Have you recently hired a seemingly talented sales candidate, only to find out shortly after that he/she is incapable of meeting your expectations?

If so, you are not alone.

Many sales directors and managers face this problem at some point, and it can deal a huge blow to the business because of the cost of a bad hiring decision.

Too often, the interview is the best sale you will ever see out of your candidate.  He is on his best behavior, probing for your pain and promising you the world.  But beware; this does not tell you whether he will actually sell for you once hired.

So how can you avoid these one-time sale wonders and hire a true producer?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your interviewing process and prevent low-performing salespeople from sneaking into your organization and failing to deliver the results he promised in the job interview.

The first step is learning how sales candidates trick sales managers into thinking that he is a good fit for the job.  Once you know how these bad salespeople are sneaking through your hiring process and wasting your time and resources, you can begin to focus your time on better-qualified candidates that are far more likely to produce for your sales team.


How Sales Candidates Trick Sales Managers During Job Interviews

Using his personality to oversell himself

Think about it – even the worst salespeople know the basics when it comes to selling products and/or services.


So, it is easy to understand how he might use those same sales tactics to sell himself to you during the job interview.  He may even go so far as to mirror your body language and tone of voice to make you like and trust him more.

That is why you must always avoid being easily swayed by a charismatic sales candidate who builds rapport with you but does not have much else to offer your business.  Stay on topic when you are asking your interview questions, and avoid devoting too much time to small talk.  Also, make sure you probe for honest, in-depth answers to every question you ask.

Of course, you want someone who is personable and a good culture fit, but he should also possess the personality traits and skills required to produce excellent sales results for your business.

If you have a habit of hiring salespeople based on personality alone, bring a third party into the job interview – preferably someone who has different personality preferences than you do.  That way, the third party can provide balance and give you honest feedback about the candidate.


Exaggerating about previous results and job experience

It is all too easy for a sales candidate to come to your business and lie about the sales results he achieved in the past.  He may even lie about where he worked in the past and/or how much experience he has in your industry.

On the other hand, your candidate could have worked for a large company where he was able to close a large number of leads, but failed to mention that he was using a rolodex of pre-existing leads or relying on the company’s brand recognition rather than bringing in any new leads.

To combat this issue, verify any claims the salesperson makes about results he has produced in the past.  He may be able to provide you with sales reports or numbers that prove his claims are true.

You should also check his employment references, so make sure you require at least 2 references from every candidate you interview.  When calling, be sure to as the references detailed questions about the candidate’s behavior.  Past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior, so following up with his previous managers is a great way to get a feel for how he will really perform at your company.


Saying what you want to hear

Salespeople are often excellent communicators – that is what makes them capable of relating to customers so well.



However, this becomes a problem when a candidate you are interviewing responds to every question by telling you what you want to hear, regardless of whether or not it is the truth.

For example, imagine you ask a sales candidate whether he prefers working on a team or working alone.  He may respond by charismatically talking about how he can adjust to whatever work style is necessary to land the job.

While adaptability is a good quality to have, you should not allow a sales candidate to get out of answering your questions this way.  If he fails to give you a straight answer, keep probing until you receive one.  That way, you understand how he will really act on the job and whether or not he will be a good culture fit.

If he fails to give you straight answers even after additional probing, you should approach hiring him with caution.  After all, you cannot determine if a candidate will be a good culture fit when he refuses to tell you the truth about his work style and preferences.


Taking advantage of an unstructured interview process

One of the worst things you can do when hiring a salesperson is approach the interview process without a structured plan in place.  That is because a lack of structure gives a charismatic salesperson the chance to take control of the interview and position himself as a great fit for your business.

So, make sure you create a set interview process and use it every time you need to hire a new salesperson.  Here are some tips that will help you interview more effectively:

  • Ask the right questions. Avoid basic “yes or no” questions, and ask questions that allow the candidate to tell you a story about his past behavior instead.  That way, you can get an idea of what his future behavior will be like.
  • Have a consistent set of interview questions. Although you may feel like you have conducted so many interviews that you know your interview questions by heart, it is important to still write them down and conduct them in the same order every time.  Otherwise, you are allowing the candidate the chance to control the direction of the interview and will have a difficult time comparing interview results if your questions are in a different order each time or if you forget to ask certain questions because you were trying to “wing” the interview.
  • Pre-screen all candidates. Schedule a phone interview with your candidates and administer a sales assessment to those who pass the phone interview. A good sales assessment will tell you if your candidates have the personality traits needed to be successful in sales. Then only invite the candidates who have passed your phone interview and sales assessment in for an in-person interview. Doing so will allow you to avoid wasting time and money interviewing candidates who are not a good fit for your business or do not have the core personality needed to succeed in a sales role.
  • Involve other managers. As previously stated in this post, involving others in the interview process will help you eliminate personal bias and avoid hiring someone based on his personality alone.
  • Know what you want. Analyze the top performers on your sales team to see which personality traits and habits they possess, and look for those same traits and habits in new hires.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues. The last thing you want is a salesperson that is disengaged and disinterested in his work.  If his body language shows that he would rather be doing something else, that is a good sign you should not hire him.
  • Do not rush through the interview process. As a sales manager, you are busy and probably do not want to spend a lot of time interviewing new candidates.  However, a bad hire can be costly, so you need to take your time and make sure you pick the right candidate.
  • Take good notes. Not only will this help the candidate feel like you are tuned in to what he is saying – it will give you something helpful to reference after the interview is complete.
  • At the end of the interview, ask the candidate if he has any questions. If he has done his research and is truly interested in working for you, he should have at least one or two questions about your company or the job role.

Now, you should be well equipped to spot a salesperson who is trying to fool you during a job interview.

Use the tips here to properly analyze whether your candidate is a good fit for your company so you can avoid making poor hiring decisions that cost your company money.  It may take you some extra time and effort, but it will be worth it when you realize you have built a high-performing sales team due to your consistently good hiring decisions!


Click here to get a free trial of The DriveTest™ to objectively assess your sales candidates to ensure they have what it takes to truly produce for your company.