Must-Ask Questions When Interviewing Sales Talent - Glassdoor for Employers

Must-Ask Questions When Interviewing Sales Talent

Whose brain better to pick for an article focused on interviewing salespeople than a senior sales recruiter? As such, this month we tapped Darryl Dioso for his expertise. He owns Resource Management Solutions Group, a company that works with organizations and hiring managers that are frustrated trying to find and hire TRUE sales performers.

Dioso offered three of his top questions he asks sales candidates.

The first question gets right to the heart of a sales person’s pain point, providing an opportunity for the candidate to really dig into their strategic thinking amid the stress of disappointment.

1) We all miss targets periodically in sales. Those times you missed the mark, what plan of action did you take to get back on track?

Why It Works: “I always ask this question,” begins Dioso. “First, it tells me if you are a humble realist. Huge red flags when someone tells me they have ‘never’ missed a target.”

Dioso continues, “Second, this shows you know how to reflect and review your mistakes and know what to do to improve, such as ask for help, take a break, speak to clients you landed before for a boost, review your numbers to spot a trend, get extra training, etc.”

The next question can fulfill the recruiter’s (and ultimately, the hiring company’s) curiosity as to the candidate’s ‘why’ for agreeing to the interview. It is a prime opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate proactive due diligence, an esteemed attribute for salespeople. 

[Related: 15 Interview Questions to Ensure Candidate Quality]

2) Why are you interested in this role?

Why It Works. “I want to understand what interests them about the role and company,” explains Dioso. 

Question number 3 expands further on this topic.

3) What three criteria would you look for in selecting your next company to work for?"

Why It Works.  Here, Dioso is seeking out their motivators. As well, he wants to know, “Have they given it some thought as to what they are looking for? Can my client (the hiring company) satisfy the criteria they are looking for?”

Dioso’s fourth question spurs the creative juices, enabling candidates to leave a lasting impression.

4) Give me one word that describes you as a sales professional that you would like for me, as well as the hiring company, to remember you by.

Why It Works: “I like this question mostly because candidates need to put some creative thought when answering,” explains Dioso. “I've had some candidates give me some words that left me saying, ‘Wow. Great choice.’”

We’ve compiled three additional sales-candidate questions to extend on Dioso’s insights. We begin with a question drawing from a candidate’s educational repertoire.

[Related: 16 Job Interview Questions to Ask a Sales Manager Candidate]

5) What was your favorite course in school (college or high school), and why?

Why It Works: This question challenges a candidate to draw a relevancy connection between their favorite course and their value proposition as a strong sales person. In other words, are they able to connect the dots that their influence skills began early on, as an innate part of their learning DNA?

This next question assumes the candidate has little or no experience in the particular industry for which they would be selling, if hired by the interviewing company.

6)   Why should we hire you over someone with (more) experience in ABC industry and/or selling to DEF experts? What can you tell us that would help assure us that your lack of industry knowledge will not be an impediment?

Why It Works: It enables a platform for the candidate to spell out their plan to overcome their knowledge gap. This includes whether they plan to (or have already) studied up on the industry and specific client needs and their openness to receive mentoring, etc. As well, it provides an opportunity for the candidate to sell their differentiators that help make up for lack of industry knowledge.

This final two-fold question allows a candidate to divulge their problem-solving abilities in handling unhappy customers.

[Related: Candidates Are Backing Out of Job Offers; Here's What You Can Do]

7. Tell me about a time when a client relationship began to crumble, but you were able to resuscitate it. Conversely, describe a client relationship that not only broke apart, but was unresolvable. What did you learn from the engagement?

Why It Works: This question digs into the candidate’s repository, compelling them to reveal difficult situations. In the first instance, they are able to end the story with a win, and can illustrate their ability to turn around dissatisfied or disgruntled clients.

The second question is a little more challenging. If the salesperson is experienced, then it is more than likely a situation they have encountered at some point in their selling career. The candidate has an opportunity to demonstrate humility as well as their ability to learn, grow and hone their sales skills for future, successful client engagements.