Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives


Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives


In 2008, a large pharmaceutical company sought to improve the selection system for their Sales Representatives (SR). Sales Representatives develop and implement business plans with the primary goal of executing sales calls within their assigned territory. They must build and maintain strong relationships with their customers and demonstrate expert product and industry knowledge. A review of alternative selection techniques suggested that including a personality assessment could significantly improve the selection of successful and effective SRs.

Research shows that personality matters to potential employers in at least three ways.

First, employers search for clues on how applicants will act on the job — will they be irritable, difficult, and hard to manage or will they be excellent organisational citizens.

Second, employers need to know if a recruit’s personality meets the demands of the target job. For example, do they have the drive to succeed in sales, the social skills to thrive in customer service, or the good judgment to be effective managers?

Finally, employers want to know if the recruit’s values are consistent with their corporate culture. Regardless of talent, when recruits have values inconsistent with the corporate culture, they will not succeed in the organisation.

To answer these questions, Hogan created personality assessments to help companies identify the key personal characteristics needed for successful job performance. Hogan has local distributors in more than 30 countries with reports available in more than 20 languages. For nearly 30 years, Hogan continues to provide significant return on investment for companies, whether to facilitate executive development or aid in the selection of warehouse workers.


To ensure the utility of personality assessments within the organisation, the client collaborated with Hogan to conduct a comprehensive validation research project. The initial work included a thorough job analysis, which provided the underlying support needed for using Hogan’s assessments to select future SRs. This work involved two primary activities:

First, Hogan gathered information from 36 experts familiar with the SR job. Each expert provided information regarding the personality characteristics that improve SR job performance, common SR work preferences, and competencies associated with successful SR performance.

Second, Hogan conducted focus groups to gather additional information on the SR job. Based upon all available evidence, the client chose to use the Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) and the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI) for identifying high potential SRs. The HPI identifies personal characteristics related to successful sales performance while the MVPI identifies how well a person would fit within the sales team and organisational culture.

After laying the job analysis groundwork, Hogan initiated a local validation study to evaluate the potential effectiveness of these tools within the SR population. Specifically, Hogan collected HPI and MVPI assessment data from 121 current SRs, as well as supervisor ratings of performance and objective data. Hogan evaluated the SR performance data along with assessment data to determine which HPI and MVPI scales are most predictive of SR job performance. After reviewing each piece of validity evidence (i.e., job analysis information, meta-analytic evidence, synthetic validity, transport validity, and criterion validity evidence), Hogan created personality profiles of successful SRs.


Research indicated that successful SRs are energetic, driven, and competitive (high Ambition); trustworthy, friendly, and warm (high Interpersonal Sensitivity); orderly and responsible (high Prudence), and stay up-to-date on current business trends (high Learning Approach). Successful SRs also value structure, order, and minimizing risk (high Security); and seek a balance between profitability, having fun, and the bottom-line (moderate Commerce).

To determine the overall effectiveness of the recommended profile, Hogan applied the proposed screening guidelines to a sample of current SRs by examining supervisory ratings of employee performance and found that incremental increases in performance occur as profile fit improves.

In sum, all metrics demonstrate strong support and return on investment for using the HPI and MVPI profile for selecting SRs at this organisation.