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4 Interview Process Steps for Hiring Top Performers

Hiring the wrong person for your sales team can be a costly mistake. Not only will onboarding cost thousands of dollars, but your overall revenue will take a hit if the candidate is not performing. In this article, we’re bringing you our proven interview process to make your recruitment efforts more effective and accurate.

We have perfected the interview process after many years conducting thousands of job searches for our clients. Steal these steps of the interview process for your company to ensure you keep candidates engaged and hire only top performers

4 Steps of the Interview Process as Recommended by Peak Sales Recruiting

Step 1: The Culture Fit Interview

We always take a two-way approach to all first connections with a candidate. Allow time for your company to get to know the candidate and the candidate to get to know your company. During this initial screening, you’ll be able to determine if the candidate’s background and work history match the job requirements, hiring non-negotiables, and values of their team and company. 

It is vital to highlight why the candidate wants to join your organization without over-selling the opportunity. Since most of our candidates are passive — meaning they are not searching for a new opportunity — this is especially important. In this first interview, you must also give the candidate space to ask questions about your company’s current strategy, future market plans, growth goals, and the open role. They will be listening for indicators of whether you, your company, and the available role align with their career vision. 

You can hold these preliminary interviews as telephone interviews or video interviews. 

Step 2: The Sales Acumen Interview

Before the second interview, we recommend creating an interview baseline. This involves selecting strategic interview questions — while incorporating follow-up questions from the initial interview — that will dive deep and reveal both the ‘red flags’ of underperformers and the ‘green flags’ of top candidates. Your interview structure should be as repeatable and standardized as possible. This standardization helps to eliminate bias and simplify the review process. 

During the sales acumen interview, aim to better understand the following:

  • The nature of the candidate’s specific experience
  • How the candidate’s experience and expertise align with the role
  • What the candidate will add to your team 
  • Any risks you would be taking in hiring the candidate

Your interviewers can hold the sales acumen interviews as a video or in-person interview. If your company and industry require a lot of face-to-face interaction during the sales process, you may favor in-person interviews to assess the full range of your candidate’s skills.

Step 3: The Conclusive Capability Interview

Review what you have learned about your candidates from the first two steps of the interview process before proceeding with step 3. If you feel aligned after two interviews, steps 3 and 4 are unnecessary. Before your conclusive capability interview, prepare two to three probing interview questions that fill in any gaps left. Your final interview questions should be questions you have yet to ask in the interview process. Your candidate’s answers should lead you to understand their culture fit and sales performance fully. 

In this interview phase, we also recommend requiring some form of presentation from the candidate. This presentation is needed only if the candidate will be giving presentations to clients. In-person interviews are particularly impactful in industries where face-to-face sales meetings are a regular part of selling. 

If your interview process has gone well, this may be the final interview for you to extend an offer. If you find a select few top candidates and need one more touchpoint to come to a hiring decision, you’ll need to move on to step four.

Step 4: (Optional) The Final Decision Interview

The final decision interview is only necessary if you have a few very hireable candidates you need to choose from. In fact, we strongly recommend it be reserved only for candidates you are highly likely to hire. This interview typically happens in person. Consider including an out-of-office informal activity like dinner or attending a local event. 

In the final interview, your hiring decision-maker can address concerns and choose the best candidate. 

How the Interview Process Impacts Your Access to Top-Performers

It’s safe to assume that your top candidates are someone else’s top candidates, too. This means your candidates are comparing you to your competitors in the job market throughout your hiring process. Your first impression matters; every step in the interview process either builds or destroys the rapport, trust, and connection you initially establish with your candidates.

Don’t make the mistake of overcomplicating your hiring process. Doing this can result in a more lengthy interview process. The longer the process, the more likely your top-performing candidates will move forward with another opportunity before you reach a hiring decision. 

Candidates will be actively vetting you, your company, and the opportunity you have to offer just as much as you vet them in the interview process. If your interview process is disorganized, candidates could lose interest regardless of your competition — and you’re unlikely to get a second chance. 

We recommend following the above steps of the interview process, holding structured, strategic interviews, and finding your next A-player as quickly as possible — without sacrificing quality or connection. Improving your interview process can be done by training your leaders on interview skills and strategy. We also recommend working with a recruitment partner to reach a hiring decision. 

We’ve shortened the hiring process through proprietary and proven strategies that we’re ready to share with you. Contact us today to get access to our global network of top performers and tap into our unparalleled hiring support

Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting

Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless. Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner. He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.