November 20, 2014

Sales InterviewHiring managers often look for sales candidates who are fresh out of school and/or inexperienced in sales. A key benefit in doing so is finding a new recruit who has not developed bad habits and can learn the company’s sales process fresh.

During the interview phase, it’s important to understand that the best predictor of future behavior is previous behavior. That’s why hiring managers use behavioral interview questions, which ask the candidate to provide several examples of his/her previous behavior in a variety of situations. But how do you use behavioral questions when you interview an inexperienced sales candidate?

For candidates who lack sales experience, the key is to focus on situations in any previous position or at school where she had to display the characteristics that make a salesperson successful.

For example, when interviewing for Persuasiveness, if you cannot ask about a previous sales career, you can use a question such as:

  • Question: “Tell me about a time when you had to get someone to change their point of view. How did you work to convince them?”
  • Listen for: the candidate to provide several examples of successfully persuading his classmates, teachers or colleagues. Also, note the candidate’s persuasive technique to help you diagnose potential developmental needs.

When interviewing for Need for Achievement (a critical element of Drive), you can ask:

  • Question: “What is the toughest goal you ever accomplished professionally?”  and follow it up with:
  • Question: “How do you plan to top it?”
  • Listen For: the candidate to describe achieving an impressive goal, with a specific plan to top it. (A high-Drive candidate loves this question.)

Finally, when interviewing for Relationship Skills, you can ask:

  • Question: “Tell me about a work relationship that was particularly challenging to develop.” 
  • Listen For: what was most challenging about this relationship and whether the candidate was successful in building it. More tips on using this question can be found here.

The point is to ask each question broadly enough to allow the candidate without sales experience to demonstrate whether she has the critical characteristics needed for success in sales.

When you have the time and resources to train candidates thoroughly, this interview approach will help make sure you are hiring high-potential talent, eager to succeed in training and hit the ground running thereafter.

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!