Just because sales representatives can write a comprehensive resume doesn't mean they can sell. As an employer, it's your job to determine whether or not they would be successful in their role as salesperson at your company.
As a recruiter, I have two tips to make sure you hire the absolute best person for the position. First, during interviews, don't be overly friendly or overly firm—two extremes made by many owners who don't interview often. Strike a balance between the two, and always remain professional. Second, ask the 50 questions listed below. I know it sounds like a lot, but if you don't do your due diligence during the interview. You won't get the superstar your company deserves.
1. What motivates you as a sales professional?
2. How would you describe the corporate culture of your past company?
3. What traits do you believe make up the most effective sales representatives?
4. What sales quotas are you accustomed to?
5. How comfortable are you with cold-calling?
6. How long was the average sales cycle at your previous jobs?
7. Who were your most profitable target markets at your previous jobs?
8. How would you describe your sales technique?
9. What are some common hurdles you're facing right now as a sales representative in your current position?
10. Can you give me an example of a complex contract negotiation you've completed and how you did it?
11. How did your past organization position itself in the market?
12. How would you describe your ideal sales manager?
13. What are some of the traits you look for in a leader?
14. Give me an example of when you've prospected a lead creatively, and what are the steps you took to do so?
15. Where would you like to see yourself improve in the area of sales?
16. What does the term "consultative selling" mean to you?
17. How much was an average sale at your previous position?
18. Give me an example of how you handled a difficult client in order to get the sale, and what did you learn from the experience?
19. What was a typical day like at your past position?
20. What was your compensation package at your past position?
21. Can you give me an example pitch of the product or service you were selling at your previous position?
22. What types of managers do you learn best under?
23. Why are you looking to leave your current position?
24. How do you define success?
25. How would you describe the selling style of your former manager?
26. Where do you see yourself in one, three and five years?
27. How would you describe your ideal sales position?
28. What core values should all great companies possess?
29. How would you describe the people at your past company?
30. What types of customer relationship tracking did you implement at your past jobs?
31. Can you give me three adjectives that best describe you as an employee?
32. Can you give me three adjectives that best describe you as a person?
33. Can you give me an example of a failure you had at work and what you learned from it?
34. What interested you about our firm?
35. What type of compensation package are you looking for?
36. How would you describe leadership?
37. How would you describe passion?
38. How would you describe wealth?
39. How do you feel about meeting face to face with clients and giving public presentations?
40. What skills do you believe make for a great sales representative?
41. Why should we hire you?
42. How would you describe your learning style?
43. Why did you choose sales as a profession?
44. How did your past company obtain its leads?
45. What percentage of leads did you convert into sales at your past job?
46. How would you describe your ideal sales lead?
47. What do you feel is the best way to establish a strong relationship with a client?
48. When a client's expectations are too high, how do you handle it?
49. Can you give me an example in which you've used your creativity to retain existing accounts?
50. How would you define the term "salesmanship"?
In The End
Having an efficient sales force is crucial to any organization's growth and future prospects. Take the interviewing process seriously, don't hire the first person you speak with, and remember to keep an open mind throughout the process.
While no salesperson is ever perfect, recruiting the most effective representatives are easier when you ask the right questions first.
Read more about hiring.
Ken Sundheim is the CEO of KAS Placement Sales Recruiting, a sales and marketing executive search firm based out of New York City. He is also a writer for Forbes. Many of Ken's articles can be found on KAS Placement's Facebook page. Ken is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.
A version of this article was originally published on August 30, 2013.