Determining the best candidate for a sales rep position is a blend of art and science. Your ability to make a homerun hire requires smart utilization of all your resources. One of the best sources is the interview. The right questions can elicit compelling information that helps you decide who to advance or hire, and who to wish best of luck on their job hunt. Here’s five questions and what they reveal.
“How do we bring value to our customers?”
On the surface, this question reveals how much research the candidate has done on your company. If they answer with vague value points, that’s a red flag and sign you should probably cross them off the list.
But the question also potentially illuminates a key trait. If they’re able to recite word for word content from your website, for example, that means either they have excellent memory or they studied until they memorized it. One is a valuable talent that can’t be taught. The other is a demonstration of high work ethic. Both are valuable.
“What’s something you’ve learned or taught yourself lately?”
You always want employees who are eager to learn new knowledge and skills. Dig deeper into their answer – how did they find out or learn it? What strategies or tools did they use to learn or acquire the skill?
With this question and its attached subset, you’re not only finding out their passion for learning, you’re discovering whether they’re a self-starter and what their learning style is. You’re also getting a sense of how they organize processes (in the case of teaching themselves something).
“Teach me something other than what you’ve learned or taught yourself recently.”
Use this as a follow-up to the previous question (Note: you don’t need to do all these in order – but #2 followed by #3 is a natural progression). Sales these days isn’t a features and benefits proposition. It’s about how well you can explain or articulate often complex concepts, tools, and ideas to fit the customer.
With their answer, you’re looking for how effectively they explain what they’re talking about, their level of understanding, and enthusiasm for teaching it. The reason why you want to say “other than” is to put them in a position where they have to think on their feet, rather than just taking the easy way out and falling back on their prior answer.
“Why do/did you want to get into sales?”
This one gives you insight into to candidates’ specific career motivations and can potentially serve as an eliminator question. If the immediate answer is money and only money, that can be a red flag. Two problems arise:
- They may focus more likely on the commission and less on the customer and ethics.
- They’ve established themselves as mercenary. If another position comes along that pays more, they may jump ship and you’ll have to start the process all over again.
Instead, you want to look for primary other reasons why – such as helping customers, working on a team, or even love of your products or the industry.
“What do you consider your greatest life accomplishment so far?”
Deep question, but one in which you’re looking to see how driven and motivated they are. If they talk about overcoming adversity to accomplish a goal (especially a long-range one) – for example, graduating from college despite a major setback or a tragic event – that’s a sign they’ll be able to work through challenging situations.
Bonus Tip: Write down their answer and store it in a secure place. When they have a rough patch, remind them of the response they gave. Those reminders can help your employees remember they’ve surmounted worse.
The right mix of interview questions is critical to making the right sales hire. Ideally, the questions in aggregate should delve into the areas of personality, technical knowledge, thought process, and learning style. The best questions, such as those we’ve listed here, will either address multiple areas or dive deep into an absolutely essential area of concern.