How to Conduct Job Interviews With Sales People

How to Conduct Job Interviews With Sales People

When you are hiring new sales people, chances are that you would want to differentiate the performers from the “pretenders”.

Chances are, you will be given an interview guide to help you with the interview. But perhaps you should start with “the end in mind”: what will be the right person who will perform up to your expectations, and will fit into your company for the position she is in.

So in a nutshell, here’s what you need to prepare BEFORE your interview:

It would be better to re-look at your Job Description (JD) first, then your interview guide later, as the JD is the core of how you want your staff to perform;

It is better to separate the work process from the end results, e.g. achieving sales targets or maintaining margins are results, whereas doing making customer visits or understanding customers’ needs are processes. Since achieving sales targets is an end result, you’d have to add more observable processes into your JD that will give you your desired result.

Prioritise which if these processes or results according to their importance. Look for what your best performers do differently from others. Those will be your top priority processes.

Once you’ve identified what you are looking for, prepare your questions in advance. Here are some questions that you may want to ask:

What are some of your greatest achievements, AND how did you do that?

Describe what will be your ideal work environment. Why?

Give an example that you persuaded your boss to change his/ her mind on a major decision

Give an example that you overcame tough challenges to get the job done

Give an example on how you managed to persuade a customer to buy from you, when he/ she was initially not considering buying that product or service.

Describe how you would get new customers (if you are looking for “hunters”)

Describe how you would grow existing customers. (if you are looking for “farmers”)

If you were to join us, what would you want to be when you leave us? Why?

Perhaps the most interesting one should be the last question. Now here’s the method to my madness.

Sales staff turnover in China is fast becoming a high cost of hiring. Many employers are looking for ways to find out if the candidate does have what it takes to rough it out in lull times, and brin in the results. Employers also want to make sure that new hires aren’t tempted to leave when competitors offer a mere couple of hundred dollars of pay increment.

By asking “what would you want to be when you leave us”, you force a truthful answer from the candidate. In some cases, some candidates may just say they will stick with the company till they retire. Look instead for candiadtes who are candid about their aspirations, and keep a lookout for those with inspiring ones.

As for the other questions, pay attention to the details of the processes, i.e. exactly how they achieve their achievements. It’s likely that those who just want to “fake it”, will not be able to give clear, logical details.

You’ll also notice the usage of the question “Why”.

This is one question to understand what motivates this person. Insights on the candidates’ motivational factors will be handy in future to motivate the new hires.

By  John Hester

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