Interviewing sales people is never an easy task. Much like peeling an onion, interviewing sales people involves getting past the conditioned sales responses and peeling away the facades to get to the real root of what a candidate is all about and whether they will do well on your team.
We often get asked what are the best questions to ask in a sales interview. The answer depends on the position for which you are interviewing, because there is no definitive list of questions that should be posed to all potential sales hires. What we ask potential reps for territory development roles is much different that what we ask account managers and what we ask managers is very different from what we ask reps. It all depends on the position and we develop our list of questions when we are setting the hiring strategy for a client on a particular project.
That said, we do employ certain sales interview philosophies. For instance, we like a mix of open and closed ended questions, we believe in asking proof questions in different ways (see Do you ask these tough questions when interviewing sales reps?) and we also believe in asking candidates questions that they won’t be expecting and won’t have practiced beforehand (see Make ‘em jump through hoops). And we believe that interviewing is merely one aspect of a comprehensive, highly structured hiring process.
The typical sales interview
Most candidates will enter an interview expecting to be asked general questions about their resumes and work experience. They will practice their responses to these questions, so they can appear natural and authentic when asked. They also may expect you to ask questions such as what type of company they’d like to work for, their ideal work environment, what they would do for you, how they might handle certain situations, and how certain call situations or mistakes are handled. Sure these are all questions that will shed some insight into the candidate, but they usually get textbook practiced answers in response. That is not what you want when interviewing sales people.
So what are some of the questions we ask new sales candidates in an interview?
- Tell me about yourself?
- Where are you currently working?
- What are some of your largest accomplishments?
- What do you bring to the companies you have worked for ?
- How many times in the last eight years have you met or exceeded quota?
Proof (random list covering various types of sales roles and required sales competencies)
- Describe how you have leveraged your creativity to be successful in winning new customers.
- Describe a tough customer that you won over? How did you do it?
- How have you kept your spirits up in the face of rejection?
- If I worked with you would I consider you competitive? Why?
- How would you last boss describe you? Can I ask him or her?
- What kinds of sacrifices have you made to be successful? Explain.
- Describe a typical day and week for you?
- How many cold calls do you make in a typical day?
- What is your ratio of calls to closes?
- How do you close tough customers? Walk me through some examples.
- How do you develop relationships with tough customers?
- Are you given leads or do you develop your own leads?
- Describe some of your biggest prospecting successes?
- Why have you been successful?
- Tell me about a time when your persistence paid on in a sales setting.
- Do you follow a sales system? Please describe.
- Describe your past 3 managers. What did you like or dislike about them?
- How do you recover from making mistakes in front of customers? Provide examples?
Miscellaneous and Personal
- What are the last five books you read and why?
- What excites you outside of work?
- What are your personal values?
- What are your medium and long term goals?
- What is your plan to achieve your goals?
- What kind of sales environment do you thrive in? Why?
- What would you bring to company X? Why should they hire you over other great candidates?
Want even more sales interviewing advice? Check out our post How to Interview and Spot the Traits of Top Sales Professionals
To your success!
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