We were recently putting together the interview script for a sales hiring project we are working on and I was thinking about some of the nutty questions that have been popular over the years.
“What would you say was your weakest attribute?” This is not an uncommon interview question and I can remember asking this myself back when I was a young hiring manager. I had replies ranging from the lame, “I try too hard” (but what did I expect?) to the forthright, “not having time for silly questions.” (She got a job, by the way!)
Not that long ago “cute” questions were considered illuminating and insightful. I am not quite sure what interviewers get from questions like that, but there was a time when, “how do you fit an elephant in a VW Beetle?” or “how would you move a mountain?” were popular. There is no “right” answer but how the candidate replied was supposed to shed light on the personality of a candidate and into how they would perform in a certain role.
Things have evolved since then and today we rely more on “behavioral interviewing” techniques; asking people to describe how they have behaved in relevant situations in the past. This line of inquiry gives us insight into how a candidate will react when confronted with a similar situation in the future. For instance, describe the activities you engaged in to open new accounts in your previous role or describe how you won over a customer that wanted to buy from an incumbent supplier. For a comprehensive list of sales interviewing questions, check this article out!
We also tend to avoid “imaginary scenarios” because they aren’t that useful for separating the weak candidates from the strong ones. For example, any sales rep can provide a great textbook answer to a question like “if you worked here, how would you open up a new account?”
Quirky questions might have a place in trying to see measure someone’s level of creativity or fit with an unusual culture, but for the most part they won’t give you much proof of a candidate’s ability to excel in the sales role for which you are hiring.
To your success!
Photo Credit: milos milosevic via Compfight cc
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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