Evaluating Sales CandidatesInterviews are the staple method for most companies when hiring sales staff and often there are multiple interviews conducted by different team members of the hiring company. Some companies will take the screening process a step further and conduct in depth reference checks. All of this is done to ensure the new hire is the right person.

So how can you be sure that the person you are hiring is going to be a reliable and consistent long term performer?

We have talked before about the importance of understanding your unique selling environment and role requirements. Here are several additional methods for evaluating candidates to make sure you hire the person you need:

Simulations and Role Plays
Have candidates sell you something like a pencil or make a presentation on something they know. This will give you a sense of how they actually appear in front of customers and tactics they use. Even better have them sell you your own product to test their level of your product. If it is an inside sales role, have the candidate call you and do the role play over the phone. We know from experience that candidates may be a bit apprehensive about these types of exercises because they are artificial, so be simply reassure them that you will take this into consideration.

Personality Tests
Candidates tests can be administered to provide useful additional insight into the nature and suitability of a prospective sales hire. There are thousands of companies offering tests that can be purchased for as little as a $25 dollars to more than $1,000 per test. There are many different kinds of test ranging from behavioral traits (how do they behave in certain situations) to competencies (skills and capabilities). Some tests are general tests administered to people in any role and provide general characteristics, while others are tailored to sales and some tests can be customized for your role and company. The tests aren’t always reliable so be sure to pick your tests carefully. To learn more about using tests, see our post – A Guide to Sales Candidate Assessments.

Rather than just engaging in an interview or preplanned simulation, you can create challenges for the candidate to respond to which provides insight into how they react in real live situations. For instance, providing confusing or overly complex email submission instructions to see who actually follows your request. We had one client who liked to make all his candidates wait in his lobby for interviews and then watch how they reacted. Another method might be to actually challenge answers during an interview, questioning the logic of the candidate. In all cases, the objective is to see how the candidate operates under stress and reacts on the fly to the curve balls that will inevitably face them when they are working to generate sales for your company.

Another good method of evaluating the capabilities of candidates can be to give them a “homework” assignment. For example, ask the candidate to prepare a 90 day sales plan or an account plan to penetrate a specific prospect. This will give you insight into the level of industry and domain knowledge they possess, the way they approach problem solving, how thorough they are, writing skills as well as other characteristics which can contribute to your knowledge of the person.

The goal of assessing candidates is to make sure you are hiring the right person and to avoid making hiring mistakes which could cost you time, money and credibility with customers. Depending on the criticality and seniority of the hire, you may use one or all of these methods, and it always holds that the more steps in your sales hiring process the more likely you will pick the right person.

To your success!


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.

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