The majority of your sales interview candidates are going to come to you without experience. That can go either one of two ways — they come from an environment completely different from your own, or they have no sales experience, period.
How can you screen for skills that will only become apparent after you decide to hire someone? Here are some sales interview questions to help you get a clear view of who’s going to be a good fit.
Many entry-level job seekers view sales as a career path with a low barrier to entry. They’ll apply, they’ll get hired, and immediately realize sales just isn’t for them. This leaves you with an unsatisfied employee, and equally unsatisfying turnover rates after your new hire inevitably jumps ship several months in.
Make sure you’re making the right investment in a new employee by ensuring the candidate views sales as a career they’re serious about pursuing.
Candidates vying for a job are more likely to tell you only what you want to hear (I mean, can you blame them?) If you want to separate the truth from the flattery, remember — actions speak louder than words.
Ask a candidate about other sales interviews they’ve taken or are interested in. If more than half of the roles are not client-facing (e.g. consulting or banking roles), that raises a red flag. It could indicate that the candidate doesn’t have a clear vision on their career goals, or they’re not as into the job as they say they are.
That’s not to say they don’t have the skills and drive to do well in a sales role. But if they don’t indicate genuine interest in sales, it’s unlikely to be truly rewarding and compelling for them in the long term.
The majority of candidates new to sales can speak easily about why their hobby intrigues them, but what makes a candidate stand out is when they turn the situation around and try to learn more about your current interests. A personable hire is a good hire!
Ask a candidate to describe their involvement in the sales process of their past/current employer. If you learn from their own words where they fit in a previous workflow, you’ll get a good glimpse into how they view themselves as a part of a team, and just how passionate they are about building a brand. Focus on their contributions and what they thought really stood out in a positive way.
Asking a candidate about their “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” moments can say a lot about their potential place in your organization. If their biggest dislike is something that’s a major part of your process, look out. Conversely, if their likes overlap well with the needs of your team, this person may really enjoy transitioning to your company.
For candidates with sales experience that differs from your process, ask about their aspirations to better understand how their prior skills could translate and grow your company. Remember, placing a candidate doesn’t mean much if they don’t last!
Be honest with yourself about what your sales team needs. If you’re selling a well-known product, you’re probably better off hiring competitive, activity-driven sales reps who will work hard. On the flip side, if you’re selling a new product that needs to rely on vision and innovation to grab a prospect’s attention, you may benefit more from a natural storyteller who will thrive in a shifting environment.
Interview sales applicants with no experience differently than those with past experience. For those fresh out of school or taking their first stab at a sales career, confirm this is what they really want. Sales is a tough world, a craft that needs to be developed. You know it’s not the type of role you can treat as a failsafe, and your talent should be just as passionate about the role (and company) as the rest of your team.