3 Ways to Get a Better Read on Your Sales Candidate

October 10, 2014

The last thing you can afford is a bad sales hire. Here are three creative ways to switch up your interview process and get a more accurate understanding of sales candidates.

We’ve said it before and we will say it again, finding top-notch sales talent is easier said than done. And this doesn’t just go for your closers. Inbound lead qualification reps, outbound prospecting reps, inside sales reps, enterprise account executives — you name it, team members with the requisite drive, skill, and a track-record of success are hard to come by.
Worst of all, the ones who are the least likely to be successful can often be the ones who nail the interview process. (Hint: It’s probably because they have interviewed the most.)
So how do we as sales leaders get a better read on our candidates? Here are three key tactics for you to try out during your next sales candidate interview.

1) Get Them Out of Interview Mode

Nothing says “it’s show-time” like a conference room table, a resume, and list of dull innovative interview questions. Take your candidates out of that frame of mind by putting them in a new environment. This isn’t drinks or the golf course, this is with your people.
Companies who have a shadow or onsite portion of their interview process are the ones who weed out candidates that are not the right fit for their organization. This doesn’t have to be a full day; a half-day is more than enough time to see someone’s true-colors. Simply spending time listening in on calls, sitting in meetings, and shadowing a person currently in the role allows for more opportunity for this person to let their guard down.
What you should be looking for: Listen to the types of questions they are asking, how they are interact with your team, and whether or not they are engaged or tuning out. You would be amazed at the things you will learn about your candidate when they aren’t simply reciting rehearsed answers to your questions.

2) Turn Up the Heat

Sure, we want to see how our candidates react under pressure but let’s leave the questions about the number of piano tuners in Chicago to the consulting groups of the world. There are other ways to turn up the heat in the interview process.
Depending on your role and the way your organization is structured, ask the candidate what questions they have for your CEO, VP of Sales or Director — whomever you report to directly. Then, without missing a beat say, “Great, I will go get him/her now.” The key to this is not to let the candidate know that the CEO/VP/Director is part of the interview loop.
What you should be looking for: See how they react to the situation. Are they excited to talk to a person of power, or do they look like they are about to go white? If they are able to handle the curveball and stay composed during the meeting, chances are they are going to handle the same when it comes to working your prospects. 

3) Play True Detective

Say what you want about backdoor references, but they are a surefire way to get to know your candidates. Leveraging an existing connection and gathering data on that person is a way to build or validate a candidates credibility throughout the interview process. References play an important part of the process, but when supplied by the candidate themself, offer a less than objective perspective.
What you should be looking for: Answers to any questions you have lingering about the candidate, the person’s objective view, and honest insight into how the candidate adds value to the office and to the pipeline.

Sample Questions and Free Sales Hiring Assessment

Download our free sales interview benchmark guide. Inside you’ll find the necessary questions to ask to really dig into a candidate’s experience and assess them on the three key components — Drive, Selling Skills, and Personal Attributes — that ultimately separate the best sales reps from the rest.

Photo by: plantronicsgermany


<strong>CeCe Bazar</strong> is an Associate on OpenView's investment team. She was previously a Sales Strategist also at OpenView.