Recruiting Sales Talent: Are You Asking the Right Interview Questions?


To land top sales talent, you need to hire for drive. It’s an innate quality and a deeply embedded personality trait that not everyone has – but it’s essential to sales performance success. And it can be identified by looking into a job candidate’s past behavior. There, you will be able to determine whether or not an individual meets your criteria to “trade up” in terms of the quality of your sales force.

Ask the right questions and your interview process will net dynamic, profitable results.

“Based on your experience, what would your process be for selling our product/service?”


The Right Questions

Don’t assume that a candidate’s previous sales job was similar to yours. With this and ensuing interview questions, take an open-ended approach to glean measurable details of an individual’s past experience.

  • Actively listen. Ask for specific numbers and percentages, and lead into a conversation that includes follow-up questions to nail down these key facts. This way, you’ll learn whether a candidate was an order taker, a new sales hunter, or somewhere in between.

“If I put you in a room with only a phone and a sales goal, what would you do – step by step?”

When hiring for drive, look for these qualities in a candidate: competitiveness, optimism and a natural need for achievement. Their behavior when it comes to initiating, completing and closing a sale within cycle parameters can be defined through this and similar behavioral questions.

  • Twenty percent of all salespeople make 80 percent of all sales. Sales leaders maintain their competitive edge by taking 100 percent responsibility for results.
  • Look for these elements in your candidate’s response: ambition, will power, determination, goal orientation, and the ability to approach prospective customers with ease, confidence and polish.

“Give me an example of a challenging achievement in your past that would contribute to your success in this role.”

Your interview questions should give candidates a chance to shine, as well as see how they perform and achieve results under pressure.

  • Highly driven people don’t rest until they reach their goal. They maintain optimism despite the inevitable rejections inherent to the business of sales.

“Tell me about the first-year new sales revenue that you generated in your last position.”

You want to know what a candidate can produce, not just what they can maintain or grow in terms of selling potential.

  • Never hire someone expecting them to sell deals larger than the biggest ones they’ve sold in the past. Too many interviews focus on total dollars and not key new sales revenue breakdowns.

“Give me an example of you closing a sale quickly. Now, give me an example of a long sales cycle and your persistence in seeing the process through.”

Have a candidate walk you through processes they followed to a successful end result. You want a high producer who will assimilate quickly into your system. This won’t happen if you expect them to sell outside their previous experience.

  • When you hire for long cycles and a candidate is used to short ones, they will quickly become discouraged and unproductive because they’re used to faster wins and more of them. The opposite also is true.

By asking the right interview questions, you will be able to identify the best candidate for your sales position for the long- run.  But watch out, the average shelf-life is only a year and a half!  Once you land them... now what?


Have a sales team?  Need to develop & retain them? 

As the CEO of Fillmore Search Group I am now helping my clients develop, groom, train and RETAIN their people!  We can place people all day, but if our clients don't retain them, they will not hit their goals!

The Quaintance Consulting Group
Teams. Leaders. Missions. Amplified.

Need some help?  Call us for a complimentary consultation on which service could be right for you and your company to stay ahead of the war on talent.

The Quaintance Consulting Group is a boutique firm specializing in teams development, executive coaching, consulting and leadership training and performance.  Run by Aisha Quaintance, an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker and performance coach with expertise in recruiting, leadership, sales, performance and retention.

Whether you have a group of professionals attending a conference and need a speaker or a team of employees that want to up their game, you’ve come to the right place.  Aisha's style has been known to be not only motivating but she prides herself of helping people implement effective tools and take away practical solutions to solve today's business challenges. 

See how we can help you today

blogAisha Quaintance