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Didn’t Get the Sales Job? Here Are 10 Reasons Why

optimized-istock_000031844570_small-1260x840In today’s hyper-competitive sales hiring landscape, the interview process can quickly become a daunting and drawn out process. Candidates are required to complete multiple interviews, behavioral assessments, and  psychometric testing. While it’s frustrating when you don’t get the sales job, understanding why you didn’t is your path to future success. Key Takeaways? Know your numbers, come prepared, and communicate with your references.

Here are the top ten reasons why you didn’t get the sales job, and what you can do about it:

1. You didn’t know your numbers

In sales, numbers reign supreme. Simply put, it’s rarely possible to ace an interview without knowing the specifics of your performance metrics. Top sellers know their performance metrics, so be specific in your knowledge. Before attending your next interview, ensure you are able to answer the following questions:

  •         What was your quota?
  •         How much of your quota was new sales versus repeat business?
  •         What was the average deal size?
  •         How much of your quota was made up of up-sells?
  •         How long was your average sales cycle?
  •         How many leads were given to you versus hunted?
  •         What percentage of your targets did you achieve in the last year

2. You failed to come prepared

We live in a job market where each open corporate position is met with 250 resumes on average. Hiring managers are too pressed for time to allow for second chances if you fail to come prepared. It becomes clear to an interviewer when a candidate doesn’t know the product, market, industry, or challenges facing an organization. Often, they will be quick to cease communication with a candidate who has failed to commit at the most basic level of spending time to know the company.

The best sales candidates research the history, structure, and competitors of a given company. They go deeper by understanding the corporate strategy, key markets, ideal customer base, and corporate growth targets.

Come prepared with facts, statistics, or your own insights on how the company can surpass their sales goals and you will demonstrate your commitment to the role.

3. You weren’t the right cultural fit

While skills and experience are the first things to be analyzed in an interview process, it’s also important that the organization deems you a good fit for the company culturally. Generally, employers can judge whether or not a salesperson will be a cultural fit by asking you about your personal values and communication style, your understanding of the company’s values, and how you approach conflict, coaching, and feedback.

It can be hard to determine whether or not a candidate will be a good fit with a potential organization solely through the interview process, but employers need to ultimately determine if a candidate will integrate well with the current employees. While it’s frustrating to lose out on a sales job due to lack of cultural fit, studies have shown that 89% of hiring failures are due to cultural fit.

Read more about how to determine if you will be a good cultural fit here.

4. You didn’t use your resume as a selling tool

Your resume should be tailored to the specific skills, experience, and selling environment of each and every job you apply for. Because employers are only interested in hiring A players, you do not have the luxury of coming across as an “almost perfect” fit. You need to display from the first point of contact why you are an exact match for the position available, how your selling history matches this, and how your sales performance makes you a “can’t miss” candidate.

Read here for the best tips on how to construct a standout resume employers can’t say no to.

5.   Your cover letter was not targeted for the position

Much like a resume needs to be tailored for each sales role you apply for, your cover letter needs to add depth and texture to the basic information of your resume. Use your cover letter to tell a compelling story about your work experience. Instead of simply describing how you are a “motivated, driven, or ambitious individual,” give a succinct example about a time when you displayed these characteristics.

A cover letter is used as a way to evaluate a candidates ability to communicate. The best letters address the employer’s requirements in the position they are hiring for. Highlight key sales accomplishments, awards/accolades, sales methodology training, and industry experience.

6.   Another candidate was more qualified

Unfortunately, this is the reality of any job candidacy. Ask the hiring manager for the specific reasons why another candidate was considered a more qualified candidate. It will ultimately aid your job search going forward and provide you insight into what skills and experiences you need to build upon.

Some of the most common reasons another candidate attains a sales job candidacy are because they have:

  • More experience selling in the required verticals
  • Built out a larger book of business
  • A longer proven track record of success
  • More experience in a hunting role/developing new business
  • Sold into the C-Suite

7. You lacked professionalism when speaking about past employers

Owning responsibility for your performance is a quality top salespeople fully embrace.  While it is possible that your departure from a previous company was under less than ideal circumstances, this should not factor into how you speak about a previous employer in an interview.

If the reason for separation between you and your last employer was due to personal differences or conflict, ensure you speak only to professional differences in the interview. Refrain from speaking badly about a former boss. Maintain a respectful demeanor and keep it professional.

Keep emotions out of any conversations regarding former employers, and always guide the conversation back to what you learned from the experience.

8. You failed to differentiate your value

As we have explained, top performing salespeople are different. The key to value differentiation in the interview process is to display your value early, and display it often. Above and beyond knowing your numbers and demonstrating a successful track record, demonstrate your ability to effectively communicate and build rapport. This is a competency employers need to see in their sales force. From the first point of contact, exhibiting your people skills and ability to establish relationships will gain any employer’s attention.

9. You didn’t leverage your network properly

It’s common knowledge that networking often leads to a job interview. In fact, hiring expert Lou Adler conducted a study which found that well over half of sales roles are filled through networking efforts. Candidates are successful at using networks to learn about positions, but overlook attaining information that will provide an edge in the interview process.

Think through what you would like to know about the culture of the sales team: the scope and expectations of the job, sales methodologies used, unique aspects of the interview process, or any specific requirements the sales team has.

Privately reach out to your professional networks, such as LinkedIn, and you will find the information you need. Be specific rather than general in your questions. You are getting information, not asking how to get the job.

10. Your references didn’t check out

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 62% of employers said that when contacting a reference, the reference didn’t have favorable things to say about the candidate. This is significant because prior to an offer of employment, reference checks are often the last step in the interview process. 

Ensure you have spoken to each reference in advance. Instead of hoping they will provide positive information on your behalf, ask them if they would recommend you to a potential employer. This is a clear way to determine if they will provide a positive reference. Inform your references that they should expect a call from your prospective employer. Remind them of any past accomplishments you had with them. Prepare them to speak to how you performed in your role with them.

Learn from your experience and advance your career

Rejection at some point of your hiring experience is to be expected given the competitive landscape of the sales workforce. While some aspects of job attainment are out of your control, understanding why you didn’t get the sales job will allow you to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Pay attention to the details of your resume and cover letter, be proactive in your communication with references, and know your numbers.

Looking for more insight on your next sales interview? Read this and ace it.


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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.