The art of successful interviewing for sales leaders in 10 key steps

Recruitment for a Leader is one of their most important business responsibilities. People are a major differentiator between organisations and how you acquire them, develop them, and keep them engaged as valued employees are critical to a company’s success.

It all begins with the Interview and here we share our expertise to make the process as enjoyable and pain-free as possible.

  1. Often things can go wrong, because interviewers ask different questions to each candidate, with no measuring matrix. As such, you’re not comparing apples with apples, so Tip Number 1 is to invest time in evaluating what qualities will make a successful employee in your business, often by looking at the background, attitude, skillsets & cultural fit of your most successful employees. You should then craft a structured interview template, that for consistency will be used and scored against, that will assess each candidates skills and values. By having a matrix, with a scoring system, you increase the chances of avoiding interviewer biases and blind spots. This combines heart and head thinking, by having a tangible set of criteria, massively increasing your chances of a successful hire. Having discussed this with hundreds of recruiting managers over the years, the most popular qualities to test and score are as follows;


  1. Culture Fit. A great business is underpinned by shared values, a common goal/purpose & a chemistry/personality/mutual respect of the individuals in the team.
  2. Work ethic. Can the candidate demonstrate from past achievement/performance that they’ll do what it takes to succeed in the role.
  3. Ability to learn, their coachability- do they have a growth mindset?
  4. Rapport building skills. Are they conversational, do they listen, have that got a likeability factor?
  5. Emotional intelligence. Are they chameleon like, dependent on the characteristics of the buyer?
  6. Persuasiveness & ability to deal with and overcome objections. Can they give key examples?
  7. Is the candidate excited by your product or service and are they expressing a keenness to join the business? Is this demonstrated by the research they’ve done & the questions that they’ve asked?
  8. What is their career ambition & what is their approach to personal development? What podcasts are they listening to/sales books read, who inspires them and why?


Some of the above points will be more important to the success of the individual in your role than others, so you’ll put more emphasis on those.

Be honest about what your business can offer and what is needed to be successful in the role. Is it a great place to work, how does the remuneration, expectations and other rewards compare to the market at large and your direct competitors? Do you want a star candidate & does the role warrant it/able to attract it, or would a good, reliable, get the job done individual be the employee that you need? We all know the saying- “Hire for Attitude, train for skill”


  1. A structured interview will give you better data to help in your recruitment decision. Behavioural & Situational questions are a good barometer. An example of a Behavioural question would be- Tell me about a time when? and Situational questions (which often level the playing field for less experienced candidates) would be along the lines of “What would you do if? That gives an idea around how they’d approach the challenge.


  1. Prepare for the interview, read their CV thoroughly and make notes/have questions well ahead of the interview, NOT 2 minutes beforehand. Start on time and make it a positive experience for the candidate. Whether they are successful or not, you want them to speak positively to others about the business and the interview process.


  1. After the initial pleasantries, outline the framework of the interview. Knowing the structure and what to expect will put the candidate at ease and enable them to showcase their best self.


  1. A good place to begin the interview, is to ask the candidate what they know about the role and what appealed to them? You can then fill in the blanks, to give them a complete overview.


  1. You may then wish to ask them to “Tell me about yourself, your career and successes to date”  and you can then explore the areas that you feel dovetail in with what you are looking for.


  1. Delve into the candidate’s values, what they enjoy about sales, what appeals to them about your role etc. By careful questioning and good listening, you can establish whether the candidate’s values, goals, achievements and personality align with your mission, vision and values. Will they enhance the team, because, like a football manager, each signing should complement and strengthen the team.


  1. Make sure that you invite questions from the candidate. Interviews are a 2-way assessment. The candidate has the right to interview you just as vigorously, as they need to make sure that your company is the right workplace for them to achieve their career goals. Look beyond what they’ve written on a piece of paper, spend the necessary time to get to know them as a person, and how they’d fit in with your team.


  1. Be honest about the role, the business, and career opportunities. Is promotion based on time served or is it a meritocracy and give examples of other employees’ successes within the business to excite the best candidates. In the same way that you want the candidate to sell themselves to you, you need to sell the business to the candidate.


  1. At the end of the interview if not before, let the candidate know the timelines for feedback, potential offer, or the next interview. If you are keen on the candidate then don’t try and be too clever and not show your interest. Let them know and ask them what other opportunities they’re looking at and where they are in the interview process? You tend to have to move quickly to secure the best talent in any market, so be mindful of that. What needs to happen for you to quicken the process if there is the danger of losing a great candidate? Go into the interview process with the end in mind, by knowing who else within your business would be involved in the decision, what their diary looks like, reserve dates for 2nd interviews where possible, and have a start date to work towards.

Recruitment isn’t an exact science and there is always an element of risk but you can stack the odds in your favour, if you prepare well, have a structured system, understand what good looks like and trust your intuition and instinct, backed up by a tangible measuring/matrix process. We have a library of great Behavioural and Situational questions that will help you succeed in the art of successful interviewing, which as part of our service, we can advise you on.

We are passionate about finding and securing great talent for our clients & would love to discuss your interview approach, your vacancy and how we can add value as your recruitment partner. Call us today on 01737 452030. We look forward to working with you.

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