Get a Great List of Questions for Sales Candidates

sales interview
Ask the right questions during interviews.

The interview is a crucial part of any hiring process, and it's even more important when hiring salespeople. That's because the interview gives you a chance to see each candidate's sales skills first hand. If your prospective employee doesn't do a good job of selling himself in the interview, he's not likely to do well selling your product. Your interview questions should give the candidate a chance to shine, but should also include a few tough ones so that you can see how he performs under pressure.

Here are some possible questions to ask, in addition to the general questions from "How to Interview."

Sales Skills Questions

  • Tell me what you know about my company (this checks the salesperson's research skills).
  • What was the last sales-related book you read? What did you think about it?
  • Describe your activities during your most recent full day at work, from beginning to end.
  • How do you prospect for leads?
  • If a prospect or customer came to you with a request that was unreasonable and/or was something you couldn't bring about, how would you handle the situation?
  • What would you say or do if a prospect asked you to do something unethical? How about if a coworker asked?
  • How do you build rapport with new prospects?
  • What do you think is the single most important skill for a salesperson?
  • What is the most overrated skill for a salesperson?
  • What's your usual closing ratio? (This can be the percentage of sales closed compared to either appointments or prospects, so confirm that you and the candidate are using the same metric.)

    Job History Questions

    • Describe your last three positions. (If the candidate asks for clarification, ask him to tell you about job responsibilities, quota requirements, day-to-day activities, type of sales, how he felt about the job and why he left.)
    • How did you get along with the other members of your last sales team? Why?
    • What was your quota in your last three sales positions? Did you think it was a fair quota? Did you usually meet it?
    • Who were your last three sales managers? What do you think about them personally and professionally?
    • What was your most successful sales deal and how did you get it?
    • What was your most recent lost sale? What happened? If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?
    • Summarize your last performance review. Do you agree with your manager's assessment?
    • Have you ever supervised other salespeople? If so, how did you feel about it?

    Sales Style Questions

    • Out of a 40-hour work week, how much time do you typically spend working with prospects? How about working with existing customers?
    • Do you prefer pursuing new leads or selling additional products to existing customers? Why?
    • What is your favorite aspect of sales?
    • What is your least favorite aspect of sales?
    • Do you prefer to work closely with your sales manager, or to work independently? Why?
    • Do you believe that 'cold calling is dead?' Why or why not?
    • What CRM systems have you used? Which did you like most and least?
    • What are your favorite closing techniques?
    • What is a salesperson's most important role for the company? How about for his customers?

      Personality Questions

      • What drew you to apply for this position? What expectations do you have about it?
      • What was the last class that you took? Why?
      • What are your hobbies?
      • What's your biggest job motivator?
      • When you hit a sales slump, how do you deal with it?
      • When a problem arises based on factors outside your control - for example, if someone else's error causes a problem for you - how do you deal with it?
      • What qualities are you looking for in your employer? How about in your direct manager?
      • If you won the lottery tomorrow, would you keep working? What would you do?
      • Would you rather close a huge sale – with a huge commission – that no one knew much about, or a smaller sale that gained you a lot of recognition?