The best way to assess a sales rep’s personality is by, well, using an assessment. But if you want to also assess a sales rep’s personality in an interview, our infographic below summarize the research on how to accurately do it.

how to assess a sales rep's personality in an interview

The sales rep’s personality traits that are best assessed in an interview

Research has found that people are more accurate when judging someone else’s personality on more observable traits such as how extraverted or hardworking that person is.

Research on personality and interviews has found this to be true: Extraversion and Conscientiousness show the highest correlations between self-rated personality and interview ratings.

  • Conscientiousness (r = .12)
  • Extraversion (r = .08)
  • Openness to Experience (r = .03)
  • Agreeableness (r = .01)
  • Emotional Stability (r = .01)

The researchers conclude, however, “the correlations of structured interview ratings with self-report measures of personality factors are generally rather low.”

The question type that best assesses a sales rep’s personality in an interview

So what can you do to increase your accuracy when assessing personality during an interview? By asking the right questions, of course.

There are two main types of interview questions: situational questions (“What would you do if…”) and past behavior questions (“Tell me about a time when you…”). Research has found that:

  • Situational questions seem to measure general job knowledge
  • Past behavior questions seem to measure past experience and some personality traits

If you want to assess personality, you need to ask questions that are designed to measure the on-the-job behaviors related to a specific personality trait.

For example, ask the candidate to, “Tell me about a time when you had a work-related disagreement with a colleague. How did you resolve it?” to measure Agreeableness. Or measure Conscientiousness by asking the candidates how they set goals or meet deadlines.

The interview type that best assesses a sales rep’s personality in an interview

Evidence from thousands of interviews tell us that a structured interview is more reliable, valid, and less discriminatory than an unstructured interview. So what’s an unstructured vs. a structured interview?

  1. Unstructured interview: the typical job interview, example, Tell me about yourself, What’s your biggest weakness, Which superhero would you be? 
  2. Structured interview: asks questions specifically designed to assess job-related knowledge and skills, asks the same questions to all candidates, rates every answer to each question using a quantitative rating scale

Why does a structured interview lead to better hiring?

Simply, structured interviews reduce error: it reduces both interviewer bias and the ability of candidates to fake their answers during an interview.

The takeaways

The best way to measure a sales rep’s personality using an interview uses the same principles of measuring a sales rep’s personality using an assessment:

  • carefully designing the best job-related questions to ask
  • systematically collecting the data
  • using quantitative ratings to make your hiring decisions

Best practices recommend using a psychometric assessment to measure sales candidates’ personality first and then using a structured interview to verify and expand on their personality ratings.

So why don’t more people do this? It’s a lot more work! But if you’re not putting in the effort to make the best hiring decisions you can, you’re probably dooming yourself to a 50% hiring failure rate.

Are you looking for salespeople that are a perfect fit for your sales role, team, and company culture? Use Ideal Candidate to automate candidate sourcing and duplicate your top sales performers. Sign up for a free trial now.


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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 and data-based HR. She writes about trends and research in talent acquisition, people analytics, and workplace diversity.
Ji-A Min