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4 ways to hire better sales personalities

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Nothing is new when it comes to hiring. As early as 2,200 BCE, the Chinese used oral examinations to hire and retain civil servants. In ancient Greece, the physician Hippocrates recorded the first known personality model, based on four moods, and by 340 BCE, Plato described these four temperaments as philosopher, guardian, artisan and scientist.

"Today there are around 2,500 cognitive and personality tests on the market," says Dana Borowka, co-author of the book "Cracking the Personality Code." "All managers want to select the right sales people. Alas, it doesn't always work out that way."

Borowka works internationally with hundreds of companies to improve hiring by using robust personality testing. He estimates that 30 percent of companies today subject applicants to some sort of personality tests.

My previous post, Cracking the sales hiring Code, covered four of Borowka's recommendations on how to use in-depth work style personality testing to hire the right sales and marketing people. Here are four more tips:

1. Analyze Career Activity Interests. "Certain personality tests help you gain information which may either support the person's present career choices or assist them to explore, consider and plan for another career direction," says Borowka. This is not to say you will be recommending another career choice to someone you are considering hiring or currently managing. Rather, you are using this information to determine fit. All organizations want to ensure that they have the right people in the right positions and are effectively distributing these human assets and talents.

2. Assess How They Respond To Tests. You should also use tests with scales for what is known as "impression management." This is necessary in order to understand the accuracy of results and whether someone is trying to "fake good" or misrepresent himself. A critical element in predicting a potential candidate's success is measuring real personality and style in an interview. An in-depth work style and personality assessment presents a fairly accurate picture of a candidate's personality, work style and fit within a company's culture. "If a profile does not have an impression management scale, then it is difficult to tell how accurate the data is," says Borowka. "A profile needs to have at least 165 questions in order to gather enough data for this scale."

3. Chronicle Strengths and Weaknesses Ledger. Remember the Ben Franklin choice? Franklin had a decision-making process when he was faced with important challenges. He divided a sheet of paper into two columns, and on the left side listed the reasons for doing something and on the right side the reasons against -- a comparison of pros and cons. Much like a bank ledger with credits and debits, this simple tool greatly aided the analysis of information. Often a quick scan of the two lists gave him the information he needed to make the right choice. Borowka recommends you do the same for the personality of a job candidate or an employee under your supervision. Like a bank ledger, every credit should have a corresponding debit. That is because for every strength a person possesses, there is a corresponding weakness. Being assertive is a strength, however, that personality can be too assertive and off putting for some people they deal with.

4. Create Personality Probing Interview Questions. Develop interview questions that probe facets of the personality you need more details on. "Forget those old standby questions like, 'Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses,'" says Borowka. "Instead, let's say you wanted to determine how they cope with stress." You might ask the candidate to give an example of when they made a terrible mistake and how they handled it. Ask them how they think others perceive them when they are under stress. For making a mistake, did they blame others or take responsibility for the outcome? Listen for their process. Do they ask for help? Watch body language and tone of voice to see how much insecurity the candidate expresses at the idea of making a mistake or having stress.

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