June 30, 2020

A Guide to Vet a Sales Candidate in a Phone Interview

Using phone interviews is an effective first step in the sales job interview process. For many companies, a phone interview is a common first point of contact during the recruiting…

Jace Ermidis Toronto Sales Recruiter
Jace Ermidis

Using phone interviews is an effective first step in the sales job interview process. For many companies, a phone interview is a common first point of contact during the recruiting process. They allow you to quickly narrow the candidate pool and choose who you want to interview in greater detail.

The key is to ask the right questions to screen out non-qualified applicants. As Toronto sales recruiters, we always choose a hiring process that will help us find out quickly who is qualified and who is not. Here we will talk about why phone interviews should be part of your hiring process, the types of questions to ask, and list some red flags to watch out for when speaking with candidates.

Why Do Phone Interviews?

let's do a phone interview

Phone interviews give you the opportunity to determine if you want to learn more about a candidate. Here are some advantages to starting your hiring process with a preliminary phone interview:

  • It will help you filter out unqualified sales candidates
  • It is a good initial comparison point to assess candidates
  • It helps to ensure you don’t spend time and effort interviewing unqualified candidates
  • They are short and to the point

Questions to Ask to Screen Sales Candidates

There is a series of standard questions you can ask to see if the candidate is a potential fit and meets your expectations for the sales job. Ask these or similar questions to screen candidates:

  • Briefly tell me about yourself: This will give you a basic introduction to the candidate personally and professionally.
  • Why are you looking for a new job? Where are you in the process? It’s important to understand the candidate’s reason for looking for a new job. This will help you better understand their level of motivation and desired career path.
  • What attracted you to this role? Here the candidate will provide you with some insight as to why they are a good fit for the job.
  • What do you know about our company/products/services? This will give you some insight into how much the candidate knows about the job. It will also tell you how much time they spent preparing for the call.
  • Tell me about skills/experience/accomplishments that are not on your resume? This will give you the opportunity to learn more information about the candidate that you cannot see about them on their CV or on LinkedIn.
  • What are your salary expectations? It’s important to know if a candidate’s salary expectations are in alignment with what you are willing to pay for the sales job.
  • When can you start? Can the candidate start within a reasonable timeframe? You need to know when they can start so you can fill the job in an ideal timeframe.

Asking these types of questions provides you with a checklist to see if a candidate meets the basic requirements. Make sure to ask all candidates the same questions and follow the same process so you can effectively compare candidates.

Phone Interview Red Flags

Phone interviews allow you to identify potential red flags early before you get too far along in the interview process with a candidate. Having red flags pop up after a candidate has made it to the final list of hires is not ideal. Here are some potential red flags to look for when speaking to sales candidates:

  • Poor impression: Sales candidates need to connect with people. If a candidate doesn’t have enthusiasm for the role and makes a poor impression, they may not be ideal.
  • They are money motivated: Everyone wants to be compensated well. But, if a candidate’s primary focus is money, you may want to think twice before moving forward with them.
  • Things don’t match up: Is there confusion about what you see on a candidate’s resume and how they are answering questions? Does the information not match up? It’s something worth investigating.
  • You question their interest level: It’s important to make sure the candidate has an interest in the job you are hiring for. If they seem disinterested, considering filtering them out.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Phone Interviews

There are a few basic things you can do to get the most out of your sales phone interviews.

  • Do some basic research and read a candidate’s resume before the call.
  • Set a time limit. 20 minutes or less is sufficient.
  • Be flexible with interview times. Not all candidates can speak during normal business hours.
  • Take notes – the more information you can gather about the candidate, the better.

Using the above information will help you effectively vet sales candidates using phone interviews.

Get More Sales Job Interview Tips

Hiring is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Hire right and you could have a great employee for years to come. Make a hiring mistake and you could cost your company time and resources. Check out these blogs by our expert sales recruiters. Get advice, tips, and insights to make better hiring decisions:

When Is the Best Time to Hire Salespeople? 6 Things to Consider

Why Hiring Mistakes in Sales Are Even More Costly Than You Think

Don’t Make These Hiring Mistakes! 4 Mistakes Sales Recruiters Should Avoid in an Interview

Recruit the Best Sales Reps Using These Interview Questions

How to Close a Star Candidate: 5 Tips From a Sales Recruiter


SalesForce Search is a Toronto sales recruiting company that specializes in the recruitment and placement of sales professionals. We recruit salespeople in every sector of the economy including, software, manufacturing, financial services, and medical devices. Find the right salesperson for your organization, start your search here.

Jace Ermidis Toronto Sales Recruiter

Jace Ermidis

With 10 years of sales, management, and recruitment experience across multiple industries, Jace has helped numerous businesses (including many Fortune 500 companies) build high performing, quota smashing Sales teams. Jace provides an honest and consultative experience, while helping his clients hire smarter, faster, and more confidently! When he’s not networking with Toronto’s best Sales talent, Jace likes to travel, snowboard, and watch sports.