What type of questions do you ask when you’re recruiting salespeople? Do you ask the same questions during each interview? Do you have a structured process? Or do you have…
What type of questions do you ask when you’re recruiting salespeople? Do you ask the same questions during each interview? Do you have a structured process? Or do you have a more fluid approach to interviewing sales job candidates?
Salespeople are some of the hardest people to interview because they’re experts at selling themselves. So, if you want to identify the 20% who are true sales rockstars, the questions you ask during an interview matter. If you ask poor or generic questions, you won’t get the responses and information you are seeking.
Not all questions are created equally. Some are better than others. Considering you have very little time to spend with candidates (often 30 – 60 minutes), you need to ask the right questions to get insightful information you can use to assess the candidate’s fit for the job.
Let’s face it – some sales interview questions are overrated. We polled the sales recruiters in our Toronto office and came up with this list of five overrated sales job interview question you may want to remove from your list:
Getting a sense of a candidate’s sales skills is important. Often, interviewers will put sales candidates on the spot by asking them to sell a fictitious product. While you may learn some things about a candidate’s ability to act under pressure, sales is not transactional in most cases anymore. It’s an extensive process that involves learning about a customer’s needs and developing custom solutions. Asking this question will not tell you much about how a candidate works in a more realistic sales situation.
As an alternative, you could ask the candidate to speak about how they would sell some of your company’s current products and services. This will give you insights into how prepared they are, how much they know about your company, and how they approach sales.
All top sales candidates know this question is coming, and they have developed a good answer that spins one of their “weaknesses” into an area they are developing. In our 20 years of hiring salespeople we’ve found there is not really much value in asking this question anymore. If you ask other top quality questions and have done your homework on the candidate, you’ll understand their potential shortcomings.
As an alternative, you could ask, “Tell me about a time you made a mistake during the sales process. How did you handle the situation?”
This question doesn’t really have anything to do with the job. In most cases, candidates likely don’t know what a former boss or colleague would say. You can expect a fluff answer about how they were a great team member and had a positive impact on the sales team. What else would you expect them to say? You don’t really learn much about the candidate by asking this question.
Part of our process in becoming a top sales recruitment agency is to use a technique we developed called AARC or the Attributed Anticipated Reference Check. It’s more complex in practice but, in a nutshell, positions the same question as “When we do our reference checks, what will…” This way they feel more compelled to be honest.
While this question is often used to break the ice, most sales candidates simply restate information found on their resume and cover letter. You already have this information. You are better off jumping right into the interview and asking more specific questions.
As an alternative, you could ask, “Tell me about something in your career that is not on your resume.” This will give you the opportunity to learn something different about the candidate. You never know what they could say and what you could learn.
A lot can happen in five years – with the candidate and with your organization. This makes it very difficult to predict the future. Most candidates will provide a response in regard to an ideal situation. Most will say they want to be at a more senior level. But what does that really tell you about them? Almost all sales candidates want to be in a better role, right?
As an alternative, you could ask, “Tell me about some of your professional goals.”
Focus on asking specific questions that will teach you more about the candidate as a potential high sales performer. Many sales recruiters fall into the trap of asking too many generic or common questions. When you ask these questions, you can expect to get a well-rehearsed answer – more fluff than context.
Take a serious look at the sales interview questions you are asking. Do they help you get the answers you need? Do they help you have a good conversation with the candidate? If not, it’s time to rethink your sales job interview strategy.
Hiring salespeople is challenging. Here are some additional blogs from our 20 years as sales headhunters packed with insights to help you be a better sales recruiter:
SalesForce Search is one of the leading Sales Recruitment Agencies in North America. By taking a proactive approach and finding the salespeople who aren’t looking for a job, we’ve helped hundreds of companies recruit the talented salespeople before they hit the market.
Rhys is a tenacious, top performing Senior Sales Recruiter with 15+ years of focused experience in the Digital Media, Mobile, Software, Technology and B2B verticals. He has a successful track record of headhunting top performing sales candidates for some of the most exciting brands in North America. He is a Certified Recruitment Specialist (CRS) and has expert experience in prospecting new business, client retention/renewals and managing top performing sales and recruitment teams. Rhys enjoys spending quality time with his wife, son, and daughters, BBQing on a hot summer day and tropical vacations.