Mastering Competency-Based Sales Interviews

Learn how to assess key competencies, ask targeted questions, and make informed hiring decisions. Drive sales recruitment excellence.

June 14, 2023

Hiring the right sales professionals who can drive revenue and foster strong client relationships is critical in fuelling a company's growth.

In this guide, we'll explore the ins and outs of competency-based sales interviews, providing you with actionable strategies to optimise your sales recruitment process.

Understanding Competency-Based Sales Interviews

Competency-based interviews are designed to assess a candidate's skills, behaviors, and experiences that directly relate to success in a sales role.

By focusing on specific competencies, recruiters can gain a deeper understanding of a candidate's potential for success.

These interviews go beyond assessing qualifications and delve into a candidate's ability to handle real-world sales situations.

To illustrate, let's consider an example competency commonly assessed in sales interviews: Negotiation Skills.

Instead of asking generic questions such as, "Do you have negotiation skills?", you can use a competency-based approach and ask candidates to describe a specific scenario where they successfully negotiated a deal.

This allows you to gauge their ability to navigate complex negotiations, overcome objections, and close deals effectively.

And this is how you do it...

Preparing for Competency-Based Sales Interviews

Before conducting competency-based sales interviews, it's crucial to identify the core competencies required for the sales role you're hiring for.

These could include skills like "Prospecting," "Handling Objections," "Closing," or "Problem-Solving."

Once you have identified these competencies, craft job-specific interview questions that target each one.

For example, if one of the key competencies is "Prospecting," you could ask candidates to describe a time when they successfully identified and engaged with a high-potential prospect.

By asking specific questions, you gain insight into their ability to identify leads, develop a prospecting strategy, and convert prospects into customers.

Conducting Competency-Based Sales Interviews

During the interview, it's essential to establish rapport and create a comfortable environment for candidates to open up and showcase their abilities.

Explain the interview structure and expectations, and make sure candidates understand that you're interested in real-life examples from their sales experience.

To assess a candidate's competency in "Handling Objections," for instance, you can ask them to describe a challenging situation where they faced a sceptical prospect.

Encourage them to explain the specific objections raised and how they successfully addressed them.

By actively listening and using probing techniques, you can gain a deeper understanding of their problem-solving skills, resilience, and ability to adapt in high-pressure situations.

Evaluating Candidates' Competencies

Consistency in evaluating candidates' responses is crucial for effective competency-based interviews.

Establish clear evaluation criteria and rating scales in advance, ensuring alignment with the desired competencies.

For instance, if "Closing" is a key competency, you can use a rating scale to evaluate how effectively candidates ask for the sale, handle objections, and secure commitments.

By documenting evaluation notes and ranking candidates based on their competencies, you can provide valuable insights to the hiring team during the decision-making process.

Common Challenges in Competency-Based Sales Interviews

While competency-based interviews offer numerous benefits, recruiters may encounter some challenges along the way.

For instance, candidates may provide limited or vague responses, making it difficult to assess their competencies.

To address this, utilise follow-up questions to encourage candidates to elaborate on their experiences.

For example, if a candidate provides a general response when asked about their "Problem-Solving" skills, you can ask them to describe a specific problem they encountered, how they analysed it, and the steps they took to find a solution.

Post-Interview Steps and Decision Making

After conducting the competency-based sales interviews, gather the hiring team to discuss each candidate's performance.

Analyse their responses based on the predetermined evaluation criteria, and consider additional factors such as cultural fit and potential for growth within the organisation.

It's important to check candidate references and conduct background checks to ensure the accuracy of the information provided.

Based on the evaluations and discussions, make informed decisions regarding the candidates.

Provide constructive feedback to unsuccessful candidates, highlighting areas for improvement.

Remember, the goal is not only to find the best candidate for the current role but also to leave a positive impression on all candidates, as they may be potential hires in the future or valuable connections in the industry.

Enhancing the Competency-Based Sales Interview Process

To continuously improve your competency-based sales interview process, consider the following steps:

1. Refine Interview Questions and Evaluation Criteria:

Regularly review and update your interview questions to ensure they align with the evolving needs of the sales role. Adjust the evaluation criteria to accurately measure the desired competencies.

2. Incorporate Technology and Automation:

Explore tools and software that can streamline the interview process, such as applicant tracking systems or video interviewing platforms. These technologies can help you efficiently manage candidate profiles, automate scheduling, and standardise evaluation processes.

3. Invest in Interviewer Training and Development:

Provide training to interviewers on effective questioning techniques, active listening skills, and unbiased assessment methods. This helps ensure consistency and fairness throughout the interview process.

4. Seek Candidate Feedback:

After the interview, request feedback from candidates regarding their experience. This not only helps you identify areas for improvement but also demonstrates your commitment to candidate-centric recruitment practices.


Competency-based sales interviews offer recruiters a powerful tool for identifying top sales talent.

By focusing on specific competencies, asking targeted questions, and evaluating responses systematically, recruiters can make more informed hiring decisions.

Remember, continuous improvement is key. By refining your interview process, leveraging technology, and investing in interviewer training, you can enhance the effectiveness of competency-based sales interviews.

Implement these strategies, and watch your sales recruitment process thrive, attracting top performers who will drive your organisation's success.

Coburg Banks Sales Recruitment Agency
We help great people get brilliant jobs in top companies.

Continue reading

View all
Category one
Category two
Category three
Category four