The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

4 Steps to Determine if a Sales Candidate is as Great as She Sounds


The candidate is standing in front of you—sharply dressed, trying to impress you with how perfect she is for the job. This individual seems perfect. She looks the part, has the right answers, and a great personality. How do you get past the “shine”?

Step 1: Administer a Phone-based Talent Screener

As one of your first steps, it’s important to administer a Sales Talent Screener before you sit down and do an in-depth interview. Why? Because over the phone, candidates are less likely to dazzle you with their appearance and personality. You, or whoever administers your screeners, will be more likely to focus on the content, what they said and not just how they said it.

Step 2: Interview the Candidate In Person

Next is usually the in-person interview. Review the notes from your talent screener and decide what talents you have concerns about. If, for instance, you aren’t sure how assertive your candidate will be (we call that talent Command), your in-person interview is a great time to be on the lookout for that talent.

At the time of the interview, enlist your team's help to observe the candidates. Have the person who first greets them take a quick note on the approach. Did the candidates walk right up and introduce themselves, or did they hang back and wait to be noticed? With each new person that the candidates meet, notice if they make eye contact, initiate the handshake, and take control of the conversation, or wait and let others take the lead. It’s overwhelming to meet a team of strangers that you might be working with for the first time, right? But this is exactly what your candidate will be doing when cold calling or presenting proposals. She needs to be comfortable meeting strangers and taking charge, or the individual will struggle on sales calls. And then listen for signs of the talents you're looking for as the candidate speaks with you. Ask for examples of when she took the lead in a sale or situation, for example. 

Step 3: Set Up a Feedback Call

Once your candidates have made it through the in-person interview with you and your team, you will want to arrange for them to go through a scientifically validated talent assessment. Make sure to select an instrument that does more than describe the behaviors that you will likely see if you hire the person. Choose one that also accurately predicts success in a sales position. After the interview, spend time with a certified Talent Analyst to get detailed feedback on their talents.

Bringing your observations of the in-person meeting to that call is very helpful to get a well-rounded picture of that person. It's important to ask yourself: As a manager, can I own the candidate's areas of non-talent as well as strengths, and can I coach this person?

Step 4: Check References

It’s also important to check on this person’s references. The professional references the candidate provides will likely be people who will give a glowing report, but you can still get an idea of how the individual uses and manages strengths, as well as if and how the candidate has learned to work around situational and non-responsive talents. Is the individual willing and eager to learn, or want to do things her own way or fear change? Try to get an idea of how the candidate interacts with clients, and how clients perceive her.

Using great questions, some team work and your well-honed intuition, you can get some great insight into your candidates and pick a winner!

Talent Resources

Topics: Sales