing at which candidates are so effective and that would normally fool you. Instead, you’ll operate with a clear and precise picture of the real person behind the façade.   Not only will you have a full picture of the candidate’s critical sales abilities, (ie. prospecting, closing, sense of urgency) but you’ll also have a very full understanding of strengths and weaknesses and other red flags. More than just leveling the ‘interview playing field’, you will find yourself back in command of the situation.

In other words, if you use our sales assessment test when interviewing sales people you will become a very good judge of character. Isn’t that how you see yourself?

Sales Personality Test – You Can Teach a Hunter to Farm But You Can’t Teach a Farmer to Hunt – Here’s Why!


‘You can teach a hunter to farm but you can’t teach a farmer to hunt’ is an expression I’ve heard many times over the years. Like a lot of old expressions, whether in the ‘world of sales’ or in everyday life they often contain a lot of truth. Hiring managers who’ve used this phrase have usually come to believe it through hard earned experience and their fair share of hiring mistakes. The sales assessment testing we have conducted with hunters and farmers over the years definitely bears out their view. Rather than just accept this expression I wanted to add some of the ‘why’.

Not wanting to go over the previously traveled territory I covered in this article about Hunters and Farmers, I will very briefly summarize their key trait similarities and differences. The two styles differ in both their levels of assertiveness and of dependence. Hunters having high assertiveness while farmers have low. Hunters have low dependence while farmers have high. The similarities are that both tend to be very extroverted and both tend to possess a sense of urgency.

Just to be clear, it is rarely a good idea to have contradictory criteria in any sales role. This previous article about sales testing covers this subject. The essence of the article being, that traits can be likened to two-edged swords. This means that the person’s traits, or sets of traits, that create certain sales strengths also create corresponding sales weaknesses. It normally follows then, that one should make sure that the sales role and the sales person being hired for that role are completely in sync. Unfortunately this is not always possible, so this article is meant to shed some light on a fairly common sales hiring dilemma.

Why you can’t teach a farmer to hunt

The reason you cannot teach a farmer to hunt and why if you do try, you are setting every one up for failure, boils down to the simple fact that the change of personality required to pull this off is so dramatic that it is virtually impossible to achieve.

Changing or adjusting one’s traits to successfully perform one’s job is achievable only if the change/adjustment required is relatively minor. In fact, a slight alteration in one’s style for work is actually quite common and can be pretty positive. When the change becomes too great however, as is the situation we are addressing here, then it is a recipe for disaster. Specifically, the expectation is that the person will elevate their level of assertiveness from very low to very high and simultaneously lower their high level of dependence to very low.   Either one or the other of these adjustments is a very tall order; successfully making them both will just not happen. Naysayers and others who disagree with the above will bring up training, sales tracking software and other tools as a remedy. These will very likely make a bad situation less bad, but the heart of the problem is that you are fighting a losing battle because the issue is not skill, nor anything else that might be taught. The fundamental issue is a very poor personality fit.

Why you can teach a hunter to farm

The overriding reason why it is more realistic to teach a hunter to farm is really quite simple. Firstly, the degree of change required in the hunter’s personality traits is more limited and therefore a more realistic change. Secondly, the available sales tools and necessary skills that need to be taught for these more service-oriented activities are more likely to actually work. There is another practical reason as well; in most instances management’s primary need is for the rep to open accounts (hunt) and as those accounts are opened, to service and maintain them (farm). In other words, the key sales activity at the very least initially, is to develop new business.


If you need to hire a hunter but you also need him to farm, here are a few quick suggestions. First of all, put in place tools and procedures that while helping the rep, do not make him feel controlled nor require too much of his time, otherwise he will be quite demotivated. When ‘selling’ the idea of these tools to the rep and any training you need to provide him, always relate the benefits to what’s in it for him i.e. money, opportunity and independence. If the rep buys into the connection between the farming activities and his individual success, then this will be highly motivating and the rep will be far more likely to succeed.

I hope this has been helpful and I would invite your thoughts and comments. I would especially enjoy hearing from you to discuss your challenges regarding sales hunters and farmers and would be pleased to share some of what we at have learned over the past 3 decades.