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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. 5 minutes of learning to hire the best salespeople.

One of my clients recently told me,

“The telephone interview has saved me hours of time & frustration and has actually made me money.”

She said, “Under the old way I used to do things, I would skip the telephone interview. If I liked their resume, I would call and schedule the face-to-face interview. Many times, within the first 10 minutes of this interview I knew that I would not hire them, but to avoid being rude, I would spend another 50 minutes with them, and then I’d have to come up with a way to avoid telling them they didn’t get the job. So, thank you Steve for teaching me about the telephone interview.”


Use the telephone interview to begin to screen for these 3 things.

  1. Attitudes toward your product and their image of themselves as a salesperson.
  2. Their motivations to change things and make their life better.
  3. The character trait of honesty.

When you schedule an appointment for this phone interview, whether or not the candidate schedules this time in a quiet office will also tell you the level of importance they place on the job. I once had a candidate who was in their car. I was not too happy with this but continued until they said, “Can I put on hold a second while I give my order?” They were actually going through the drive-through at McDonalds during the phone interview.  I guess the job just wasn’t that important.


 Here are some tips for conducting the telephone interview:

~ This interview should not last more than 15 to 20 min. Engaging the candidate in an in-depth discussion it is not necessary. We are simply attempting to make a decision as to whether or not we invite the candidate to our office for a face-to-face interview.

~ Remember, the way they communicate to you on the phone is how they will sound to your customers. If you don’t like them over the phone, you most definitely won’t like them in person.

~ Measure for honesty by verifying information on the resume. Choose one of the positions on the resume and ask this question,

  • Describe your job at ABC Corporation.

If they have exaggerated or embellished their job duties and accomplishments on the resume, you have just determined they’re dishonest. Move on.

~ Measure their attitude toward your products and the image of themselves as a salesperson with these questions:

  • What do you know about us?
  • What do you like about what we do?
  • What caused you to have an interest in this job with us?
  • What do you think this position requires for success?

You want to make sure they’ve done research on your company, products, and industry. You want to know whether or not they own your product, have used your product, or know others who are satisfied with your product. Do they like the idea of selling and controlling their income by earning commissions? When answering these questions, do they speak with confidence while telling you how great they are at selling and serving and managing their time well? Do they use words like honest, hard-working, responsible? Do they talk about what they can do for you in growing your company and your customers and advancing your market share, or are they focused too much on what you can do for them?

~ Measure their desire to make the future better for themselves and others by asking this question,

  • What are some current and long-term needs that will be satisfied if you do this job well?

You’re looking for specific things like providing for others, long-term career, pay off debt, save for retirement/college/education, advance career, and a clear description of goals.

~ Learn about their sales and industry experience by asking this question,

  • What has been your experience with purchasing or selling products like we sell, or your experience with dealing with salespeople from our industry?
  • What sales training have you had?
  • Describe the sales process you follow.
  • What in your background has prepared you for a successful sales career?

~ Get a sense of their income needs by asking this question,

  • What is the minimum amount of money you need to earn?

~ Here’s a good question that will give you a sense of their focus on working and providing to take care of someone and on improving themselves,

  • In order of priority, what are the 3 most important things in your life?


Remember these interview tips:

  • Keep it short and sweet. The goal of this telephone interview is to screen the candidate, not to engage in an in-depth conversation. If the candidate is asking a lot of good questions, tell them this,

“I like the great questions you’re asking. I’ll be sure and answer all those we get together for the face-to-face interview.”

  • Ask the questions.
  • Don’t talk.
  • Don’t rescue the candidate.
  • Let them sink or swim.

If you decide to move to the next step, describe the next step to them, then tell them what to do. If you decide to not proceed, tell them this,

“Thank you for answering my questions. I’m considering many candidates for this position. I will keep your information in mind as I move forward.”

  • Do not tell the candidate that you will call them back.
  • Do not engage the candidate in advice on what they could’ve done differently.
  • Simply repeat the statement above.


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 have fun in the sales interview.


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

o   Sales test, sales assessment, sales profile CPQCraft Personality Questionnaire

o   Sales interview tips

o   Sales job description – page 79, Can They Sell book

o   Tips for screening resumes – Chapter 13, Can They Sell book

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