…a hard lesson for John

Just when were talking about taking tests, one of our candidates, John, was told he had to take a test by our client. It was a sales personality test and, he claims, that he had taken a number of them before and he said there wouldn’t  have any problem. Of course, we coached him and since he had said that he had taken this exact test before and done well, we all assumed there would be no problem.

One of the first things you learn as a recruiter is to have absolutely no expectations and assume absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, John blew the test. He just didn’t come across as a strong salesperson even though his track record was excellent.

Here is how he tried to outguess the test. His rationale was that since the CEO of the very small firm he was interviewing with was not really a sales guy and really doesn’t come across very aggressively that he should lighten up on being too aggressive. It was one of those tests that asked you 50 or 60 questions like “How would you describe yourself?” And then gives you a scale of 1 to 5… 5 being the extreme high and 1 being the extreme low. So, when he was asked if he would describe himself as aggressive he was supposed to choose the number that reflects his aggressiveness. When he was asked if he was quiet, he was supposed to choose the number that are reflects whether he considers himself to be low or high in being quiet. The second set of questions asked basically the same thing except the question was “How would others describe you?” And the same kind of questions are asked.

Since John thought the CEO was not really a sales guy, he was afraid to come across to aggressively, so when asked on the scale of 1 to 5 if he was aggressive, he answered the question with a 4. When asked if he was low keyed, thinking the CEO was low keyed, he answered the question with a 3. Well, you can see where this is going. He second-guessed every question, didn’t communicate how aggressive he was, even answered one question by saying he would rather read a book then go to a party And did not come across as a salesperson at all.

The reason the CEO of the small firm was using this test was because he knew that he, himself, wasn’t a sales guy at all, would have a hard time identifying a sales guy and hired a consulting firm who recommended the test to choose successful salespeople. The CEO called and was phenomenally disappointed. He really liked  John and wanted to hire him. His consultant, however, convinced him that John, in his heart, was not a sales guy.

If John had just answered the questions the way he really felt without second-guessing what kind of answer he thought the CEO was looking for, he likely would have been hired. So, the moral to all of this is to just take the tests, do your best and don’t try to outguess or second-guess them.


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