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When interviewing multiple candidates for a sales rep role, it can oftentimes be overwhelming trying to decipher who will be the best fit.

Hiring managers are wise to pay acute attention to how potential employees conduct themselves during the interview process in order to make the most informed decision possible. The vast majority of hiring fails to pick up on red flags that should have been heeded during the interview process.  

We have to assume that during the interview process, candidates will be on their absolute best behavior. But if any of the following red flags show up during their very best behavior, one can only assume that it will get much, much worse as time progresses. Here are a few clear-cut red flags that managers should look out for during the sales interview process.

Red Flag #1: Problems with Punctuality

Did the interviewee show up on time? Did they comply with time limits set for them? Problems with punctuality typically accompany other issues such as deadlines. Being on time for tests and interviews shows reliability; a punctual employee is a more productive employee, and one you know will show up on time and be ready for a customer meeting.

On the other hand, emergencies happen. If a prospective employee is not on time, it does not necessarily imply that they will continue to be late in the future. The key when assessing punctuality is to look for chronic problems. The inability to be on time is indicative of a slew of negative traits, none of which bode well for the future.  

Red Flag #2: Issues with Grammar

Good grammar is absolutely essential for good communication.

And of course, it’s incredibly important for communication with customers. Clean, well-written emails and proposals are a reflection of the rep as a professional and the organization itself. Who wants to do business with someone who sends a document riddled with typos? With something as simple as spell-check, it is inexcusable to have spelling errors in written correspondence. Be sure to take note of a candidate’s email style to identify any grammar issues.

Red Flag #3: Major Resume Fabrications

There’s incredible value in hiring an honest candidate. There are some misrepresentations you can let go, such as a discrepancy in the time reported at a previous place of employment or inflating a level of competence, which can be subjective to begin with.

You need to keep an eye out for the major lies, such as a fake degree. With today’s technology, backgrounds can be checked literally within seconds, if not minutes. Don’t skip a background check.

Red Flag #4: Misuse of Social Media

Is it really fair to judge a candidate based on the weekend vacation pictures they posted on Facebook? It depends. After all, people are allowed to keep their personal and professional lives separate, and some say that one should not be a factor in the other.

However, when it comes to issues such as the use of racist or sexist language, evidence of illegal or unethical activity, and so on, social media very often affects someone’s career.

The fact is, when an employee posts something objectionable on social media, it puts the company in a very difficult situation. Oftentimes the post is simply not defensible, and the company feels it has no option but to terminate the individual. When a company’s stated core values are in conflict with what an employee is saying on social media, the company has every right to disengage. Taking a look at a candidate’s social media accounts before you extend a job offer may alert you to this red flag. If you can see it, so can your customers.

Red Flag #5: Zero or Subpar References

The value of conducting reference checks on potential candidates cannot be overemphasized. Even recent college graduates should be able to provide contact info for a handful of people who will attest to their work ethic, trustworthiness, stability, drive, and so on.

Ask for references from a candidate’s previous job, then from a client or a peer (not a friend or family member). The ideal references are people who have a professional take on the candidate.

We all know that when providing references, a candidate will typically provide the names of people who will give a glowing reference. But if a candidate is not able to provide three-to-five references who will speak glowingly about their abilities, they should not be considered a viable candidate.

Look at More Than Red Flags

Finally, remember that interviewing and assessing a candidate’s skills is both subjective as well as objective.

You will be evaluating a potential candidate’s hard skills, in terms of years of experience in specific roles and competency levels. You are also vetting their soft skills, which will help you determine how they will blend in with your unique company culture as well as identify their prime motivators.

When choosing your next hire, factor in their experience and personality, as well as test results from any of the amazing personality assessment tools that are available these days. Evaluating all of these factors, and then weeding out candidates who have any of the red flags listed above, should help clarify who you should hire out of your current candidate pool.

Even recent college graduates should be able to provide contact info for a handful of people who will attest to their work ethic, trustworthiness, stability, drive, and so on.”

Ann Zaslow-Rethaber | President, International Search Consultants

Learn More

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Why It’s Now or Never for Social Selling with LinkedIn’s Mike Derezin Interviewed by Laura Fagan,
Product Marketer, Sales Cloud, Salesforce
Making the Tricky Transition from Sales Peer to Sales Manager By Keith Rosen,
Author of "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"



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