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Ask a Fish to Climb a Tree

The result will be exactly what you would expect!


It takes a very special personality to do well in sales. A successful salesperson doesn’t usually make a great manager. An accountant is not well suited to sales. Do you ever wonder why people are great at one job, while others struggle in it? It isn’t experience or job knowledge; it often comes down to personality.

Personality testing is a billion dollar industry—the well-known Myers-Briggs generates $20 billion annually alone— and it can be very helpful, but it’s not the holy grail, despite its popularity. It’s simply one tool in a much larger box that allows recruiters and hiring managers to get a fuller picture of the candidates they are considering.

When used to identify strengths and work preferences, personality tests can be very useful in ensuring that a candidate will be a good fit for a certain environment or role. When personality tests are used to screen out certain candidates, they can be very limiting, screening out potentially great fits over something that is not actually relevant to the job at hand.

While categorizing people CAN be flawed, there are some ‘general rules’ about personalities and job fit, however, that are more or less universal:

If you categorize people based on four sets of characteristics, as Paul Tieger does in his book “Do What You Are”, you can quickly see what kind of personality traits work with which roles.

The four sets of characteristics are:

  • Interaction with the world—extrovert or introvert
  • Absorption of information—sensors (practical problem solvers) or intuitives (creative problem solvers)
  • Decision-making—thinkers or feelers
  • Organization—judgers (rule followers) or perceivers (spontaneous)

A combination of one trait from each set helps to determine suitability in certain roles. For example: someone whose personality is evaluated as being introverted, intuitive, feeler and perceiver is seen as “a sensitive idealist motivated by their deeper personal values.” In practical terms, those traits equate to jobs like: writer / editor, physical therapist, graphic designer and psychologist.

Another example? Someone who is extroverted, sensor, feeler and judger is seen as: “Gregarious traditionalists motivated to help others”. The jobs? Social worker, loan officer, nurse or… yes indeed, sales representative.

Ultimately, I am a firm believer that some personality types don’t survive in some employment opportunities. Take successful realtors, as an example. They can generate multi million dollars’ worth of sales, but some cannot keep files organized. To try and fit a sales oriented personality into an administrative role is like asking a fish to climb a tree! There are many examples where it’s clear that the person doing the job needs to focus on that area where they are successful, not be tasked out to do other roles that don’t fit into their wheelhouse.

Some skills from some job functions might be transferable, but there is a bigger question at stake when evaluating a candidate: is the entire package that a person presents (skills, experience, personality) going to make a successful transition? That’s what the focus should be when hiring.

For further information on how to assess a candidate’s profile thoroughly, contact one of our Real Estate Recruiters at

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