When You Pay Attention To The Research On Conscientiousness
If you recruit for salespeople, did you know that the
“evidence from more than 100 years of research indicates that conscientiousness is the most potent non-cognitive construct for occupational performance?”
Yes, that’s right - conscientiousness! This is how Dr. Wilmot, an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist at the University of Toronto and Dr. Ones, Professor of Psychology at the University of Minnesota begin their 2019 quantitative analysis of 2,500 studies and 1.1 million participants.
So ask yourself if you’re as sales leader or business owner, do you want salespeople who:
- Motivate themselves to achieve goals?
- Persevere through difficulties to fulfill commitments and responsibilities?
- Self-regulate themselves to avoid counter-productive behaviors?
- Anchor a great sales culture?
- Reduce turnover?
- Achieve sales goals at a remarkable level that includes repeat business and referrals?
Of course you do! You want your children, grandchildren and friends to behave in this way. You also want your salespeople to work hard and remain honest with their words and actions and to make a great impression on customers to protect your brand.
You want to trust your sales reps. You want ones who can sell what you sell, at the right levels and in the right way.
But how do you do this? How do you recruit character first as Jim Collins, in his book, Good to Great, recommends after 20 men and women found after 5 years of research on the best companies in the world?
It starts with a streamlined set of traits for conscientiousness:
- Honest (trusted, solid relationships, less complaints)
- Hard working (productive, work while at work, prospects)
- Personally responsible (accountable and takes ownership)
- Concern for others (teamwork, customer advocacy)
- Motivated to achieve sales goals either: (1)to earn an income, or (2) to compete and win as a member of a sales team.
And, you need to understand what describes the opposite. Those who attended our Recruit the Best!™ Certified Expert Training described people who are not conscientious in these ways:
- Dishonest (loses customers, missing items, bad reviews)
- Lazy (dependent, low productivity, contributes to negativity)
- Irresponsible (late, no show, gossips, unreliable)
- Selfish (points fingers, kills cultures, greedy, adversarial)
- Ambition and perseverance deficient for long-term goal achievement. (instant gratification, flighty, quits under strain)
With this knowledge, put into place a rigorous recruiting and selection system with steps within a screening stage, an assessment stage and an interviewing stage. Look at these three stages of a recruitment funnel to discover conscientiousness, general mental ability and the personality to sell. Select for conscientiousness or character first!
For example, one screening step could include sending sales candidates an email requesting a response to the following questions:
- What do you think this job involves?
- What do you believe a successful rep will do in the first 90 days?
- Tell me why I should consider you for this position?
- What specifically in your life do you want to change?
- How will being successful in this job help you with this change?
Look for answers to these questions that show motivation, a value for working hard, responsibility and maturity. Listen to what they consider important and talk about. Dig further for the truth and for role models in their life
You could also design an “interview application,” better than the typical HR ones and ask questions like those above that get candidates revealing what they value, what they want and their level of ambition for achievement. Then, with their resume, application and email screen responses, call them and give them a phone screen while you continue to check for honesty, evidence of a hard work ethic, responsibility and motivation.
Remember, that you are witnessing “work samples” as they handle your requests. Are they on time? Are they real, authentic and honest? Do you trust them?
Some of candidate you will weed out fast because you sense you cannot work with them. They are not a good fit for your culture. Others will continue on to taking sales and general mental ability assessments and then to in-depth and structured interviews.
You can get better at recruiting character and conscientiousness first. As your culture contains more of these salespeople, it will as Drs. Wilmot and Ones tell us
“promote a disciplined striving for achievement in the workplace, (and) increase the likelihood that (sales) goals will be achieved.”
Your people will avoid the distractions that will undermine their performance. You and they will win not only in the near-term but in the well-being everyone wants in their lives.