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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

How to Get the Most from a Sales Candidate Interview


Do you ever tell horror stories about the worst hire you ever made? These bad experiences tend to stand out, don’t they?

High turnover is a big problem for many sales organizations and hiring the wrong people for the job can be a big contributor to that turnover. It’s extremely important that you hire people with the right talents for the position.

Do your due diligence before you hire someone so you are not surprised by mediocre performance later. Perfecting your interview process will help you to put the right people in the right positions.

Here are some tips on how to get the most from a candidate interview:

1. Prepare great questions.

Asking the right questions will help you to uncover evidence of talents and determine whether or not the candidate is the right fit for your organization.

For example, if you need to hire someone who can prospect for new business and be a natural closer, ask questions to uncover the behaviors that would make them successful in the position like:

  • How much do you like convincing people to do what you want them to do? Someone who answers “a lot!” may have more of a natural ability to persuade people than someone who answers “I don’t know if I talk people into things but I share my opinions and people listen.”
  • How do you feel when you’re not in charge? Someone who answers “I don’t like it!” may naturally take charge with clients and move the process forward easier than someone who answers “It depends on the situation….”

Ask open-ended questions like “Tell me about the best sale you ever made.” Listen for a specific answer. Was it a large sale? Small sale? Were they persistent? Did they help the client and deliver results? Listen for the talents that may bubble up in their answers.

Asking the right questions can also help you determine fit.

For example, if you need someone who will fit in with the team and fit your style as a manager you can ask questions like:

  • What qualities in your co-workers do you appreciate the most?
  • What qualities in your co-workers bother you the most?
  • Are you a team player? How?
  • What are the qualities of a good leader? A bad leader?

2. Look and listen for talents.

You can recognize talents even when you are not asking questions. Do you know someone who walks fast, checks his or her watch, has a strong sense of urgency, and gets a lot done? You could probably count on this person to work hard, bring a lot of energy to the office, and be highly productive. Have you interviewed someone who showed up early and appeared to be very buttoned up, polished, and prepared for the interview? This person seemed to be a perfectionist and placed emphasis on doing the job correctly? This candidate may have strong organizational skills and have a talent for planning. Take notes on the talents you are picking up even when the candidate is not answering your questions.

3. Schedule multiple face-to-face interviews.

You might consider meeting with candidates more than once. If possible, get out of the building for one of the interviews and have lunch or coffee to see how the individual interacts with and treats others.

4. Include others.

Ask other team members to meet with candidates and compare notes with them. Make sure they know exactly what characteristics you are looking for. This will give you another perspective and help you make sure the candidate is the right fit for the team.

5. Use a talent interview.

One of the most important steps is to have the candidate complete a talent assessment. Different from a personality test, a sales talent assessment will help you make smart hiring decisions and develop the people you decide to hire by uncovering the intensity level of each talent that is critical to success in the role. Understanding the candidates natural talents and abilities and the weaknesses that might get in their way allows you to hire the right person for the role.

If you put in some extra work in the interview phase, you'll save yourself from the many headaches that come with hiring the wrong person. 

Talent is only a strength when the fit is right. 

Topics: hiring salespeople Sales