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700 Candidates Proved Sales Skills Transfer to Customer Service, But Not The Other Way Around

Chandal Nolasco da Silva
September 28, 2023
700 Candidates Proved Sales Skills Transfer to Customer Service, But Not The Other Way Around

What happens when the same candidate applies to two jobs at the same company? What happens when 700 applicants apply for the same two jobs? Let’s find out.

In August our research team went on a mission to understand how transferable skills were between candidates and positions. Of course, there are numerous positions and their associated skills to choose from, so we picked the top two skill sets our HR customers look for in candidates: sales and customer service skills. 

From a distance, one may assume that if a candidate can do one, they could easily do the other. They both require phone and chat communication. They are both customer-facing. But this may not be the case. To put the theory to the test, we looked at the 700 applicants doing a sample of the two jobs they were applying for. Each one did a dress rehearsal of the actual sales and customer services jobs they would be doing, not some abstract test. Let’s look at how these candidates performed on the job.

How Assessments Can Mock Job Experiences

Assessing candidates during the hiring process can take many forms like language tests, personality tests, skill tests and more. Assessments are most effective when they actually give candidates a real sample of the job they’re applying for. The person applying for the job can actually get a sense of what they’ll be doing day-to-day, while the employer gets to see their candidate in action, rather than infer how they would perform based on some test results. HiringBranch assesses candidates using simulations of the jobs they’re applying for. In this case each of the 700 candidates had to respond to a mock sales call and also to a customer service call separately. Their responses were recorded, scored, aggregated and analyzed.

700 Applications Told Us

Let’s look at how all of this went down. 1400 HiringBranch assessments were taken between 700 candidates, each person completing 2 assessments. Since every applicant applied for both a sales job and a customer service job in the same application by doing a sample of each, it was easy to compare the results. 

Of the 700 candidates, only 27.5% passed both the sales and customer service assessments. Let’s dig into who those people are and what skill sets they possess. 

45% of candidates who passed the customer service assessment also passed the sales one, which is less than half! BUT 85% of those who passed the sales assessment also passed the customer service one.

As our team sat down to analyze job performance at scale, it was exciting to see such clear outcomes. Across hundreds of applications, it was found conclusively that sales-fitted people are much more likely to also be able to do customer service, whereas the reverse is not true. Those who were fitted for customer service excelled at language proficiency but ultimately had a different soft skill profile than those who were best for a sales role.  Again, this makes sense considering we know that there are distinct profiles that excel in one role over another.

Being a Good Salesperson

When it comes to being good at sales, our CEO has revealed on the Hired podcast that the top two skills required are a high level of fluency and building rapport. While these are key to performance, there are more soft skills that make up the profile of a good salesperson. 

That being said, this combination of skills seems to lend itself naturally to high-quality customer service as well. Doing customer service well requires different soft skills, and while some overlap, the top ones are active listening, communication, and conflict resolution.

Employers Take Note

So why is this study important for employers to understand? Well for starters, many companies would see a candidate’s language proficiency, which was apparent in both sales and customer service-fitted applicants, and put the candidate through for one role or the other. As the data demonstrates, this would be fine for those whose inherent soft skills lend themselves to sales. However, those who would have been put through to sales based on linguistic or communication profiles alone who were better suited for customer service would not have likely been successful in their new sales roles. The cost of one bad hire ranges anywhere from $17000 to $240000. Training and upskilling can also cost organizations who are trying to fit people who are better suited for other roles into the ones they were hired for.

By assessing both communication and soft skills all at once, employers can be much more efficient, and save money. The 700-applicant analysis demonstrated that understanding the soft skill profile for each role is critical and that it’s even more important to measure these skills during the hiring process, in order to place candidates accordingly.

Image Credits 

Featured Image: Unsplash/Berkely Communications

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