The Alternative Facts of Bad Sales Hiring

Unless you have been under a rock the past few weeks, you have heard the phrase, “Alternative Facts.” Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, coined this phrase when she defended White House Avoid the alternative facts of sales hiring through sales personality testing and standardization.jpg
Press Secretary Sean Spicer's statements regarding Donald Trump's inauguration.

Chuck Todd responded by saying "Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods." 

“Alternative Facts” sounds very subjective, doesn't it? Are alternative facts an outright lie? A half-truth? Or, the perceived “reality” of the person providing the facts?

We aren’t here to go into the politics of the phrase, because that is irrelevant.  We would like to address how Alternative Facts damage sales hiring outcomes.

The Alternative Facts in sales hiring.

There are at least three alternative facts throughout the sales hiring process: 

  • The application / resume'.
  • The sales interview.
  • The reference check.

The application / resume'.

The application / resume' is a common area where there are often large grey areas between fact and fiction that is difficult to prove definitively. Yet companies often take what is stated in the application / resume' as fact even some information are truly alternative facts.

The sales interview.

The traditional sales interview process is filled with “Alternative Facts”.

Some alternative facts are provided by the candidate being interviewed and some by the hiring manager/company/recruiter conducting the interview. Both attempting to put themselves in the best light possible.

Following are three common alternative facts provided by well-intentioned sales candidates:

  • “I am highly-motivated to achieve results.”
  • “I was top sales person at the last company I worked for.”
  • “I am a born “hunter.”

Following are a three alternative facts provided by well-intentioned companies:

  • “We have a strong sales culture based on performance.”
  • “We want driven, ambitious sales leaders.”
  • “Our Sales Managers hold everyone fully accountable for their sales activity goals.”

The Alternative Facts of Sales Hiring.jpgThe reference check.

The problem is smart sales candidates share the references they want you to contact, not the ones that will share the truth. To compound the reference check alternative fact problem is few reference checks are meaningful in terms of asking specific questions.

The unfortunate outcome.

The typical outcome from this type of interview is continued sales hiring that is hit and miss. Short-term hiring of the wrong salespeople leads to contentious manager-team member relationships and hurt feelings when the inevitable parting of ways occurs.

How to improve sales hiring.

Nothing destroys sales hiring outcomes like ambiguity. Standardize your sales hiring process. Standardization removes much of the ambiguity that leads to confusion. The result is clarity.

Standardize sales interviews and use a hiring score card. Get clear about what particular interview responses, experience and education mean to the scorecard.

Get real about reference checks. Ask the hard questions. Expect real answers. If you are not getting what you need, demand additional references.

Benchmark the sales role and use a valid sales personality test to ensure you are getting sales talent with the requisite Behaviors, Motivators, Acumen and Competencies to do the job well.


Until companies establish sales turnover is unacceptably high and come to grips with the real costs of sales hiring and missed sales, the problem will continue.

Request a sample sales personality aptitude test