5 Keys to Better Sales Hiring, According to Nobel Prize Winner's Research

5 Keys to Better Sales Hiring, According to Nobel Prize Winner's Research

Sales Hiring
Chris Orlob
August 22, 2022

Are you looking for research-backed tips for hiring great salespeople?

Of course you are!

It’s so EASY to hire the wrong reps.

Even seasoned CROs make mis-hires all the time.

The average company has a 50% mis-hire rate.

Plus, most sales managers suck at hiring. Plain and simple.

Can’t blame ‘em. Did you ever get hiring training when you were a manager?


But here’s the good news…

This research will help you hire better sellers

Ever heard of Daniel Kahneman?

He’s a Nobel laureate and a famous behavioral economist.

Plus, he’s written several best-selling books on human decision-making.

In his latest book, Noise, his research talks about why humans make bad decisions, and what to do about it.

The research includes hiring decisions.

Here are five keys to better sales hiring, all validated by his work and research.

These aren’t a magic bullet.

But if you have a 50% success rate (the average), you can expect that to jump to around 70% by using these tips.


P.S. Before you move on…here’s a freebie for you.

We’re giving away our 117-slide sales hiring masterclass training deck.

It’s the deck we used to create our paid sales hiring masterclass.

Get it free here:

1. Build a clear ideal rep profile

The first fatal mistake of sales hiring?

Not knowing - with gory detail - what you’re looking for.

Before you do anything, get clear on the traits, skills, and experiences of your ideal rep.

These are the attributes that predict success in your selling environment.

If you don’t do this, no hiring technique matters.

In the sales hiring masterclass, we talk about three elements of unmistakable clarity:

Kahneman suggests hiring managers start here.

Here’s a video that explains how to build your ideal rep profile in detail:

2. Ask behavioral interview questions.

Got your ideal rep attributes defines?


Here’s the next mistake sales leaders make:

This creates noise (as Kahneman calls it) rather than signals and clear patterns.

They ask whatever they THINK sounds like a good interview question.

Or worse: They ask what a rep WOULD do. Instead of what they HAVE done.


What’s a “behavioral interview question?”

Let’s back up for a second.

There are actually three elements of predictive interview questions.

“Behavioral” is the first element.

Behavioral questions get the rep to talk about recent behavior, examples, and evidence of the attribute you’re screening for.

Need an example?

I’ve got a few for you…

Let’s say you’re hiring for “coachability”

Here’s what a GOOD (behavioral) question looks like (on the left). Alongside a BAD (non predictive) question (on the right):

Notice the question on the left.

It asks about recent behavior.

It’s EASY for a rep to fake their way through a “what would you do” question.

It’s VERY hard for someone to fake their way through a “recent example” question.

Here’s one more…

Now, let’s say you’re hiring for competitive selling skills…

What’s a good question to screen for whether someone can win competitive deals?

This would work wonders:

Again, notice the commonality.

The question on the left?

Asks about recent behavior. Evidence. Examples.

The question on the right?

Easy to “fake it ‘til you make it.”

Now let’s get onto research-backed tip number three…

3. Ask CONSISTENT interview questions


This is Kahneman’s next suggestion.

What does he mean by “consistent”?

It means you ask the same set of questions to all candidates!

Why is that valuable?

Two words:

Pattern recognition.

If you ask different questions to various candidates…

You’re again creating noise, not signal.

You won’t be able to compare candidates because you’ve varied your process so much.

Keep your questions consistent from candidate to candidate.

That helps you tap into pattern recognition.

That helps you inject more objectivity into the process.

And, it’s fair.

4. Ask STRUCTURED interview questions

This is the THIRD element of “predictive” interview questions:


Here’s a reminder:

We started with BEHAVIORAL.

Then we went to CONSISTENT:

Asking the same questions to all candidates.

The third element: STRUCTURE.

Asking the same questions in the same order.

You do that for the same reason we already talked about:

It creates objectivity. Not subjectivity.

And objectivity is your best friend when making quality hiring decisions.

5. Rate each attribute on a scale of 1 to 5.

Done interviewing?

Here’s what to do next.

Take your ideal rep profile. The one with your ideal attributes.

And now, score your candidate against each attribute on a scale of 1 to 5.

Like this:

Doing this may sound simple.

Even remedial.

But here’s the key:

This practice once again comes from behavioral science.

It’s a practice Kahneman’s research validates once again.

Because this discipline forces you further into a state of objectivity.

Have you ever heard of the Halo Effect?

Doing this eliminates it.

Here’s the formal definition:

Here’s an example of The Halo Effect in sales hiring…

Let’s say you have a candidate that had top quartile quota attainment for four years in a row (!)

A track record of quota attainment is something you’re hiring for!

Great news!

But… it’s also imperative that the candidate be gritty, coachable, intelligent…. And a team player.

Well… the halo effect suggests that you may get TOO ATTACHED to the candidate because of her track record.

Even though she falls short on every other attribute.

But when you rate her on a scale of 1 to 5 across ALL attributes…

Now you see the forest instead of just the trees.

See how that works?

Your three best friends in making great hiring decisions:

  • Structure
  • Consistency
  • Objectivity

Scoring each candidate against your hiring criteria helps you have all three.

It eliminates natural human bias.

Free 7-Step Sales Hiring Training Deck:

Want to take your hiring skills to the next level?

I recently launched The Sales Hiring Masterclass.

And I’m giving away the 117-slide deck for free.

Plus, when you download it, I’ll send you three hiring BONUS TIPS.

Techniques I’ve never written about in public before.

And never intend to.

I’ll send them to you via email. That way they stay private.

Download the free training deck here.

P.S. If you’re like me, and you’re consumed with growing your skills…

Sign up for the sales hiring masterclass.

Learn more about it here.