A thousand ain’ts. This is how a colleague described a recent interview with a sales team hopeful. Sloppy grammar and poor speaking ruined an interview for what appeared a highly educated person. Sometimes a candidate looks good on paper, but the product doesn’t match the brochure. Other times nerves prevent an accomplished and qualified candidate from making a good impression.

Should some bad grammar, tons of ums or sloppy speaking ruin their chances at a sales position with you? While you want them to be able to perform under pressure, even elite athletes have bad games and you don’t want to cast away someone who may in fact be a great fit for your team.

Rather than relying on instincts to dictate which candidates should join your team, use facts and proof to support your decisions. A multi-step interview process will help you determine whether someone is a poor performer or simply had a bad performance. Here are some mechanisms to add to your interview process which will help you evaluate out your candidates and ensure you are always picking the right people for your positions..

1. Run a Call Test. If your interviewee fumbles or appears nervous during an interview, being on the phone might make all the difference. Getting in the zone is important for some sales people. Whether your potential rep is reading from a script or using their own sales skills, if they can’t make it in a live setting, they can’t be an integral part of your sales team.

2. Check References. Super-excited about that interview with a rock star sales rep? If a sales candidate stumbles in an interview, make sure you speak with former managers to see what it was like to employ the person. You can test further or do a second interview if the references check out.

3. Have Another Sales Manager Conduct the Interview. Think it’s just you? If you are known to be a bit intimidating, chances are a new sales rep could be terrified of you – particularly if you’re the final say for new hires. Try bringing in a colleague or another sales manager, and see if the atmosphere changes. A second perspective is always valuable, especially if they are evaluating against the same criteria. Many companies also have an HR interview to test culture fit and this can also provide valuable input about the candidate’s interview skills.

4. Role Play. If a call test isn’t possible, it’s completely fair to ask a potential candidate to pitch your product as part of the one-on-one interview. The candidate may either fall completely apart or pull it together – and either way, you’ll have more data for your decision.

Whether you’re confused about how great an applicant looks on paper versus how they’re interviewing , or you simply want to be sure about picking the right person, add steps and structure to your interviewing process – it will pay dividends to the performance of your sales team.


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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