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Use Front-End Sales Assessment Tests to Improve Quality of Hire

salespeople data

It’s the talent on your sales team that will determine your fate when you’re working to hit aggressive targets and achieve your company’s future goals. And finding top performers is the difference between your company’s victory or failure in competitive markets.

top performersTo find these top performers faster, you need to incorporate quantitative and objective candidate assessment tools into your recruiting process.

Specifically, sales assessment tests represent a unique and effective way to inject objectivity into your screening process and improve quality of hire rates.

In this article, we explain why sales assessment tests are effective recruiting tools and how they improve the screening process. 

Skip to section:
Why use sales assessment tests
Negative impacts of traditional screening processes
What is a sales assessment test?
Reducing hiring bias
Success from the frontlines
Sales assessment options

Why You Need to Use Tests When Recruiting Salespeople

Salespeople are driven individuals, who are competitive in nature, resilient, and have strong desires to influence others. Because these traits are common in top performers,  yet are commonly misjudged, they challenge an interviewer’s ability to distinguish between A-players and average or below average sellers.

jason cummins all hours air


Jason Cummins, Owner of All Hours Air, states:


“Sales assessment tests, are a good way to pick out the candidates who are best for the job. We use these tests to figure out what kind of person they are in the workplace, how much time they put into a task, and how smart they are in real life situations. Using these tests has helped us tremendously and since implementing them, we consistently end up with our ideal candidates.”

bad sales hiresWith executives admitting to making the wrong hiring decision 25 percent of the time, additional steps must be taken to ensure only the highest quality salespeople are hired.

Assessment tests help interviewers overcome implicit and unintended recruiting challenges and their negative implications, such as a involuntary turnover rates.

So why is it that great salespeople are so hard to identify? Here’s two simple reasons:

Salespeople are difficult to assess.
They’re skilled in presenting themselves in the way the interviewer expects. Their sales careers have depended upon their ability to quickly develop relationships, find common grounds, and persuade prospects to buy what they’re selling. Applying and interviewing for a new role is no different. They are simply selling a product they are the ultimate experts in, themselves.

It’s common for organizations to often be unclear about what they want.
They understand they want top performing salespeople, however, they don’t understand what top performance means for the specific role. Having a generalized understanding causes bad sales hires. Having a thorough understanding of the specific skills, experience, and DNA required for success, improves quality of hire ratios.

sales reps below targetBut the task of objectively evaluating the performance potential of a candidate poses unique challenges for Human Resources (HR) Leaders due to 50 percent of sales reps today consistently below their targets. With an annual quota for an outside sales rep averaging 2.7 million dollars, the costs of bad hiring adds up quickly. If they’re generating 50 percent of their quota, the lost revenue is 1.35 million dollars per rep annually.

The average percentage of salespeople that achieved one hundred percent of annual quota last year varied by type of industry:

cloud and saas quota

computer hardware quota

software quota

telecommunications quota

The Negative Impacts & Costs of a Traditional Screening Process

emotional hiringIt’s common for companies to leverage their market experience when making sales hiring decisions. This decision involves using gut feeling, which is a subjective and emotional form of assessment. It is often used to examine candidates and find similar qualities to their other top performers. However, using gut feeling to find these similar qualities results in identifying similar emotional traits based on bias, versus identifying objective, skill-based qualities.

With methods like this being subjective and unstandardized, they are unreliable and unable to accurately predict an employee’s potential success.

PredictiveHire, a SaaS analytics solutions provider, observed that one of their clients could have saved 1.1 million dollars by using an assessment tool. This client had hired 80 people over 12 months.

Without using a sales assessment test, it cost them an additional 800,000 thousand dollars for time required to screen and interview the 80 candidates.

But only 29 percent of business leaders today are leveraging these emerging technology options. An even smaller 6 percent think their hiring process works well for them. These statistics show missed opportunities to accurately assess and hire top sales talent.

Sales assessment tests stop companies from merely checking credentials and move them towards confirming a candidate’s skillset and psychological preferences, in turn increasing quality of hire.   

There’s a Domino Effect When Bad Hires are Made…

Making a bad sales hire is a domino effect. Making one bad sales hire can lead to many more, in turn costing your company millions.

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, estimated that his own bad sales hires have cost Zappos over one hundred million dollars.  

The effects of a bad sales hire trickles into other aspects of an organization; not just top-line revenue. Having a “bad apple” in your organization is contagious and causes top performing sales reps to feel disengaged. There is also the risk of causing employee burnout due to top performers having to pick up the slack and compensate for “bad apples”.

instagram sold to facebokAn organization who successfully focused their efforts into only bringing in the greatest talent is Instagram. In 2013, Instagram had 13 employees, yet they sold their company to Facebook for 1 billion dollars.

While their product wooed Facebook, Instagram’s success underlines the impact “homerun” employees have on a company’s success.

What is a Sales Assessment Test?

Sales assessment tests are an objective, data-driven evaluation technique removing intuition, gut, and heart driven decisions from the talent acquisition process. In other words, it’s a simple and easy way to avoid making bad sales hiring decisions and increase your quality of hire.

sales success post hireExperts agree that measuring quality of hire is needed both pre and post-hire. Since recruitment quality measures directly correlate with post-hire performance metrics, sales assessment tests used pre-hire aid in determining quality of hire measurements post-hire.

These tests properly calculate pre-hire metrics, which talent acquisition leaders can later use to hone in on specific hiring problem sources and eliminate them.

online portal assessments
Based on the data gathered from hiring and case studies, and by analyzing employee data, sales assessment tests come in many forms and can be customized to suit your specific environment.

Assessments are typically done via online portals and are delivered to all candidates who apply. Employers then decide on the candidates that will come in for in-person interviews.

Some assessment types include:

assessment types




Psychometric Assessments
Examines a candidate’s sales DNA and unquantifiable traits to gauge their odds of being successful. Here at Peak Sales Recruiting, we leverage a software called DISC Profile, which is a non-judgmental psychometric assessment to give us insight into candidates’ behavioral differences.

Cognitive Tests
Measures a candidate’s reasoning, memory, reading comprehension, and knowledge of a specific role function.

Simulation Tests
Includes performance tests, role-playing, moral judgment, work samples, and job previews. It tests candidates in real life work environment situations. Unilever is known for using this software in the last step of their recruitment process.

The sales and talent leaders who have a thorough understanding of the vacant role they are looking to fill, obtain the most use and value out of their evaluations.

Having an understanding of the vacant role ensures that the assessment results you gather from prospective candidates will be in line with your ideal candidate profile.

hiring processKeep in mind the assessment results you receive from candidates should account for 20 percent of your overall hiring decision. Your decision should also include data from their application, resume, in-person interview, reference checks, etc.

These tests do not function as an all-encompassing recruiting tool used to replace other stages. It is an additional measure to save you time and assist in making accurate sales hires.

Sales Assessment Test’s Potential Impact on Reducing Hiring Bias  

Sales assessment tests help HR Leaders predict a potential sales hire’s on-the-job performance and retainability. Additionally, these tests reduce hiring risk factors like implicit bias.

neuroleadership instituteThis concept refers to people’s ability to harbor bias outside of their awareness or control. NeuroLeadership Institute refers to the mind as an iceberg and while our conscious mind seems to command our brain activity, in reality the vast majority of what’s going on in our brain is below the surface. This is where the following biases can occur:

The Halo Effect: When the interviewer lets a positive fact overshadow everything else the candidate says and/or does.


The Horn Effect: When the interviewer lets a negative fact overshadow everything else the candidate says and/or does.


The Stereotyping Bias: Forming a snap conclusion about someone based on their specific characteristics, such as race, religion, age, gender, etc.


The Contrast Effect: When you interview a stronger candidate after a weaker candidate, causing them to appear more qualified than they are.


The “Similar to Me” Effect: The interviewer developing a positive opinion of the candidate due to the candidate having a similar mindset or personality.

With many HR Leaders relying on human judgment in their recruitment process, sales hiring biases have become common.

lauren rivera


Lauren Riviera, a professor of management and sociology at Northwestern University, says:


“Hiring now resembles choosing a romantic partner more than an employee.”

A bias that has had startling effects on the tech market is motherhood. A recent study evaluated two equally qualified candidates, one of which was a mother in the tech market, and found the following results:

Women who did measure up to these higher criterion were considered bad mothers for being dedicated to their work.

An example of the success behind confirming skills through tests and avoiding hiring bias is within symphony orchestras. Orchestras were traditionally dominated by white men. Women accounted for less than 5 percent of the musicians in all top five symphony orchestras in the United States.

That is until the blind audition policy was implemented in the 1970s. To counter bias and avoid missing out on top talent, they put up screens to conceal the musician’s appearance.

The Results: Women were selected 25 to 46 percent more often  

Applying the symphony orchestra’s success story to sales recruiting, unconscious bias is filtering out top salespeople. Removing hiring bias can increase the number of top performers hired by 25 to 46 percent. Comparable to the symphony orchestra increasing their count of female musicians.

remove hiring biasTo further see what kind of unintentional biases you harbor, Project Implicit developed a study to provide further insight. With over 17 million implicit biases measured, they have participants answer questions about different words and phrases. This helps them determine the negative and positive connections people have.

Success From The Frontlines

One company in particular has reported success through using these assessments and technologies.

Unilever — a global consumer products organization — is combining video interviewing and gaming to create a digital, four-step, recruiting process.

These four steps include:

1. Candidates complete a short online form associated with their LinkedIn accounts. There is no need to upload or provide a resume. There is no waiting process, as they’re sent an SMS almost immediately after completing the form.

gamification hiring2. Candidates spend 20 minutes playing a series of 12 games. These games give Unilever insight into different capabilities, including personality, communication style, and problem-solving. After completing these games, candidates get a report with feedback within 48 hours.

“The level playing field provided by anonymous gameplay also reduces the potential for unconscious bias among the recruiting team.The fact that candidates can play in their own time, in their own space, and complete the entire process in 20 minutes cuts back on time and costs too. In fact, the whole process is more agile,”

3.  This step is for candidates the Pymetrics program selects as eligible to move forward. The candidates go through a video interviewing process, which Unilever does through HireVue. The software assesses the video interview and ranks the candidate based on their fit for the role. The highest ranked candidates then move to the fourth unileverand final step in the process. 

4. They are then invited to the Discovery Center for an in-person simulation of a “day in the life at Unilever”. They work through real-life business situations to indicate how they will respond to quickly changing markets.

The Result:

Their digital recruitment platform decreased their time-to-hire to under two-weeks, and as short as one to two days. Unilever’s recruiters are now screening two candidates and putting one through the four steps. Versus screening six candidates to put one through for an in-person interview.

Hilton has also started using data-driven assessment methods and has cut their recruiting cycle down to five days from six-weeks. They found their sales assessment test trimmed the number of interview questions from 200 down to five. It also increased the chance of hiring someone after one in-person interview.

Some Assessment Options

Below are sales assessment test options, which were selected based on the successes other organizations have seen.

Predictive Hire Predictive Hire is a cloud-based, predictive analytics, solutions company offering customized AI based on data gathered from your specific company. They fuse your specific KPIs with the results from the questionnaire done by your existing workforce. The AI asks candidates questions to evaluate their likely success, and provides 90% accuracy.    

disc profile DISC is a psychometric assessment that examines candidate’s behavioral differences. Candidates register on their website and answer a series of sentence based questions. Their answers produce measurements of their dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. They provide the pros and cons of a candidate’s results, so in-person interviews are tailored accordingly.

hiring simulations Hiring Simulations is an organization providing job simulation assessment software, which is either licensed in-house or outsourced through their team. They offer options based on your specific needs and have been proven to help increase hiring success rates.

pymetrics Pymetrics offers games for candidates to play in order to test diverse aspects of their capabilities. The global neuroscience community developed these games over decades of research. They use blind auditions to mitigate conscious and unconscious biases. The candidates move through their platform completely anonymously. The prediction algorithm does not use demographic information, race, gender, etc, to assess career fit.

Increase Your Sales Hiring Success

top sales talent

These sales assessment tests help HR Leaders make more effective sales hiring decisions. By using an assessment you ensure all potential candidates are measured in the same objective way and based on what they need to be successful in the role.

It’s hazardous to rely on gut feel or in-person interviews to make sales hiring decisions – with 50 percent of sales reps not hitting their sales targets. These tests weed out the pretenders and make sure you are interviewing the true top sales talent.

The more candidates you put through the objective sales assessment tests, the higher quality the sales hires, and the stronger your team will perform.

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Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting

Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless. Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner. He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.