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How to Interview Sales Candidates

10.09.15   |   Sales Recruiting   |   Rachel Freedenberg, Consultant at Treeline, Incorporated

How to interview sales professionalsHiring top-tiered sales professionals is a full-time job, but the process does not have to be part of the challenge. One of the reasons many companies fail to hire is that they do not have a process in place.

The key to a successful hire is having a hiring process and effectively managing the interview process throughout its progression.  The market for new opportunities is as hot as it’s ever been, and the talented reps know it.  If you’re looking to lock down top talent for your organization, follow these guidelines to streamline the process and make a great hire.

{Download the free guide on How to Hire Salespeople}

The First Step: Priority

Identifying which role is the most crucial hire for the company is an important step in prioritizing hiring needs and getting the process set into motion.  If you’re looking to build out your sales organization where do you want to start? Hiring the representatives first or the manager/director both have their benefits, whatever the decision make sure it is aligned with the rest of the team that is going to be involved in the hiring process.

The Second Step: Players

Who needs to be involved?  Determine whose opinion is going to weigh in on the hire and gain their commitment to making recruiting a focus alongside their normal duties.  Whether it’s HR, Sales Management, Team Members, the Owner/CEO, or a combination of all of the above, make sure they are prepared to carve time out of their schedules to be engaged in the interview process.  Ask them for their input, what is important to them in the next hire, where do they see a need, get them to have some skin in the game especially if hiring is not part of their everyday focus.

{Download the free guide on How to Align HR and Sales Management in the Hiring Process}

The Third Step: Preparation

Whether you are actively recruiting for your own company, or reaching out to an outside firm to assist in the process, it’s important that you’ve established what you are looking for the in the next hire.  Just because a resume looks impressive, it does not necessarily mean that the person behind it will be a fit.   As a recruiter, it’s important for me to know about the office, the team, and what type of personality works best to ensure that we are bringing the right talent.  In addition, a good sales rep is going to want to know the metrics: what is going to be expected of them to hit quota, make their numbers, how is the team doing now, why is the role open, etc.  Having these laid out prior advertising and interviewing candidates will not only help the potential hire in understanding the role, but also save time and effort by not focusing on the wrong candidate profile.

The Forth Step: Process

Determine what is going to work best for your organization – are you going to start with a phone screen? An assessment? Face to face interview?  There is no right answer, it just depends on what characteristics are more important to your organization. Phone screens can be helpful in determining a candidates verbal communication skills, especially if it is a role where a significant amount of client interaction is going to be phone based.  In-person interviews help cut right to the chase and allow you to assess first hand someone’s attributes and abilities and how they interact and engage in the workplace.  The length of the process is something to take into consideration; one interview before a decision can leave a candidate feeling unready whereas too many steps can throw them off as well.  You want to make sure you are not wasting their time or yours by having an efficient process and the right players involved each step of the way. 

*Hiring Tip: Keep your interview process simple, and to the point. If your process is too long or too complicated you may be making a hiring mistake and will lose out on top sales talent. Remember top sales talent won’t be on the market forever. Hire before your competition does.

The Fifth Step: Interviewing

As an interviewer, it’s your job to determine whether or not a candidate is going to be a fit with your company based on their skills, experience, personality and demeanor.  Prepare the questions you are looking to have answered ahead of time. It’s important to make sure you allow time for the candidate to ask questions openly.  Talk about the company, the culture, the product, the values/mission, the growth, the working environment and team.  Making a successful hire is about both parties feeling informed and comfortable about the decision. 

The Sixth Step: Offer & Rejections

Once you have decided on the right candidate for the role it’s time to move and make an offer.  Some organizations will make a verbal offer on-site, some will tell you to ‘go home and think about it,’ while others may want to round-table with all parties involved first.  Compensation details, including benefits and stock-options, and start-date are integral components of presenting an offer.  Once you have gained verbal commitment, set a timeframe for when the paperwork should follow and what the deadline is on returning the documents.  It’s also important to let any candidates that have been involved in the process know the role has been filled.  This allows them to continue their search with closure and saves your organization from gaining a bad reputation. 

Having an efficient sales force is crucial to an organizations ability to drive revenue and scale.  Take the interview process seriously and make sure you have commitment from all parties involved.  Don’t let the process drag on. Provide timely feedback and move on an offer when it feels right.  Don’t get hung up on searching for the perfect candidate.  Allow yourself to recognize when you have found the right candidate. Each interview is practice for the next and allows you to prepare for the future of your organization by hiring talented individuals who not only grow the company, but grow with the company.  

 

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