One of the key factors in creating a winning sales team is undoubtedly the individuals you hire. Preparing the right strategy and going into your interview with the right mindset will ensure that you, as a leader, are hiring the most skillful and qualified candidates.
I’ve had the opportunity over the last five years to interview thousands of candidates at various levels of tenure and skill sets. I came to realize that the more I prepare before the interview, the better the experience is for both myself and the interviewee. I am able to dig deep into topics with thoughtful questions. And preparing before the interview mitigates the risk of those uncomfortably bad interviews that lack content or chemistry.
Here are seven steps that show how to conduct a sales interview that is a positive experience and will help identify if a candidate is going to be your next superstar.
Review your recruiters’ notes on their initial conversation with the candidate. Often there are important points you’ll want to follow up on that were discussed with recruiters on the first call.
Check out a candidate’s LinkedIn profile. Do you have anything in common that could help build rapport and make the interaction more conversational?
Review a candidate’s resume before going into the meeting. Take note of trends you see such as significant gaps between jobs and/or education, industry changes, metrics, and any numbers that stand out. Don’t wait until the interview to read the candidate’s resume for the first time. You don’t want to miss out on something important because you are skimming the resume and not paying attention to the conversation.
When you arrive, start the conversation with something non-work-related. I like this (especially for sales roles) because it gives me a sense of how conversational a candidate is — which is an important selling skill. Being comfortable in high-stress situations is a good sign when considering a candidate. And, conversing a bit about topics outside of work will help in calming nerves a bit which will increase the overall quality of the interview.
Have three or four planned questions. These could be situational questions to get an understanding of how candidates would think if they were to accept the position, and these questions will give a better sense of their business acumen.
Take notes in a notepad. Open laptops are extremely distracting for both parties. By taking notes with pen and paper you eliminate distractions from chat and email, and the experience is a lot more welcoming for the interviewee.
Set the agenda with the candidate at the beginning of the meeting. An hour can feel like a long time to a nervous candidate, and not knowing how that time will be spent can cause anxiety and nervousness. Start with introductions, move on to a candidate’s resume, then onto specific in-role or situational questions. At the end, be sure to leave 10 to 15 minutes for candidates to ask questions they might have prepared for you.
“Preparing the right strategy and going into your interview with the right mindset will ensure that you, as a leader, are hiring the most skillful and qualified candidates.”