stress in sales
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How to Identify Candidates Who Can Handle Stress in Sales

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report, workers’ stress reached a record high in 2020, and North America suffers from some of the highest rates in the world. Since stress in sales is so common for reps, it’s crucial that you assess candidates’ coping skills in your staffing process. 

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed out. So there’s no need to go searching for someone wholly immune to overwhelming situations. Rather, the key is to find someone that can balance stress in a healthy and productive way. 

Before sending along the results from your talent sourcing to the employer, be sure to screen for stress coping skills. Here are the four most critical traits to look for in candidates and how to evaluate them: 

Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills demonstrate that the individual will be able to think clearly when encountering stress in sales. Instead of freezing or folding under pressure, candidates with this trait will aim to find a solution. 

There are several types of interview questions you can use to get a glimpse into a candidate’s problem-solving thought process. One basic question to ask could be, “What steps do you take before making a decision on how to solve a problem, and why?” The answer will show you how intentional, decisive, and self-aware the candidates are in stressful moments. 

Hypothetical questions are also helpful for measuring a candidate’s instinctual response to challenges. For example, you could say, “You have a customer that’s in high need of the product you provide annually. However, the warehouse manager is unable to move the timeline up. What do you do?” To raise the stakes some more, you can add, “They’re threatening to pull their entire account. Now what?” 

If the candidate doesn’t have much sales experience, it’s OK if they don’t have the perfect solution to the problem. What matters is that they have a thought process to walk you through. 

Independent vs. team skills

Due to the nature of a medical sales job, reps spend a lot of time working independently. And many ambitious, hard-working employees feel comfortable with that arrangement. But to endure stress in sales, new reps need to rely on other sales team members. 

Therefore, you need to find out if the candidates can ask for help when they need it. In interviews, questions about their past work experience are the best way to get the information. One option is to request that they tell you about a time they didn’t know something at work and what they did to acquire the critical information. If you prefer to be more different, you can also ask, “Can you tell me about a time you sought out help at work?” 

Additionally, you can get details from a candidate’s references to see what examples they offer regarding independent work and taking advantage of the collective team’s knowledge. If they struggle to recall the information you need, it will be apparent that the candidate’s independence and team skills did not leave an impression. 

Recommended reading: Why eliminating the office space is a smart move for medical sales teams

Work-life balance

There’s no surviving the stress in sales if the rep does not have healthy ways to de-stress and unplug from work. So while you shouldn’t pry into a candidate’s personal life too much, you should end the interview knowing if you agree with their definition of work-life balance and if they have strategies in place to maintain it. 

It’s not enough to ask about hobbies and leave it at that. Candidates can easily say something as basic as, “I like to read and take walks.” Try to get them to expand. What is their favorite book? What do they do in their time spent walking? Do they use the time for reflecting or catching up with friends? 

The main goal is to ensure that established activities and habits are in place that the candidate uses intentionally to protect their well-being. Look for cues that this time is exciting, enjoyable, and refreshing for them. And take note of their body language to check if they’re genuinely passionate about it. 

Recommended reading: How to highlight workplace wellness policies to candidates

Personality traits

Personality questionnaires and pre-employment tests aren’t the be-all-end-all. You definitely can’t assume every facet of the results is a perfect reflection of the individual. But the findings can be helpful in predicting a candidate’s response to stress in sales. 

Pre-employment tests can help you view the candidate’s traits and skill set through a more objective lens. And the final report offers a bit more depth than just the reply to an open-ended question. 

For example, the results may indicate that a candidate has a Type A personality. It is then likely that the candidate tends to be goal-oriented, detail-oriented, and good under pressure. However, you may learn that it is difficult for this individual to trust their support team, and they can easily slip into perfectionistic and workaholic tendencies. 

Keep in mind, however, that there is always room for error in these tests. The algorithm’s speculation for the candidate’s behavior can never be entirely accurate, and you should not base decisions solely on them. Using tests should be one tool out of several to gather insight into the candidate’s ability to cope with stress. 


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