Four (4) interview questions to avoid when hiring a salesperson

You want to test the sales potential of your future recruit. In order to be clear on the reality of your candidate and his real personality, I strongly advise you to avoid the classic interview questions. One of the basic skills of a salesperson is to overcome objections and sell you an idea. So, what could be easier for him than to answer questions that are known to everyone and for which he has already practiced the slightest subtlety of the answer. Here are 4 questions to avoid at all costs when interviewing a salesperson.

1st Interview questions to avoid: Why should we hire you?

First of all, he will probably tell you, “Why not? Isn’t he competent? Professional? There is nothing easier than to get around a why question. Its only formulation is to justify oneself.  If you do not direct the interviewer to the person you are interviewing, it will be the recruiter who will end up answering the question.  After all, isn’t the real question, is there a single good reason not to hire him? If he has a dream resume and solid references, why would you hesitate? And you’ll move on to the next question without even realizing it with that subtle feeling of guilt because, indeed, why are you hesitating?

2nd Interview questions to avoid: Why did you leave your previous position?

One of the main reasons a salesperson may decide to break an established routine is the lure of money. The hardest part of this job is the first 2 years. Once the clientele is established and the hardest part is over, the commissions enter more regularly in the salesperson’s portfolio, so why change?  Territory restrictions, bid caps, expense account withdrawals are all good answers to consider, but rarely will your sales rep tell you this outright. If he or she talks about going for more, make that more clear. This would be a good time to talk about salary, otherwise, they may have things to hide such as unsatisfactory sales results, authority conflicts with their employer or the elimination of their position. If he is thinking of leaving his job for more he knows exactly how much or what he is looking for, if not, dig deeper.

3rd Interview questions to avoid: Tell me about yourself?

Look at your job posting more closely, it’s keyword time. An experienced salesperson knows the importance of words. If he is desperate to get the job, it will not be surprising to see familiar keywords. You’re looking for someone who is intuitive, which is just what they say they are: instinctive. You are looking for someone motivated by challenges, he has been racing competitively for years. The interview is a flirtation, you will not end up selling the candidate to yourself. What is the point of this question other than to make you say what you want to hear? If you want to know your candidate better, avoid this question and use contextual information that will show you things rather than embellish them with words.

4th Interview questions to avoid: Are you willing to put the company’s interests ahead of your own?

Again, yes, but sorry to say, the real boss of a salesperson is the customer. If he has interests to put before his customer’s, it will be his employer’s. Of course he will be loyal to you, but when in doubt, it is rare that a salesperson will go to his customer. Because it is the client who pays his commission, it is the client who indirectly pays him. What’s more, if he changes jobs, it will be the customer he can call back to sell him something else in another field. So don’t force him to lie. You know it’s the customer before you.

In summary, salespeople have the basic skill of responding well to an objection; of finding the angle in which he will make you see things to his advantage. This is a strength, not a flaw. However, if you want to save time, be pragmatic, focus on facts; actions and avoid questions that focus on impressions and emotions. This will save you time in the interview process and may even help you identify your best talent.


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