How to Interview Salesperson Job Candidates

Woman interviewing man
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If you’ve read my recent articles in this series, you already know the first two critical phases in reeling in your next great salesperson: defining and recruiting your ideal sales position candidate. By paying attention to these two essential parts of the hiring process, you can more easily picture your preferred candidate and navigate the right course to bring him or her to your sales team. Now, of course, it’s time to start interviewing!

As the interviewer, your job is to uncover relevant information, behaviors and skills that will be reliable indicators for success in your sales team job opening. You’ve already narrowed the field of applicants to those whom, on paper, seem to be the best fit for your sales team. Now, your primary role is that of listener, observer and evaluator. Here are some tips for conducting sales job interviews that will help you identify the best candidate for the job:

Don’t volunteer too much information. Although it is true that interviewees will be assessing your company and sales team for the right fit for their success, they should have already done their homework and determined that the interview is worth their time. So don’t use your interviewing time to sell the company to the candidate. Another reason to listen more than you speak is that you don’t want to inadvertently feed the candidate the “right answers.”

But DO expect (and answer) questions. Even though you shouldn’t volunteer too much information about the company and the job, you should certainly expect the interviewee to ask great questions. The quantity and quality of questions will help you determine if the candidate is only looking to get hired, or if they are interviewing you to determine if your company is a good fit for them.

Ask about real-world challenges. As you question the sales position candidate, don’t just ask, “Can you do this?” Instead, present a particular challenge your sales team regularly faces and ask the interviewee how he or she would handle the situation. Provide enough context so the response can be specific. Don’t expect the perfect answer or solution at this point, but use this opportunity to determine if the candidate can think quickly, rationally, strategically and creatively.

Ask for specifics. Challenge the interviewee to state or prove success rates. How much did they improve sales in their current or last sales job? How much extra money did their sales job performance add to their employer’s bottom line? How much aging inventory were they able to move in order to reduce warehousing costs?

Ask for a game plan. Good job sales candidates aren’t just thinking about getting their foot in the door; they are thinking about becoming successful as they continue in the sales position. It’s fair to ask a sales candidate what their 30-day plan would be for job success. Their 60- and 90-day plans are fair game, too.

View the interview as an audition. The sales job candidate is actually auditioning for a role in your cast of characters. If the interviewee doesn’t demonstrate initiative, won’t ask good questions or try to sell you on them, chances are they won’t take similar initiative when dealing with sales prospects. An actor who succeeds at an audition “becomes” the character. Likewise, just as a successful salesperson asks for the sale, the successful sales job candidate will be a “closer” and ask for the job.

Follow these tips and you’ll be more likely to identify the best salesperson for your sales job opening. If, however, you’ve gone through the interviewing process and aren’t “sold” on any single candidate, start over and keep your search active until you land that sales superstar.

And, of course, if you need help at any point throughout the process of hiring a great salesperson, call a Sales Xceleration Advisor today. They’ll be glad to help.