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Effective Interview Questions

It’s not just up to the job seeker to prepare for a sales job interview. As a Sales Manager or Director you need to do some homework too.

The interviewer needs to have a good understanding of what type of individual will best fit into their sales team. You need to think about the ideal candidate’s personality, skills base, attitude and manner and then use the following proven interview techniques to draw this information out:

  • Determine the necessary characteristics and traits of the person you think will succeed in the role.
  • Prepare a Job Brief or Position Description for candidates.
  • Read each applicant’s Resume / CV and Cover Letter thoroughly before meeting with him/her to refresh your mind. It will also give you a base for asking questions.
  • Prepare relevant interview questions beforehand covering the required skills & attributes and additional questions that will help you assess the candidate’s behaviour.
  • Clearly explain the recruitment process to the applicant and remain neutral throughout.
  • Make sure you outline the key competencies required for the job including your Key Performance Indicators (KPI's).  
  • Ease into the interview by initially asking easy questions and help the candidate relax with some small talk.
  • You won’t learn anything about them if you do all the talking, so listen more than talk.
  • Using the same set of questions for each candidate is fairer, it will also make it easier for you to compare applicants and determine which one has the best 'fit'.
  • Look out for non-verbal clues, such as body language and facial expressions during the interview.
  • Appraise the candidate’s personal presentation & grooming.

Behavioural Questions

A candidate’s past behaviour is a good predictor of their future performance. By using behavioural questions, you can determine how the candidate responded in a previous situation similar to the sales job they are being interviewing for. You can also choose to give them a role play example and ask them what they would do.

Also ask non-work related questions - this technique will give you a great insight into which applicants have the right traits, characteristics and competencies suitable for the sales job.

While you are finding out the hobbies & interests a candidate enjoys in their leisure time, you can assess how they will fit into your business. For instance, someone who likes racing Go-Karts is a risk taker who might get bored with routine, or a person who enjoys spending their spare time in their own company might not like a job where a lot of social interaction is involved.

Gut Feel

Even with all the valid assessment tools that we use, your gut feeling is still an important indicator of success.

If you have spent the whole interview thinking their personality is going to wreak havoc in your business, then you are probably right. Your experience should tell you what type of person best fits into your organisation, so trust your gut!

Personality & Culture Fit

It can be quite difficult to put into words a company's cultural 'fit', however most managers know when they have found the right applicant because they feel just right.

Company culture is defined as the shared values and practices of the employees. Basically, it is the rules of your workplace and you need to have a very clear idea of what that is before embarking on any recruitment. Once you know the company's cultural fit, it should be easy to work out the personality profile of the person you need to recruit.

Reference Checks

Emphasise to referees that you are looking for "good fit" between the applicant, the job and the company, so that both employer and employee will be successful.

Make sure that you continually probe for specific examples of previous behaviours that relate to your sales position. To keep the reference check from sounding like a 3rd degree grilling, alter the wording of your questions and concentrate them on the most critical areas of concern.

Try to also make it easy for the source to give you honest, even if negative, information about the candidate by letting them understand that you are looking out for the candidate's best interests as well as your own, and that you understand and appreciate the candidate's strengths. 

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