How to Hire Great Salespeople:
Interview Stages

According to IBM, a positive interview experience makes candidates 38% more likely to accept a job offer, and that starts with creating a structured interview process. Keep in mind that each interview stage should be identical for each candidate to ensure an equitable, unbiased hiring decision is made. We recommend the following 6 steps (including a task and reference check) for sales candidates.

1.) Screening

We’re not telling you something you don’t already know here, but recruiters should conduct a preliminary phone interview that typically lasts 20-30 minutes. This initial conversation determines whether an individual is a viable option for the job. In sales, they’ll be on the phone a lot, so pay particular attention to their phone etiquette and ensure they’ve done some prep work. Sales reps need to have their stuff together before they talk with prospects, and if they already do this by prepping for phone interviews, they are likely worthy of moving to the next stage.

2.) First Interview

The first interview should be a one-on-one interview between the applicant and the hiring manager(s). This is the time to ask questions related to work experience and skills and also for the candidate to ask their own questions to determine if there’s a mutual fit. Side note: It’s a red flag if they DON’T have any questions! Depending on your organization, this will most likely be a virtual interview, and in fact, more and more job seekers are preferring live video interviews to in-person interviews.

3.) Second Interview

If the candidate has succeeded in impressing the hiring manager(s) after the first conversation, a second interview is the opportunity for the candidate to meet with different department heads and/or subject matter experts within your organization. The interviewer(s) will ask deeper, more specific questions to follow up on certain topics from the first interview and attempt to get a better idea of how the candidate will acclimate to the work environment.

4.) Task

Now it’s time for qualified candidates to move further down the gauntlet! Some candidates may fly through the process and woo anyone with their charm, but the true test lies in writing an email or presenting a sales pitch (depending on inside vs. outside sales). 

* Inside sales reps send tons of emails. Ask them to perform a simple task of drafting an email they would send on behalf of your company to a prospect. In order to succeed in today’s sales environment, you have to know how to communicate well via the written word, and this is a great way to evaluate a task that is a key part of their day-to-day duties. 

* For outside sales reps, a live sales pitch is common to show that the candidate can speak clearly and confidently in front of an audience. You want to know that you’re hiring an effective salesperson, and a sales presentation gives you a good idea of the candidate’s sales style to ensure it aligns with your company’s approach.

5.) Final Stage

The final interview with the hiring manager(s) sets the stage on making the ultimate hiring decision. During this step, you should review the task with the candidate. This is also the time to ask deeper questions that you didn’t have time to address during the first interview. As Howard Stern, critically acclaimed as the best interviewer of all time, always says…”treat each interview as a conversation” where both the interviewer and the candidate contribute.

6.) Reference Check

Many companies find reference checks to be unnecessary, but trust us, you want to cut through any exaggerations by completing them. Request a list of at least three references from the candidate and contact them to get their insights into the candidate (we recommend that at least one reference is a former manager of the candidate’s). This way, you’ll be able to independently verify your assumptions about the candidate, address any concerns, and hopefully have the confidence you need to hire them without any second guesses.