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How To Determine If Your Sales Candidate Is a “Self-Starter”

He's working hard to complete his tasksMany of our clients have told us that they want their salespeople to be “self-starters,” operating with a lot of independence and initiative, sometimes even from a home office. When hiring such an individual, there are three elements to examine closely:

  1. Does the candidate possess enough experience in both sales and your industry to operate independently? In this case, consider the amount of basic sales training and product training you will be able to provide, and then determine whether you need a candidate who is “plug and play” from day one, or whether you can afford to bring on an individual with less know-how.
  2. Does the candidate show an adequate level of Drive? Of course, we have discussed how to assess the three elements of Drive with testing and a behavioral interview in previous blog posts but just to refresh…Our online sales test, The DriveTest™, uses a forced-choice question format that enables you to determine whether or not your candidate has the core personality traits necessary for success in sales: Need for Achievement, Competitiveness and Optimism. If this foundation is not set in place to begin with, no amount of sales training will matter.
  3. Does the candidate’s personality, as revealed in the interview, show a proactive style and comfort operating without direct supervision? We can determine this with a few key behavioral interview questions . . .

Here are two of our favorite interview questions to assess independence:

  • Question: Tell me about a time when it was necessary for you to act without explicit permission.
    Here is what to look for: Did the candidate handle the situation proactively on his own? Was the candidate able to act decisively and effectively?
  • Question: Tell me about a situation at work when you felt you needed help.
    Here is what to look for: How difficult was this situation for the candidate? What did the candidate learn? Is the candidate capable of handling similar situations alone going forward?

Don’t be afraid to ask for more than one example for each question, and be sure to probe the candidate’s answers carefully to fully flesh out his operational style. Make sure you are comfortable with the candidate’s ability to operate independently to avoid potentially frustrating surprises down the road.

Dr. Christopher Croner and Richard Abraham are authors of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again and developers of the proprietary and patented sales assessment test, The DriveTest™, for sales candidates. To experience the difference of the DriveTest, contact us today!

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