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Interviewing Salespeople? Avoid Making These 7 Common Mistakes

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As a sales manager, you likely already know that bad hiring decisions can negatively affect your team’s morale and your career.

But did you know that those decisions can also be incredibly costly?

It is true. One CareerBuilder survey of various companies showed that 41% reported losing at least $25,000 due to a bad hiring decision. The same survey showed that 25% of companies reported losing over $50,000.

That is a lot of money to throw away, especially when there are simple steps you can take to prevent costly hiring decisions.

So if you have dealt with many bad hires, it may be time to revisit your interview process and change the sales interview questions you ask your candidates.

You might find it difficult to determine a candidate’s potential for sales success with all of the conflicting information online about how a sales interview should be conducted. However, you should avoid making certain mistakes without question, and we have outlined seven of these mistakes below.

7 Mistakes to Avoid During the Sales Interview Process

1. Not screening over the phone

Many candidates sell over the phone once they have been hired, so it makes sense that you should examine how they communicate over the phone during the interview process.

If you are not sure how to analyze them or which sales interview questions you should ask while on the phone with them, check out this blog post.

2. Failing to plan ahead

If you do not properly prepare for the interview, you will likely end up “winging it” and failing to ask the candidate questions that determine her potential in the sales department. You may even end up talking for most of the interview instead of allowing the candidate to express why she is a good fit for the position.

Avoid this by reviewing the candidate’s qualifications ahead of time and planning what questions you will ask her before she arrives. That way, you are fully prepared to assess her capability of becoming a successful member of your sales team.

3. Centering the sales interview questions around the resume

Sales Manager Reviewing Resume

When you spend most of the interview asking cliché questions about the candidate’s resume, you are wasting valuable time.

To determine whether or not a candidate is a good fit, you need to know what she will offer your business in the future – not just what her previous jobs were and why she left those positions.

Your sales interview questions should provide you with relevant information about the candidate, like whether or not she is a Driven salesperson with the potential to succeed. For example, you can ask the candidate to sell you something during the interview to learn how she communicates with customers and what kind of approach she takes to selling.

You can also ask the candidate to tell you about a time she had to read between the lines to determine a customer’s needs – this will help you determine whether or not she is a good listener.

To learn 10 more important questions to ask when interviewing a salesperson, check out this post on revealing sales interview questions.

4. Failing to get a second opinion

When interviewing, it is all too easy to give personal preference to a candidate whose personality you like. However, how well her personality meshes with yours is not indicative of how successful she will be in your sales department.

That is why you should get a second opinion on a candidate whenever possible. Do this by inviting a co-worker with different personality traits and values than yours into the interview process. That way, you can form a balanced opinion on the candidate that is not based on personal bias.

5. Overselling the company/position

When you are in dire need of a competent salesperson, you might find yourself tempted to exaggerate about the appeal of your company and the sales position. However, you should avoid doing so.


Because, even if the candidate does take the job, she will end up realizing that you were not being entirely honest during the interview.

This can result in resentment and it is likely that she will leave the position at some point due to dissatisfaction.

The last thing you want in your sales department is a high turnover rate, as it can cost your business a lot of money. So, be upfront about what the position will require and what it is like to work at your company. That way, the salesperson knows exactly what she is signing up for.

6. Failing to look for flaws


It is easy to look at a history of good results on a candidate’s resume and assume that she is going to be a perfect addition to your team. However, it is important for you to also dig deeper and seek out the candidate’s flaws. That way, you avoid any surprises about her personality and/or results later on.

Do not just do this by asking the candidate what her biggest weakness is – this tired interview question will likely result in a rehearsed answer that offers little insight into her true weaknesses.

Instead, ask more strategic questions that push the candidate out of her comfort zone, like:

  • When was the last time you were angry? How did you handle the situation?
  • Can you tell me about a situation you should have handled differently at your last position?
  • What part of this job do you think you will find most challenging?

As you can see, these questions require a bit more thought from the candidate and they will help you gain a deeper understanding of her personality.

7. Failing to use a sales personality test

A candidate’s personality during an interview can be deceiving because she has come to the interview prepared to impress you.

She might seem like a Driven salesperson, who will do anything to succeed in those moments, but you should realize that Drive can be faked in the interview and the candidate might simply be trying to sell you on her competency.

That is why it is important for you to avoid relying solely on your own perception of the candidate when making a hiring decision. Instead, use a sales personality test to effectively determine a candidate’s potential for sales success.

In Conclusion

When interviewing salespeople, remember that you should not settle for someone who does not meet your standards.

Yes, doing so might help you fill the position more quickly, but you will suffer the consequences of your decision in the future.

Search until you find the Driven candidate that is right for your position and company culture and avoid making the mistakes we have outlined here during the interview process. That way, you can avoid costly turnover and enjoy better results from your sales team.

Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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