Over the years when I was interviewing for sales and sales management roles, it was not uncommon for organizations to conduct career aptitude tests as part of the screening process. Although I never enjoyed doing these test, I quickly realized that most organizations put a decent amount of weight in to the results, so I started to put more thought in to my answers.
In general, the tests would cover these categories:
This was more typical when I was applying for sales management roles. High scores in this category would show people who were competitive and could lead others at a high level. On the flip side, a low score would describe people who were less dominant and less assertive. I have seen this line of questioning when applying for outside sales rep positions as well. Employers loved to look for future leaders, and they would typically find them within a pool of candidates applying for outside sales positions.
High scores would go to those candidates who were calm and even-tempered. A lower score showed that you had a sense of urgency and tended to be emotionally reactive.
They are testing to see what your level of social interaction is. For a sales role, I think it is obvious that you want to score as high as possible. Being talkative by nature, outgoing, and generally engaging are traits that will give high scores in this category. If you are shy and don’t like engaging in conversations, you may want to look for a different profession!
They are testing how sensitive and empathetic you are. If you are not sensitive to the needs of others and are not tactful, you will score lower. You will be perceived as more forthright and direct.
How rule abiding and detailed focused are you? If you are conventional and meticulous, you will score high. If you are flexible and improvising, you will score lower.
When I first saw this category, my initial thought was how well could you handle different concepts and be open-minded. I was not too far off. They look to how imaginative and open to change you are. If you score lower, you probably prefer more predictability.
In general career aptitude tests tended to be 20 to 30 minutes in length. They were mostly multiple choice questions. I remember there being anywhere between 100 and 175 questions with these tests over the years. After doing a couple tests, I realized that they tended to ask similar questions many ways to uncover patterns in your answers. My advice is to be as consistent as possible in your responses. If you are stumped on any one question, I would not worry about it too much.
There are no right or wrong answers, but you need to think about the characteristics and qualities that they are looking for in an outside rep.
If you are outgoing, very social, motivated to succeed, and can work under limited supervision – those are probably key attributes that they are looking for.
That will be more desirable to an organization hiring an outside sales person than if you are:
Reserved, somewhat shy, like consistent income and need regular supervision.
As I mentioned above, organizations usually will use the test results as one of several criteria for selecting a candidate. I was hired for a role once, where the company put a lot more weight in the test results than I ever would have, but it worked in my favour!
I was down to one of the last two candidates for a role, and I got the job because I did better on the test. I was very fortunate because we were equally matched candidates.
This process was more difficult than any other test that I had ever taken before. The first test was taken during my first interview, and the second test was taken during my third (and last) interview. I think they both took close to one hour, and had 225+ questions.
Those initial feelings that you get about people in the first interview, and subsequently how they handle other interviews should have as much or more weight than test results, but that is just my opinion. I will save a more detailed commentary for a future blog post!
If I was sick, distracted for some reason, or just not having a good day, I would have missed out on a 7 year career that has changed my life forever. That would have not been fair to me, my family or the company who took the other candidate because they did better on these tests.
I had four hours to kill last week on an airplane, so I decided to revisit old content that I had archived. I was surprised by how much information I had on job searches; all the way from getting started on a search, culminating with evaluating offers. I will save most of it for the future. Perhaps release it in eBook format!
Until then, here are three of my favourite posts that I dug up and edited. Enjoy day 1!
I absolutely love being the dark horse in the interview process. If I was not expected to get a role, I took it as a personal challenge and stepped my game up to the highest level possible. It is always fun going through the process under those circumstances. There is no pressure on the underdog; just go in and do your best. I would get this type of information by asking the recruiter who I was competing against for an opportunity. Sometimes it was better not to know, but on occasion I would ask and they would tell me.
I know for a fact that I was hired in at least one role that I had no business getting based on minimal experience in a technical field. It was down to four candidates, but I did not let the knowledge that the other candidates had solid industry experience affect my confidence in any way.
I had no pressure on me and did get the role which felt great. I impressed the toughest manager that I ever ended up working for in my career in that interview, and he gave me a shot. I have always told recruiters and/or hiring managers that all I need is the chance to impress during the interview process. Actions speak louder than words, and meeting people face to face confirms that I will shine, and am not just a bunch of credentials on paper.
Do not be afraid to apply for roles that need previous sales or industry experience. What do you have to lose? If they don’t want to meet with you, that is their choice, but at least you are giving them something to think about.
Remember, it is not uncommon for sales reps to work for several different organizations in a specific industry during their career because they have product knowledge and many business contacts. But bad habits can creep in to their day-to-day activities, and I am hearing from mangers recently that they will give more consideration to new reps entering an industry and/or sales all together. It is a breath of fresh air to bring new blood in and not “recycle” the same reps over and over.
Why is that?
New sales reps have a clean slate. They have no preconceived notions about the industry or particular customers. They are excited to have the opportunity to start in a sales role and grow with an organization. Many managers realize that they can train new employees, and teach them product knowledge, as long as they have the skill set to succeed long-term.
My most successful sales role started without industry experience or product knowledge. I was very nervous at first taking the role, but once I learned the product line and account base, it was smooth sailing from there. My tried and tested systems worked once again. I just had to “insert” the new products!