3 Tips for Interviewing Salespeople that Allow the Best to Shine and The Rest to Crumble (1 of 3)

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Hello, I am Steve Suggs, sales recruiting expert and author of the book, Can They Sell. Welcome to my sales recruitment video blog where you learn to hire the best sales people.

“Take Off Your Sales Hat and Put on Your Recruiting Hat

This video today is part one in a series of three interviewing tips. In my recruiting training classes, I get this question a lot,

“If I use the interview techniques you’re suggesting, I’m afraid I’ll turn the candidate off from wanting to come to work for me.”

My answer is,

”Yes! It will turn off the wrong candidate, but it will turn on the right candidate.”

If you conduct the sales interview correctly, you will actually attract the strong salesperson and repel the weak salesperson.

Here’s how it works.

First, it’s important to take off your sales hat and put on your recruiting hat. Most sales managers are great salespeople, so it’s tempting to put on our sales hat during the interview. Just as we use our charm and sales techniques to win a customer over to our way of thinking, we’re tempted to use that same charm to convince the candidate they should come to work for us. We must save the convincing until after we’ve completed the entire selection process and know without a doubt they’re the right candidate for the job.

We must first create an atmosphere where we’re putting the burden on the candidate to sell us rather than us selling the candidate. When you shift the burden, the best salespeople will shine, and the worst salespeople will crumble.

So, how do we shift the burden to the candidate?  We have specific interview questions that are tied to the specific traits that we’re looking for. Then, we simply ask the questions and remain silent, using our best poker face, while we allow the candidate to give us their best answer. Whether the candidate gives a great answer or a bad answer, we simply move to the next question.

If you think about it, this is the same atmosphere that exists during the sales call. You have a prospect sitting across the table asking questions, not giving you any feedback, putting the burden on you as a salesperson to convince them that your product is the best. So why not create the same atmosphere during the interview and allow the candidate to sink or swim?

I’m not talking about creating a Donald Trump type of boardroom atmosphere where people are so scared and intimidated that even the best salesperson would never want to come to work for you. I’m talking about being very nice and friendly at the beginning, welcoming the candidate and making them feel comfortable, but then, transitioning into “interview mode” where you simply say, “I’d like to get started with the interview and ask you some questions”.

From that point, you simply ask the questions, record their answers, and move to the next question. You’ll be amazed at how the best candidates with great answers to your questions will actually enjoy this type of interview, because

great salespeople enjoy the challenge of using their sales ability as well as telling you about their successful background.

Weaker candidates struggle during this type of interview because they don’t have the sales ability needed to do the job, and it becomes evident that they don’t have the background of successes that you’re looking for. They struggle because they’re trying to fabricate something that doesn’t exist.

If you rescue them when they’re struggling, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to see the truth.

A sales manager who had been through interview skills training, told me this story.

He said that he had to work really hard to change over to this technique, because he was accustomed to doing most of the talking, and he was afraid the candidate wouldn’t like him. He told me about two candidates who both had great resumes and did well on the telephone interview but really struggled during this type of face-to-face interviewing. He said one guy actually started sweating. He swore that he didn’t do anything except ask the questions and not rescue the candidate when he didn’t have good answers.

He realized that when he stopped rescuing, he was better able to see whether or not the candidate really had the traits and skills for the job.  One candidate eventually said, “I really don’t think I’m the right person for this job.” He said that the person he eventually hired actually breezed through the interview with great answers to all the questions. He said that using his old way of interviewing, where he used more of a conversational approach, some questions that sounded good but were not tied to any specific traits, and where he tried not to make people feel uncomfortable, he would have hired one or both of the first two candidates. This made him realize that if he had hired the first two candidates, he would have never found the third candidate who was the best of the three.

Use this simple interview technique, and you’ll be shocked as to how quickly you will be able to determine whether or not they can sell.


  • Be friendly on the front end
  • Transition into interview mode where you take off your sales hat and put on your interview hat
  • Ask the questions as written
  • Show little to no emotion by putting on your poker face. You’ll see whether or not the candidate will sink or swim when they get in front of your customers.
  • Don’t rescue the sinking candidate

and you will make a great hiring decision.

Thank you for joining me. See you next time on the Can They Sell video blog for more sales job recruitment training. As always, please leave your comments below and forward this video to anyone who will benefit. Now go enjoy recruiting the best, and use these interview techniques to keep from hiring the all-talk, no-action salesperson.


Learn more about the following:

 Where to find sales people, where to find sale reps

• What to look for while recruiting salespeople – 5 Dimensions of the Best Salesperson Profile Hiring sales, hire salespeople, hire sales people, hiring sales people, hiring sales reps, IT sales recruitment, recruiting sales people, sales job recruitment
• How to look for the 5 Dimensions – get questionnaires – interview questions for sales, interview questions for salespeople, sales interview, interview questions for sales people


To YOUR Success,

Steve Suggs




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