Sales Recruiting

Interviewing Skills

How you conduct an interview and the techniques you use will ultimately affect who you hire, which has a net effect on end results.  Many mistakes are made in the interviewing process each day that prevent attracting and keeping the best salespeople.  Here are some proven techniques to increase the quality of your company’s sales team.

Hire People–Not Resumes

A resume represents a piece of paper with words.  It is like a marketing piece or a small brochure for a sales candidate.  Incidentally, approximately 70% of all resumes contain “inaccuracies” – relating to dates worked, positions, achievements, etc.  These are some common mistakes that hiring managers or business owners make:

  • Placing too much emphasis on the resume by interviewing the resume vs. talking directly to the sales candidate.
  • Structuring the interviewing process as an interrogation vs. a conversation with the sales candidate.
  • Sitting behind the desk with the sales candidate in front of it. This process creates an authority approach and therefore can inhibit good communication. The best structure for effective interviewing is to be seated at a round table or at a table in a conference room.
  • Asking too many closed-ended questions vs. open-ended questions.
  • Talking too much.
  • Trying to sell your sales position to the candidate. The sales candidate should have the attitude that they are there to sell you on their superior sales skills – they should be selling and you should be buying the right sales candidate.

Good Interviewing Questions

As a good interviewer you need to be asking open-ended questions which require the sales candidate to analyze, think and communicate versus giving just yes or no answers. This approach is especially critical in hiring salespeople, even more than other types of employees, because a salesperson’s true focus is to communicate to solve a prospect’s problems.  In the interviewing process, you really need to determine if the salesperson is a good communicator — both in words and body language – two critical areas that resumes do not indicate.  Here are some open-ended questions that you could use in your interviewing process.

  • Tell me about your current goals, both short term and long term.
  • What do you consider to be your greatest strengths? weaknesses?
  • What are you currently doing to correct your weaknesses?
  • Why did you choose sales as a career?
  • Give me three reasons why you are a good salesperson.
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Describe three major problems you have encountered in sales and how you were able to overcome them.
  • Would you rather sell a product or a service? Explain your answer.
  • What books have you read or seminars have you attended to improve your sales skills?
  • Why do you think the majority of people do not have a really good opinion of salespeople?

Questions You Cannot Ask

Equal Employment Opportunity Laws state that there are specific types of questions you cannot ask when interviewing a sales candidate or any other potential employee. You cannot ask any type of questions in your interviewing process that relate to the following topics:

  • race
  • religion
  • sexual preference
  • age
  • veteran status
  • physical disabilities
  • arrest record
  • credit rating
  • marital status
  • pregnancy

For example, let’s say you are interviewing a sales candidate for a position and you ask them their age, where they went to church or if they have ever been arrested.  You decide not to hire this person, not because of these questions but because you felt the sales candidate was really not the right fit.  This sales candidate could subsequently contact the EOE office and sue you for age discrimination, religious discrimination, etc.  In fact, lawsuits are at an all-time high based upon alleged discrimination issues.

Things to Look For

When you are interviewing a sales candidate, there are specific details and behavior that you should look for because they indicate behavior patterns.  A great principle relating to life in general is “how you do anything, is how you do everything.” For example, how a person treats his or her family will usually be the same way that they treat their employees or peers.


Candidate walks at rapid rateIs goal-directed and has a sense of urgency

Candidate brings a “brag book” to the interview

Good preparation & sources of proof
Candidate speaks with hands in front of their mouthGenerally, indicates they are masking something–not necessarily telling you the truth
Candidate has their feet pointed away from youNot feeling comfortable and not necessarily connecting with you or your company
Candidate has a list of prepared questions  to ask you during the interviewGood planning ability
Candidate gives a short, crisp presentation about themselves and why they should be offered the positionShows confidence, preparation and a sense     of control
Candidate asks for the positionA true, confident sales professional

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