know how to interview. I’ve been doing it for years.” I hear this from
practically every manager or HR executive I’ve ever had the privilege of
coaching or training. And today, when speaking to one of my favorite clients, a
VP of HR, this statement was echoed once again.
not like these managers or those responsible for making a hiring decision are
doing it all wrong. Many are quite good at interviewing people, finding the
right candidates and screening out the ones that just don’t fit. I’ve just
observed over the years some key areas that many people are missing the mark on
when conducting an interview and determining who the best candidate for the
position truly is.
when it comes to topgrading and rebuilding your sales team, getting the right
candidate in the right position in the most expedient way possible is more
critical than ever. The cost of not doing so can be severe. And this cost is
compounded when companies onboard the wrong person. Just pick up any newspaper
and read about another company closing their doors or missing their sales goals
to exemplify how much of a priority this is today for any organization.
listed some very key questions in order to reduce mis-hires and bring on the
right people. If asked and asked correctly, these questions will reduce
mis-hires by about 80% or more. Yes, that’s how powerful these questions can
be. I would strongly suggest weaving these questions into your interviewing
process. And keep in mind, most of these questions will apply to any position.
Notice that I’ve also broken down these questions by category, as well as some
additional categories that you can use to build out further interviewing
you may already be using some of these questions during an interview. However,
it’s the collective use of all the questions that are going to have the deeper,
more positive impact when choosing the right hire.
beyond simply the questions that you could ask, what other things are you doing
to ensure you make the best hiring decision? Keep in mind, the interviewing
process is multi-dimensional. To build off this, lets look at how you manage or
facilitate a simulation or a role play. Many interviewers ask questions like,
“How would you handle this if you were in this situation” or “Tell
me what steps you would take before calling on a key account” or even
“Walk me through a strategy you would use to build your pipeline.”
are all great questions, they are still falling short of one critical element.
That is, the language this candidate would be using to facilitate the type of
conversation described in these simulations. To go deeper in determining this
person’s acumen or ability, it’s critical you’re able to evaluate how they
communicate, as well as their overall communication strategy that would be
embedded in each of these situations I’ve described in the prior questions.
successful salespeople realize that sales, just like leadership and coaching,
is truly a language and a way of communicating. Therefore, it’s imperative you
uncover not only how they think strategically and the processes they may use
but how effective this person could be when you send them out to connect with
your new and existing customers. Anyone can talk a good game regarding
processes and approach from the hundred foot viewpoint. But how they deliver
the message in a variety of different situations is something that can’t be
faked during an interview.
questions and the simulation exercise are used correctly, you’ll find that the
need to topgrade your sales team will diminish because you’ve fixed the
breakdown in your overall hiring and retention strategy; the broken component
that exists in your system and where it all starts, your interviewing process.
1. What were your responsibilities in your
2. We all make mistakes. What would you
say were a couple of the mistakes or failures you experienced in your last job?
3. If you could go back in time and fix
that, what would you do differently?
4. What would you prior supervisor say if
asked what your strengths and weaknesses were?
5. What were some of the biggest
challenges you faced and were able to overcome?
6. What were your successes? What are you
most proud of? How did you achieve that?
7. What circumstances contributed to your
8. What was your supervisors name and
title? Where is that person now?
9. Would your boss hire you back? Why?
10. What were his or her strengths and weaker
points from your perspective?
11. Would you be willing to arrange for us to
talk with him or her?
1. What criteria are most important to you
in your next job?
2. Describe your ideal position?
3. How close does this opportunity fit
your ideal position?
1. How to you better your best?
2. How do you raise the bar on yourself
and others around you?
3. How do you develop yourself and your
4. How important is it to you to be the
best at what you do?
5. How do you assure that happens?
6. How do/did you keep your edge in such a
1. What does personal accountability mean
2. What areas in your life/career are you
most accountable? Least?
3. Give me an example of how becoming more
accountable has contributed to your success?
4. Where do you feel you need to become
more accountable (in an area in your life or career)?
Making and Problem Solving:
1. How do you solve problems?
2. How do you go about making decisions?
3. Give me one problem or challenge you
had and walk me through how you solved it using that model.
4. How do you go about making a career
decision? What factors do you measure? Your approach?
5. What were a couple of the most
difficult or challenging decisions you’ve made recently?
6. What are a couple of the best and worst
decisions you’ve made over the last year or so?
and Solution Development:
1. How creative are you?
2. How important is creativity in relation
to your overall selling approach and strategy?
3. Can you provide an example how you were
creative in your last position that led to solving a problem or closing a sale?
1. What are some of the values you have that
you refuse to compromise?
2. Describe a situation where you were
pressured or challenged to compromise your integrity and what you felt was best
and right? How did you handle it?
Discipline, Time Management and Organization:
1. How do you go about organizing your
schedule and your day?
2. Do you live by a set of best practices?
How? What are they? (in selling, organization, etc.)
3. When was the last time you missed a
significant deadline? What happened?
4. Everyone procrastinates at one point or
another. Can you share the kind of things that you have a tendency to
5. How much guidance and supervision do
you feel you need?
1. What stresses you out?
2. What do you when that happens?
3. How do you eliminate it? How do you
and Self Awareness:
1. What were the most difficult criticisms
for you to hear and accept?
1. What actions would you feel you would
need to take during the first few weeks here in your new position if you were
to join our organization?
2. What obstacles did you face during your
present/last position and how did you handle those?
3. What would you be mindful of needing to
do and the resources and training you would need to secure your success here?
Sales Oriented Questions to Recruit at a Deeper Level:
find these questions and more on my prior blog post here:
1. What was
the average size of each sale? (Dollar amount, cost of goods/services sold.)
type of appointments were you scheduling when prospecting or cold calling? What
was the goal here?
the appointments on site/face to face with each prospect or via the phone?
actually closing a sale, did you actually sell over the phone or did you have
to meet each prospect in person?
5. Did you
sell a product, a service or both? (Describe how you sold each product and why
there was a different approach.)
6. Did you
handle the entire sales process from start to finish, including the
deliverable? (Was there an account executive who you worked with, was it a team
oriented approach to selling, were you only responsible for certain aspects of
to me the products or services you’ve sold? (Complicated or simple?)
8. Did you
sell something that had an online component? Was it strictly a service? (Where
they selling the tangible or the intangible?)
9. Was your
product/service a “nice to have,” a “want to have” (luxury, added benefit) or a
have?” (Was it a necessity, i.e. gasoline, telecom, office supplies, utilities,
mobile phones, insurance, etc.)
10. What do
you consider ‘prospecting’ and ‘cold calling’ to be? How do you feel about
having to engage in this activity? (We’re looking to uncover how they think and
feel about prospecting; their perception of it.)
type of prospecting and cold calling did you do? How much cold calling did you
do each day/week? (Number of calls made.) How many calls did you have to make
to (get an appointment, close a sale, uncover a new prospect, etc.)?
share with me what your typical approach would be when cold calling. (Describe
not only your process but exactly what you said when you were making a cold
13. Who was
your target audience/prospect? (B2b, b2c, C level executives, business owners,
sole practitioners, were you dealing with only one decision maker or did you
have to coordinate with several decision makers, influencers, committees, board
were you calling on them? (Time, day, frequency of calls, etc.)
was the average size of the company you called on?
markets did you focus on? (Type of company, industry, vertical, etc.)
17. How did
you get your leads/uncover your prospects? Where the cold calls you made
totally cold or were you getting them from another source and then following up
with them? (These would be warmer leads from trade shows, web inquiries,
referrals, call-ins, direct mail and marketing efforts, etc.)
were the concerns or objections that you typically encountered with your
prospects? (What stalled your sales efforts?)
long was your average sales cycle? (From the time you connected with a qualified
prospect up until the time when you converted that prospect into a client.)
you selling based on a bidding process, RFP’s, etc.?
and Role Plays:
1. If you
had to make a call to a prospect who you have never spoken to, what would be
the steps you would take before making that call?
would that cold call sound like?
3. If you
were following up with a customer to explore and uncover additional selling
opportunities, what would your approach sound like?
4. Lets say
you just delivered the final product/service to your new customer. They called
you the next day with a major problem. They were frustrated and irate. Lets say
I’m the customer in this situation. How would you facilitate that conversation?
What would that dialogue sound like?
a prospect you’ve been calling on for months. They’re finally ready to make a
decision to buy and you just found out that there are two more venders now
involved in this bid for their business. What would be your strategy to
position yourself as the vender of choice? (What would you say, questions
6. How many
times do you call on a prospect before putting them on your do not call list?
How do you determine that? What would your approach be? Why?
about to visit a new potential client for the first time. What preliminary work
would you do? How would you craft your presentation and set the expectations of
the meeting? (What would your presentation sound like?)
been handed a client list of approximately 100 accounts to call on. You’ve
noticed after several months, their monthly spending with you has slowly
diminished. How would you handle this? What would you say?
Topics That Require Further Questioning:
• Team player
• Conflict management
• Motivation and passion
• Tenacity, commitment, perseverance