7 years ago
February 21, 2017

When to Ask the Right Questions During a Sales Interview

These tips for questions to ask in a sales interview can help you navigate what can be a tricky subject for job candidates.

Claire McConnachie Recruiter
Claire McConnachie

In sales interviews, interviewers are looking to hear quality questions from candidates. As a prospective employee, you may be wondering what the right questions are, and equally important, when the right time is to ask. These tips for questions to ask in a sales interview can help you navigate what can be a tricky subject for job candidates.

The Right Questions to Ask in a Sales Interview

The questions that sales interviewers want to hear during a sales interview touch on all aspects of your candidacy for an open position: How interested you are in the company, how qualified you are for the position, and even how well you will fit into the culture of the sales department and the organization as a whole. The questions you ask do not need to be solely concentrated in these areas, but should attempt to give the interviewer an idea of where you fit in the big picture. Example questions include:

  • Why is your organization looking to fill this position now?
  • What is your organization’s definition of an ideal sales person?
  • How do I compare to your current top sales people?
  • What is the typical career trajectory for someone who starts with your company in this position?
  • If offered the position, how could I impress your organization in the first six months?
  • What are the next steps in your interview process?

The Questions to Avoid in a Sales Interview

There are many questions you may be tempted to ask in a sales interview, chief among them relating to what the expected compensation is for the position. Yet as tempting as it may be, the sales interview is not the appropriate setting for these questions unless the interviewer broaches the topic first. Candidates will make a better impression by deferring these types of questions to the negotiation phase:

  • Does your organization offer telecommuting or job sharing?
  • What benefits and vacation time are offered to supplement base compensation?
  • What is the work schedule for this position?

In general, you should try to avoid questions that raise questions about your commitment to the position or the organization, as well as questions to which the answers are clear on the organization’s website or other easily accessed sources.

When to Ask Questions in a Sales Interview

Generally, there is no wrong time to ask questions of your interviewer except when he or she is speaking. More experienced interviewers may give you several opportunities to ask questions during the course of a sales interview, and nearly all interviewers will ask you for questions at the close of an interview. However, if an interviewer does not give you an opportunity, don’t panic. He or she may have forgotten this step due to his or her packed schedule. In rare instances, an interviewer may even be trying to test your interest in the position. Create your own opening for asking questions by:

  • Using natural pauses in the conversation to follow up with a question on something the interviewer has just said.
  • Using your own speaking time to ask a question, i.e., when answering a question from the interviewer, say something like “Related to that, I wanted to ask…”
  • Writing down questions as they occur to you so that you remember and can ask when the opportunity does arise

It can be uncomfortable to ask questions in a sales interview, but not asking questions can not only harm your candidacy for a position but can also lead to your accepting a position that is not right for you, which can harm your career. Remember that not asking questions at all during a sales interview will usually erode your chances of a serious offer. If all else fails, send a follow-up email or make a follow-up phone call after the sales interview with your remaining questions, or ask further questions when negotiating for the position.

Claire McConnachie Recruiter

Claire McConnachie

Claire has 4+ years of experience in sales and recruitment. As a Director of Client Services, her main objective is to connect great people to great companies by building strong relationships with both top clients and candidates in the sales industry. She specializes in sales roles of all seniority levels for both enterprise and start-up clients North American wide. When Claire isn't networking with top talent, she enjoys being outdoors, traveling and spending time with friends & family.