March 26, 2015

How to Use Design, Layout and Location to Get the Most Out of Your Sales Interviewees

how-office-colors-interview-room-affect-sales-interview-1Think about the space you use most in your interviews.

Is it in your office? The conference room? A coffee shop? Did you pick this space with specific intentions, or was it just the most convenient for the appointment time?

Did you know that the space you choose may actually impact the outcome of your interview? The design and atmosphere of an interview room can either set candidates at ease or put them on guard.

Many businesses focus on finding the cheapest commercial paint and carpeting available to keep costs down. They think design is not really important to their bottom line.

In reality, the difference between soft lighting and the glare of fluorescent lights, or between stark white and an eggshell matte can have significant effects.

The way your office is designed impacts the creativity and productivity of your workers. Even more telling, it affects how people perceive your business when they arrive to interview for new positions. By understanding how layout and color impacts candidates, you can better control the flow of information during an interview.


Spice Up Your Interview Room with Color

Most candidates have the professional instinct to dress in muted colors. However, you can throw your personality around a bit more by adding color to the interview room. Designers and psychologists have spent millions trying to understand the implications of color. Using certain shades in combination with neutrals can mix personality with professionalism.

Consider the following colors and their effects:

  • office-colors-affect-interviews-productivity-of-salespeopleRed. Red is a powerful, elegant color. Darker shades add power to an interview room, placing the interviewer in a perceived position of authority. Red accents stand out against whites and grays as trim, border colors and carpeting.
  • Yellow. Very light and pastel yellows add a splash of cheerfulness without going overboard. Painting an entire wall bright yellow would be a bold move, likely detracting from the professionalism of the space. Use accents to make greater connections with candidates.
  • Green. This color often represents growth and is a stable harmonizing color. Light greens are favored by startups and small businesses, while dark greens are typically used by larger, established companies.
  • Blue. The most relaxing color on the list, mid to dark shades are great for building trust. People are more likely to tell the truth in a room decorated with blue tones. Dark blues come with an added perception of reliability and power.
  • Purple. Deep purple has long been associated with luxury and money. Queen Elizabeth I decreed that only royalty was allowed to don violet fabrics. This is partially due to the huge expense of purple dyes throughout history. Purple is a creative color, and is considered neutral between two parties.


How to Make a Candidate Feel Relaxed

The best way to help candidates relax is to meet in a neutral location. Meeting outside the office, and perhaps paying for lunch, is a great way to make them feel special. This tactic is especially effective at the associate level. It relays the message that you are looking for a long-term hire that would benefit greatly from the profitability of your business.

If you have a candidate who has scored high on the sales assessment after first-round interviews were completed, you may want to use this approach to net high talent.

Start off the interview with small talk. Converse about sports, the weather or whatever topic you can think of, until the interviewee’s body language indicates he or she is ready to handle the more difficult questions.

For interviews on site, an office with window-walls can help candidates feel relaxed with a view of the company. They can see the coming and goings of the other employees and judge for themselves what type of company they are interviewing for.


How to Make a Candidate Feel Uncomfortable

making-sales-candidates-uncomfortable-interviewThere are multiple reasons you may want to apply pressure to a candidate, instead of relaxing him.

One reason is to nudge candidates to be more truthful during the interview. Salespeople are built to please, so getting the truth sometimes takes a bit more digging.

Another reason you might apply pressure to a candidate is to see how he performs in uncomfortable situations. If your job opening is for a salesperson to start in a fresh territory, a little pressure may be warranted.

Some cheap installations can increase tension and allow interviewers to judge candidates under pressure.

By placing mirrors behind candidates, you can see the backs of their heads. This provides no logical benefit, but makes interviewees feel like they are being watched from all angles. There are a lot of little truths that get stretched, and candidates with eyes on them from behind tend to embellish less.

Some common examples of embellishment include:

  • “I worked from 2011-2013 at X.” While technically true, the candidate is implying that he worked for three years at company X. The real time frame of December 2011 to February 2013 is a lot less impressive, and leaves open more gaps.
  • “I made $75,000 at my last job.” Some candidates count their benefits, including the estimate medical costs. This is misleading, and a tactic to leverage a higher starting salary.
  • “I had $1.5 million in sales at my last job.” How much of it was from cold calling and hard work, and what percentage was from loyalty accounts leftover from a previous employee?

Second, play with space. Fill up the room, or pick a small interview room. By stuffing it full of podiums, TV carts and projectors or even plastic foliage, you will make candidates feel pressured. You do not want to look messy to the point where the company’s image is tarnished, but enough to incite mild claustrophobia.

An opposite tactic is to interview in your largest conference room. A wide open space filled with empty chairs is a power move. Candidates will feel the pressure of those interviewing them and that of the company itself. If you really want to lay on the heat, bring several co-workers to the interview and give everyone a couple of questions to ask.

Regardless of your environment, do not smile until the end of the interview. This sounds like a small tactic, but it can be a power tool in applying pressure to the interviewee.


Optimal Design Practices

Office best practices establish an environment of trust, leading a candidate to try harder to get the job. If the candidate likes your company and has successfully passed a phone interview and sales assessment test, you will experience greater synergy during your in-person interview.

Consider these broader office design tactics to improve your workplace overall:

  • Use Urban Zoning. Just like neighborhoods, your office space should be properly “zoned”. If someone wants to step away for a cup of coffee or a lunch break, they should not be eating right next to the cubicles.
  • Incorporate Personal Styles. By letting people design their workspaces to their liking, you foster creativity and personal pride. Set professional restrictions, but let your employees show their personality through their workspace. Top performing salespeople often have the opportunity to pick where they work because multiple companies are seeking them, so be sure your company culture is on display.
  • Facilitate Background Noise. How loud do you talk in a diner? Do you talk more quietly when you are the only people in the restaurant or when it is full? An office is the same way. A buzzing office facilitates discussion. Never encourage counterproductive small talk, but a vibrant office will appear more attractive.


Consider the overall image you want your office and interview space to project, then implement strategic design tactics to make sure you are projecting that image and hiring the best sales candidates.


Your Turn: Tell us about your interview room. Do you think the colors, design or location play a role in how your interviews are conducted?