Brilliant interviews can lead to brilliant hires for your sales team, but without having a comprehensive interview process in place, getting the right talent will be difficult. It’s important to appreciate the simple fact that, when it comes to interviewing candidates, consistency is key.
Every candidate needs to be evaluated on the same basis if you are to get accurate results and form an unbiased opinion and the sales interview process needs to have a clear formula if you are to separate the “good” candidates from the “brilliant” ones.
To learn how a fixed-fee recruitment approach ensures your interview shortlist is full of top sales talent, click here.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the key steps that need to be taken to plan and conduct a successful sales interview.
Prepare your questions beforehand
In order to compare candidates, it’s important that you ask candidates the same – or very similar – questions so you can weigh responses accordingly. Make sure to compile a series of questions long in advance, as this will give you more time to add new, relevant questions closer to the interview date. Also, in formulating questions in advance, you and your sales team can get a better idea of the answers you would like to receive in response.
In addition to this, you need a way to compare candidate answers. One way of comparative analysis is to mark their answers on a scale of one to five, as this gives you (and any subsequent interviewers) an easy way to compare candidates. The scoring framework makes it easy to establish who is the best person for the job, not just the best person interviewed.
Set goals: what type of person are you looking for and why?
What type of person are you looking for? Cultural fit is increasingly important in the recruitment process, after all, hiring the right person – one that shares the same values, expectations and motivations – is conducive to the business’ long-term success. Getting the wrong person can be costly (as you will have spent a fair amount of money on the recruitment drive) and will impact business productivity as you now have an employee void to fill. It’s important that you keep in mind cultural fit and try to hire like-minded individuals, people that can quickly become “part of the furniture”.
Also, skills and expertise. There are those skills that are “essential” for the role and others that would be beneficial or “nice to have”. Try to break down your skill and experience requirements based on these two criteria.
Lastly, include colleagues and, most importantly, the team with whom the candidate will work, in the recruitment process. Your colleagues are best placed to determine whether or not someone will “fit in” with the rest of the team. They can also provide you with their perception of candidates, while different interviewing styles will help to bring out different candidate qualities that you may not have noticed. But, we'd always advise having another colleague meet them separately to you, in order to give a fresh perspective.
Plan a good mix of behavioural, skill and cultural fit questions
Ask for solutions to fictional scenarios, test their skills, and ask more complex and career-related questions, as it will help you to build a better understanding of the candidate. Furthermore – a good salesperson will demonstrate excellent research skills; so, ask questions that can determine how much research they conducted on your business!
Value-based interview questions should always be considered when hiring sales people. Skills can be taught, but values are inherent! For example, if you are looking for someone tenacious, perhaps ask "please give an example of when you have failed, but worked hard to succeed at the same task at a later date"
Manage the candidate’s expectations in terms of the interview process
Reduce the candidate’s stress by outlining what they will need to bring and what the interview will consist of.
Ensure that you create a quiet and comfortable interview environment too, as you will get more information from a candidate who is relaxed!
Review and take notes during the interview
Before you introduce yourself to the candidate, familiarise yourself with their CV, review the job description and take notes. This will ensure you are well prepared ahead of time.
In addition, take brief notes on anything that stands out. After the interview, write those notes up more comprehensively and encourage other interviewers to do the same. Having detailed notes on each candidate will help hiring managers to compare and contrast – feedback is essential!
Let the candidate speak and make sure you listen
It’s not all about you. During the sales interview process, some hiring managers make the mistake of controlling the conversation – leaving little room for the candidate to engage. You want them to talk about themselves, as this will allow you to understand who they are and how they can help your business.
Leave time for the candidate to ask questions at the end. These questions are often very revealing, indicating a person’s motivations, interests, and if they have really thought about this role seriously.
To discover how to build a great shortlist of candidates to interview, download the eBook, ‘Sales recruitment without an agency: The Essential Guide’ where we outline top tips for creating a sales advert.