Good Interview Questions for Sales Jobs

Here are some good tips on interview questions to use when interviewing a potential salesperson.

February 2015 

Most companies struggle with hiring competent sales people.  Recently I was helping a client hire sales people by pre-screening them on the phone.  I asked the same questions of at least 10 different candidates to make sure there was a certain continuity and consistency.  Rarely do I spend too much credence or time looking at their résumé. WHY?  If I look at anything I will look and see what they have accomplished.  My emphasis is on their behaviors, motivation, and skills and NOT experience.

It was amazing to me that each person I spoke to was an “experienced and successful salesperson”, many of whom have gone through well-known and respected sales training.  Some had worked for major corporations.  And yet, I noticed that there were some very disturbing traits in almost all the candidates.

Let me set the scene.  I first called and if they did not answer I sent an e-mail asking to set up a time to talk.  I did not want to interview them immediately because from experience many of them were applying to other jobs and this would give them time to prepare.  Here were some of the common issues I discovered:
  1. Most of the candidates did not read the Job Description thoroughly.  We had Sales Managers applying for a Sales Representative job.   Maybe the Job Description title was misleading.  However, I believe that is no excuse for not taking the time to read the job description.  What does that tell you about future responses and actions when a customer requests something in writing or following up skills?
  2. One of the first questions I asked was “From the website what can you tell me about the company?”  Despite giving them at least a day to prepare many had not even looked at the website. Zero went beyond looking at the website and finding out more about the company or the industry or industry trends.  Do you want a salesperson that does not do their research before calling on a buyer? Are they really interested in finding a job?  Will they be customer centric and try to understand the customer’s business so they can service them better?
  3. I asked “How do you sell?” – Many answered, “I build great relationships” but what does this mean? I am not diminishing the importance of relationships in selling but is this what today’s buyers want to hear?  We can have a great relationship and go out for a beer, but you may not trust me or my company’s services or products. Do I want to buy from someone who wants to build a relationship with me alone or someone who I believe is an authority in their field and can collaborate with me on solutions to my problems and opportunities?
  4. “What do you do to keep up with your profession?” This was probably the most interesting question I asked.  If you want to know how truly motivated for work a person really is than ask this question.  If one has the mind-set of constant improvement and learning I want them on my team.  Answering networking or going to trade shows to keep up with the profession is not an acceptable answer.  Reading books, articles, scoping out competition, and self-improvement courses show a need to be better at what you do.
  5. Ask the interviewer questions – Come on people you are in sales.  You tell me that what helps you build relationships is asking questions and listening.  Yet most of the candidates never asked me any questions.  Does this mean they will have difficulty asking the customer for next steps, or worse yet asking for the order?
  6. Say Thank you – Only 1 in 10 of the interviewees actually took the time to write me a short thank you for interviewing them.  Yes, I understand I am not with the company.  However, isn’t it a common practice in sales to thank someone, or reconfirm how much you want the opportunity?
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Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at