July 18, 2013

Sales managers looking for “hunter” salespeople, particularly among candidates who are inexperienced in sales or fresh out of school, often wonder how to determine whether their candidate will be comfortable with cold calling.  Most new account acquisition roles require this kind of outreach, either over the phone or in person.  However, not everyone is comfortable asserting themselves in this way.  So when hiring managers need someone who can hit the ground running, in addition to using a sales test, they need to ask their candidates a key question . . . 

“Tell me about the last time you were rejected.”

This question is helpful, particularly with candidates who have limited sales experience, but is applicable to candidates at all experience levels.  Of course when salespeople fear cold calling, it is typically rejection that they fear the most.  Everyone has experience with rejection, whether it’s not getting a job they wanted or having a key idea shot down.  Keep the discussion focused on the world of work.  Look for candidates who were able to put the situation in perspective and bounce back, either persisting until they overcame the rejection, if appropriate, or refocusing on another opportunity.

If your candidate describes the rejection as something from which they learned and bounced back quickly, that is a positive indicator . . . feel free to ask about another time so we can establish a consistent pattern of previous resilient behavior.  However, if your candidate had a tough time dealing with the situation, continue to probe to determine whether this is a pervasive pattern.  If so, we may want to think twice before moving the candidate into a role that may be frustrating for him/her . . . and his manager.

Dr. Christopher Croner and Richard Abraham are authors of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again and developers of the proprietary and patented sales test, The DriveTest™, for sales candidates. For more information, click here.