5 Sales Personality Traits You Need to Assess When Hiring

greasy-salesman-personalityNo one wants the stereotypical sleazy salesperson on their payroll. Understanding research on sales personality traits will help you identify strong salespeople pre-hire. Learn what to look for to save yourself time and your company money.

A common personality classification system referred to as the “Big Five”  (Digman, 1990) demonstrates a large majority of human behaviors can be categorized into one of five factors: Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Emotional Stability, Openness to Experience, and Agreeableness.

Based on the results of a groundbreaking meta-analysis of 117 studies by Barrick and Mount, here’s what you need to know about the Big Five personality traits in sales performance:

1) Conscientiousness: Conscientious individuals are responsible, organized, achievement-driven, and hardworking. As expected, conscientiousness was the trait with the highest correlation to sales performance.

2) Extraversion: Extraverted individuals are energetic, assertive, talkative, and gregarious. In other words, they are the classic people-person who loves being in the center of attention. Unsurprisingly, extraversion had the second highest correlation with sales performance. (See my previous post on the curvilinear relationship between extraversion and sales, it might surprise you.)

3) Emotional Stability: Individuals who are on high in this trait are calm and steadfast, while those on the low end tend to be anxious, temperamental, and nervous. Emotional stability showed a positive trend with sales performance, but the relationship was not strong enough to be statistically significant.

4) Openness to Experience: Individuals who are high on this trait are imaginative, curious, intellectual, and creative. Somewhat counterintuitively, being open to experience was not correlated with sales performance.

5) Agreeableness: Agreeable individuals are cooperative, good-natured, trusting, and tolerant. They tend to turn the other cheek and are able to find the good in everyone. Agreeableness showed no relationship with sales performance. It’s possible that highly agreeable people are great at relationship building, but they may lack the necessary closing abilities.

What these results demonstrate is that you should be assessing the Big Five personality traits in your sales candidates and then paying special attention to their Conscientiousness and Extraversion scores.

By using scientifically validated research to guide your sales hiring decisions, you’re arming yourself with a weapon that helps you identify top performers in the war for sales talent. Happy hunting!

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min


  • Andreas Klang

    Good read. These results are in line with a study that I conducted in Sweden in 2012.


    • Thanks for sharing – very cool replication! Diversity is one of my favourite research interests, so I always enjoy reading cross-cultural studies.

      In your opinion, would you recommend companies focus on personality factors or facets when assessing job candidates? Your results indicate both strategies are valid.