There is the old saying that sales reps perform their best selling during job interviews and much like peeling an onion, you don’t know quite know who you are interviewing until you have peeled away a few layers.

Here are some of the best kinds of questions to ask during a sales interview to find out the truth about whether you are interviewing a “keeper” sales rep:

1. Open Ended – Open questions like “tell us about yourself” give you a sense of what is top of mind for the candidate. Do they start with accomplishments or their favorite hobbies?

2. Direct Questions – Some candidates are uncomfortable with questions on quotas, achievements or dismissals and may provide vague replies. To get the truth, you will need to be direct. Did the company recognize that they achieved quota? Did they resign or were they terminated?

3. Behavioral Questions – Ask not what the person will do for you or how they perceive themselves, but instead ask how they have demonstrated relevant behaviors in the past and ask for examples.

4. Third Person – Candidates are less inclined to fabricate stories when asked about how others would describe them. Ask questions like, “if I spoke to your former boss, how would they describe you” or “if I worked with you at company X, what would I have seen in your work habits?”

5. Probing Questions – When someone answers a question, dig deeper to see how it stands up. For instance, if someone claims they are ambitious and cites examples ask them to tell you more about what how that translates into actions and meaningful results.

6. Cross Referencing Questions – Often achievements are bumped up, so get into the habit of checking claims at different points in the interview. If a rep claims certain call volume that seems aggressive, at some point later on, ask what was the average call time and do the math to see whether it was actually possible to make that many calls each day.

If you are structured and thorough in your interviews, your chances of picking the right people go through the roof!


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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