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Top Questions for Sales Candidates

top questions for sales candidatesRecently, we’ve been hiring for a sales executive role in our San Francisco office. I’ve worked with a ton of salespeople (on both sides of the table), but I’ve never actually recruited one. I know I’m not the only person in this situation.

If you’re interviewing for sales (but you’re not a salesperson yourself), you can find yourself wondering what you’re looking for, just like I did. Will their skills be transferrable? Do I care whether they’ve done B2B or B2C? Do I need to like them? I don’t like salespeople normally. Do I have to hire someone kind-of slimy?

It turns out that I was being overly neurotic, and that salespeople don’t have to be scary. Our recruiters gave us a hand putting together their “killer” questions for sales candidates, and we put them together for you:

Trina BoylanTrina Boylan

  • Please tell me about a difficult customer you have had to deal with. Please explain how you managed to build a relationship with this person.
  • Please tell me about a challenging sales situation you have faced. What was your objective and how did you go about achieving that?

Heather TraegerHeather Traeger

  • What are three qualities of a leader that would make you admire and want to follow them?
  • Which one of those are you weakest in and how would you mitigate that if we hired you for this role?

Vic BurakVic Burak

  • What do you consider your unique point of difference as a sales person?
  • How would you describe your selling style?
  • What truly motivates you to excel as a sales person?

Melissa RichardsonMelissa Richardson

  • What was your most recent sales quota?
  • Did you meet or exceed?
  • If exceeded, by how much?

Lesley MacKenzieLesley MacKenzie

  • Are you comfortable making cold calls?
  • Have you consistently met your sales goals?
  • Do you prefer a long or short sales cycle?
  • How did you land your most successful sale?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • How would your (former) supervisor describe you?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you find most rewarding about being in sales?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • What do you least like about being in sales?
  • What interests you most about this sales position?
  • What is more important, a quality product or excellent customer service?
  • What makes you a good sales person?
  • What motivates you?

What did we miss? Do you have any “must-ask” questions for sales candidates?

Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley.

Jenn Steele

Head of Growth at RecruitLoop. Previously at Amazon & HubSpot. Passionate about growing humans and companies, working out, and wine. Also blogs on leadership at Follow her @jennsteele.

  • rossclennett

    I’m sorry, Jenn but some of these questions are terrible as they fail the fundamental criteria of ANY effective interview question. Effective interview questions are ones that request a candidate to provide evidence of a job-related competency. Questions such as ‘how would you describe your selling style’, ‘how would your colleagues describe you’ and ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ are all questions asking for opinions, unsupported by evidence. These are questions I hope would have been confined to the interviewing techniques of last century and questions that no interviewer with any level of interview training should ask.

    I have written a blog about this very topic that provides examples of the way questions such as these should be asked to provide a valid and reliable answer >

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