Sales Hiring Assessment: How You Should Actually Be Interviewing Top Sales Reps

August 19, 2014

For sales leaders at B2B SaaS companies, recruiting top talent isn’t just an ongoing challenge, it’s one of the most important parts of their role. Continuously hiring, managing, and retaining the right team can be incredibly difficult and time consuming — if you don’t have the right tools and processes in place to make it scalable, that is.

While there are many ways to increase the probability of making great sales hires, one of the most effective practices is to place greater emphasis and focus on the interviewing process. Doing so helps you to more effectively identify candidates who align with your company and the role you are hiring for, avoid costly mis-hires, and create a more predictable, repeatable system for hiring success.
When hiring for your team, Kevin Gaither, VP of Inside Sales at ZipRecruiter has it right.

“The most important thing is hiring A players, not filling a team. If you fill your team fast with A players, that’s perfect. But if you fill your team fast with A, B, and C players, that really doesn’t do you any good. Hiring managers don’t think about the after affects of hiring B and C players just for the sake of building a team fast.”

— Kevin Gaither, VP of Inside Sales at at ZipRecruiter

Nailing Down Your Interviewing Process

Before diving into the mechanics of interviewing best practices, it’s important to first understand the core components of an effective interviewing process. How do you execute a streamlined, but effective interview process that will allow you to more successfully identify, filter, and vet the A-level talent your growing sales team needs? First, you need to answer the following questions:

  • Who should be involved in the interviewing process and what is each person’s responsibility?
  • Which style of interview should you use?
  • What interview format or medium is most appropriate for your hiring needs?

A helpful tool for organizing an interview process is a simple process map that lays out the steps in the interview process and the people involved in each step. Here is an example of what that process map might look like:
Key Tip: Embrace a thorough interview process, but do get buy-in on the timeline and stick to it.
As Gaither points out,“A sales hiring process can be thorough and quick all at the same time. It’s not mutually exclusive. You can have both.”

When to Use Traditional Interview Techniques vs. Behavioral Interview Techniques

Traditional Interview Techniques

Traditional interviews follow the progression of a candidate’s career, using the resume as a basis for asking questions. This type of interview focuses on the candidate and his or her background and is used to screen candidates based on the predetermined job requirements and to gather initial data. This type of interview is typically used early on in the process during the initial phone screen or meeting.
Use traditional interview techniques to get clarity on a candidate’s:

  • motivations
  • career decisions
  • skillset
  • credentials
  • career progression
  • cultural fit

Try to determine whether or not the candidate possesses the right background and experience necessary to be successful in your specific sales role.

Behavioral Interviewing Techniques

Behavioral interviewing, on the other hand, is designed to dive deeper into specific past situations to see how candidates reacted and what they learned from those experiences. This method is most often used to evaluate specific competencies that are deemed fundamental to success.
Use behavioral interview techniques to get clarity around a candidate’s:

  • competitiveness
  • problem solving approach
  • time management / organization skills
  • persuasiveness
  • interpersonal / communication skills
  • adaptability / coachability
  • leadership potential

At a high level, a behavioral interview focuses on the skills and abilities that lead to high performance, and gathers information on how a candidate handles specific situations and takes action to resolve problems or overcome obstacles. Behavioral questions will vary based on the sales role that you’re hiring, but you should always strive to diversify your line of questioning in order to acquire broader insight on a candidate’s behavior and tendencies.

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.

Image courtesy of Cydcor Offices

Director of Talent

<strong>Carlie Smith</strong> was the Senior Talent Manager, Sales & Marketing at OpenView. She worked directly with hiring managers and key stakeholders within OpenView and its portfolio to lead vital searches and provided process guidance on recruitment strategy, including talent identification, strategic sourcing, relationship building, and competitive intelligence. Currently, Carlie is the Director of <a href="">Circle</a>.