Reduce Bad Sales Hires With Better Interview Techniques

It’s easy to make bad sales hires – we’ve all done it. However, with a few tweaks to your interviewing techniques you’ll improve the probability of hiring winners! s

Building a strong sales team from day one is what will bring your company the success you seek.

After all, how can you expect to sell your company’s product or service if you have bad salespeople representing you?

Chances are, as a sales manager, you have had some hits and misses with hiring for your sales team. You probably have a few members of your team that have been with you for years, are solid and reliable and would be sorely missed if they ever quit.

And, you probably have a few members of your team on the other end of the spectrum – have not been with you for very long, are questionable and unreliable, and you sometimes feel as if you would be better off without them.

Replacing Your Bad Sales Hires

Now, you are at a point where you have the opportunity to replace some of those bad sales hires with good ones that will strengthen your sales team. You are ready to hire some new salespeople, and are feeling optimistic about the opportunities that lie in front of you.

But let us not skip over the obvious: Interviewing potential salespeople is certainly a challenge, and picking a successful interviewee to join your team is even harder.

So how can you make sure that your interviews are a success, and that you hire only those salespeople that will contribute positively to the success of your sales team?

By ensuring that you do not make these five interviewing mistakes that lead to bad hires.

Five Sales Interviewing Mistakes

You have weeded through the pool of applicants and landed on a handful of seemingly promising candidates. And, you are feeling quite excited about where these potential salespeople could take your company.

But, first comes the interview.

Interviews are not only a challenge for the person looking for a job; they are also difficult for the sales manager doing the hiring.

However, by being aware of some of the most common mistakes people in your shoes make, you can avoid finding out that you made a bad sales hire down the line.

The Job Requirements/Responsibilities Are Unclear

Given you are fully immersed in your company, you use jargon on a daily basis that makes sense to you and, for the most part, makes sense to the people around you.

Somebody from the outside, even if they have sales experience, may not be as familiar with all the terminology your specific company uses.

Be sure to take this into consideration when writing the job requirements. You want the potential salesperson to understand very clearly what the expectations of this position are, and what you will be requiring them to do.

What is the best way to do this?

Get other people involved. Find someone in your company who does not work in sales but has a general idea of what your team does, and ask him to review the job requirements.

Does he understand what you are asking of a potential hire?

If so, great. If not, then you need to rework your job requirements to make them clearer.

According to Recruiting.com, you should highlight on the job description the top five essential job duties using bullet points to make it clear to the applicant.

Asking Your Candidate a Hypothetical Situation Question

This is one of the most expected questions at any job interview, but particularly in the world of sales.

If you were in X situation, how would you handle it?

Do not bring up an expected question like that in the interview.


For the exact reason mentioned above: Your candidate will be expecting it. In other words, he will have rehearsed answers to that question, and will have perfected not necessarily what the honest answer is, but rather what he knows you want to hear.

Instead, ask how he has reacted to a similar situation in a previous job. That will give you a good indicator of how the potential hire will handle situations with your company.

Not Treating the Interview Like a Conversation

Although you have the upper hand in the situation as the sales manager, the candidate is also looking to learn about you.

He too wants to know whether he would be a good fit for your company.

Thus, rather than putting the heat on and making the candidate feel as if he is being interrogated, make the interview a time for conversation.

Pay attention to how the interviewee responds to questions, and ask him to elaborate on things so that you get a better picture of who he is.

Also, give him ample time to respond to you, and ask you questions as well.

The interview does somewhat go both ways.

In fact, here are some great alternatives to typical questions that offer ways for you to make the interview more like a conversation:

  1. “I would love to hear about what you would like to do here.”
  2. “We have a project right now that we need to speed up by a month. How would you tackle this?”
  3. “Tell me about a time you approached a challenge at work and how you solved it successfully.”
  4. “If you get this job, what would you need from the company, your manager and your immediate team to be successful?”
  5. “What are you enjoying in your life right now?”

Failing to Determine Whether Your Candidate Has Drive

The key to a successful salesperson is whether they inherently have a personality trait that cannot be learned – Drive.

Drive is what will lead your salesperson, and thus, your sales team to success.

How do you determine whether the interviewee has Drive?

By asking questions that cover the three areas of Drive below:

  • Need for Achievement
  • Competitiveness
  • Optimism

Candidates with low sales drive are often bad hires.

Questions to assess sales drive may include:

  • “What kinds of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?”
  • “When was the last time you got into a competition?”
  • “Think back to the last time you lost a sale. What did you do to recover?”

Failing to Listen

Make sure that you spend more time listening than talking during the interview.

Ask the questions, respond to the interviewee’s questions and spend the rest of the time listening.

You want to leave the interview feeling that you have a good idea of who this person is, rather than feeling as if you talked so much that you are not really sure of anything about him, beyond what you see on his resume.

Making this type of mistake could lead you to missing out on a stellar candidate, and hiring the wrong one instead, which will land you right at the start of the hiring process all over again.

Final Thoughts

It is no secret – interviewing potential salespeople for your company is no easy feat. You have limited time and limited resources to determine whether this person is the right fit.

According to Yesware.com, And for mid-level sales employees, that number jumps up to where his leaving the company costs you 1.5 times his annual salary.

Obviously, this is an issue you want to stay away from, which is why the interview, as a part of the entire hiring process, is so crucial.

By focusing your attention on avoiding these five major interview mistakes, you reduce bad sales hires and set yourself up for a successful interview, and hopefully a successful new employee.

Tired of making bad sales hires? Ready to conduct better sales interviews? Check out our FREE Sales Manager’s Ultimate Interview Guide

About the author

Christopher Croner, Ph.D.

Dr. Christopher Croner received his BA in Psychology from DePaul University, and his Masters…

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