How to Test for Integrity When Hiring Sales Reps

Integrity matters in any business endeavour. But it’s especially important in sales. When it comes to the trust factor, no job role involves a higher degree of trust than sales. In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, a mistake that I see business owners make during the hiring process is presuming sales candidate integrity instead of rigorously testing for it.

Why Should You Test Sales Candidates for Integrity?

Sales is a highly independent job role, especially in small businesses, which don’t typically have the enforcement mechanisms that large companies do to ensure all processes are being followed to the letter.

As a business owner or manager, you may only see your salespeople for a couple of hours per week – or even less, given today’s remote working options. Often, you’re taking everything your salespeople say as complete and accurate.

If you hire a salesperson who is prone to misrepresenting themselves, their sales productivity will be lower than their peers and they are likely to create a significant amount of pain and heartache for all other people they touch within the organization. So, how can you prevent this from happening?

How to Weed Out Sales Candidates With Questionable Integrity During the Hiring Process

Most business owners screen for personality traits like competitiveness and the ability to take initiative when hiring because these are known to be correlated with sales success. In the way you do this to hire sales overachievers, you should test for integrity during the hiring process. Here’s how.

Use Behavioural Interviewing Techniques for Sales Candidates

The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. Behavioural interviewing is an interview technique based on this premise that is designed to help the interviewer understand how a candidate might perform in the job based on past performance.

For example, instead of asking, “Tell me how you would [insert the skill or task you’re looking for here]” a behavioural interview question would ask, “Tell me about a time in your past that you [insert the skill or task you’re looking for here]”. Instead of “how would you beat your sales quota”, ask “Tell me about a time in a past job when you beat your sales quota. How did you go about doing that?”.

Using this approach regarding integrity, you should ask the sales candidate questions about how they handled situations in which they had to make decisions using integrity. Some questions to include:

  • Tell me about a time when you observed some sort of injustice happen to a fellow employee that no one else knew about. What did you do?
  • Describe a time when you found it necessary to slightly bend or stretch the truth when talking to a customer in order to help with a sale. (for example, stretching the truth may look like a salesperson telling a potential buyer that clients experience great results in 3 to 6 months when in reality clients don’t typically see results for at least 6 months)
  • Tell me about a situation in which you had to choose between making the right decision and making an easy decision.

Be sure to sprinkle these questions related to integrity throughout the interview (ie. Don’t ask them back-to-back!) to get a more accurate view of the candidate across all the questions related to this theme.

Implement and Interpret Behavioural Interviews Properly

It’s great if you’ve decided to use behavioural interview questions, but you want to ensure you’re doing it correctly so that they yield useful information. There are three main things to keep in mind when asking behavioural interview questions:

  • Don’t lead the candidate in any way.

It’s all too easy to let on what the ‘right’ answer is if you’re not careful. Candidates may quickly understand what an interviewer wants to hear if the question is not presented neutrally.

  • Once you’ve asked the question, stop talking and actively listen to what they tell you.

Active listening includes making eye contact, letting the person know you hear them, and asking follow-up questions at the appropriate times to elicit more relevant information.

  • Take their response at face value and then reassess that answer after the interview.

A lot is going on during an interview since you are interpreting body language and tone along with what the candidate is saying. Reassessing their responses after the interview can help you identify things such as the use of evasive language. A candidate may give their true answer first and then backpedal to try and minimize it, or they may gloss things over their initial response and give a more accurate answer in the second half.

Have a Sales Candidate Do Multiple Interviews With Different People Within the Business

It’s important to have a multi-interview process to ensure that the sales candidate is interacting with several different people within the company. By having the candidate speak to multiple people, you’ll gain more insight into whether they’re the right fit for your team. Of course, you need your team to have their radar up for integrity and be clear on the techniques discussed above.

Before getting too far along the hiring process, you should also do a social media check to actively look for any signs of a disconnect between how the candidate portrays themselves in interviews and their day-to-day life.

How to Assess the Integrity of a Sales Rep You’ve Already Hired

We’ve seen how to test for integrity during the hiring process, but what if you have concerns about the integrity of someone you already have on staff? Many things can raise a red flag, but some of the most common issues I’ve seen with questionable sales reps are:

  • Promising sales results that don’t materialize
  • Stating actions and activities as completed (when they’re not) or not completed (when they are)
  • Saying different and conflicting things to management vs. other staff
  • More obvious things like inaccurate expense reports etc.

Every business owner or manager has had experience with one of these people. If the dots don’t seem to be connecting, take the time to dig into the details. It’s tedious work, but it has to be done to avoid any further damage to your productivity or team morale.

This means going through reports to make sure numbers add up or to check whether the person in question is misrepresenting information. If you do find discrepancies, meet with the salesperson with an open mind instead of jumping to conclusions. Be candid and ask them to help you understand what you’ve found. Of course, if it turns out they are cutting corners, then you need to decide what to do (but that’s a whole other topic)!

The truth of the matter is, if you have a job to offer that someone wants, they will be highly motivated to successfully navigate an interview, maybe to the point of telling you what you want to hear. Meanwhile, a hiring manager also wants to screen someone in rather than out because they’re motivated to get the position filled. This is why integrity can sometimes fall by the wayside and should be intentionally assessed.

The tips here are not completely failproof, but actively testing for integrity will help reduce your chances of hiring a dishonest person who is likely to make your business and team suffer. If you’d like to chat further about how to judge the integrity of sales candidates through behavioural interviewing, please get in touch.


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