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.
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.