Mastering the Art of Hiring: Effective Interview Questions for Sales Candidates

Discover effective interview questions for sales candidates to identify top talent and optimise your sales team's success

June 26, 2023

The success of your sales department depends heavily on the skills and qualities of the individuals you bring on board.

In this article, we will explore the power of well-crafted interview questions and how they can help you identify top-notch sales candidates who are poised to excel in their roles.

Understanding the Sales Role

Before diving into the interview questions, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the sales role within your organisation.

Take some time to define the key responsibilities and qualities you seek in a successful salesperson.

Consider the specific traits and skills that are crucial for your sales team to thrive.

This clarity will guide you in formulating interview questions that align with your company's unique requirements.

Preparing for the Interview Process

To ensure a smooth and effective interview process, there are a few important steps you need to take.

Begin by conducting a thorough job analysis and creating a candidate profile. An even better step is to properly articulate everything in a comprehensive job description (do a quick Google search for a template if you don't know how to create one).

This will help you clearly define the qualifications, experience, and characteristics you are seeking in a sales candidate.

Once you've crystallised everything you're looking for and what you want from your perfect hire, it makes the process of creating an interview process so much simpler.

When you have your thoughts down on paper, develop a structured interview process that includes multiple rounds of interviews with different interviewers, but importantly asking the same questions so you can score candidates against each other.

This approach ensures consistency and fairness in the evaluation process, and helps to remove any subjectivity from your selections.

Consider training your interviewers on effective interviewing techniques, such as active listening and asking probing questions, to ensure they can effectively assess candidates.

The Art of Crafting Effective Interview Questions

1. Open-ended questions to assess communication skills:

To evaluate a candidate's ability to effectively communicate and persuade, consider asking questions such as:

"Tell me about a time when you successfully persuaded a hesitant prospect to make a purchase. How did you overcome their objections?"

This type of question allows candidates to showcase their communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and their approach to building rapport with customers.

2. Situational questions to gauge problem-solving abilities:

To assess a candidate's ability to think on their feet and handle challenging situations, pose questions like:

"Imagine you are faced with a challenging sales target and limited resources. How would you develop a strategy to achieve your goals?"

Such questions provide insight into a candidate's problem-solving approach, creativity, and their ability to adapt to different scenarios.

3. Behavioral questions to assess past performance and experience:

By asking candidates to describe specific situations they have encountered in their sales careers, you can gain valuable insights into their past performance. For instance:

"Describe a sales deal you closed that required exceptional negotiation skills. How did you navigate the process, and what was the outcome?"

These questions allow candidates to demonstrate their sales achievements, the strategies they employed, and the results they achieved.

4. Hypothetical questions to evaluate critical thinking and adaptability:

Assess a candidate's critical thinking and adaptability by posing hypothetical scenarios, such as:

"If you were selling a product in an industry you knew little about, how would you approach the learning process and build credibility with potential clients?"

The candidate's response will provide insight into their ability to quickly grasp new concepts, learn about unfamiliar industries, and establish credibility with clients.

5. Role-play scenarios to assess selling techniques:

Engaging candidates in role-play scenarios allows you to observe their selling techniques firsthand. For example:

"You're in a role-play situation where the customer is skeptical about the product's value. Demonstrate how you would handle their objections and close the sale."

Role-play exercises enable you to evaluate a candidate's ability to handle objections, demonstrate product knowledge, and navigate the sales process.

Evaluating Candidate Responses

During interviews, practice active listening and take detailed notes to help you remember the specifics of each candidate's responses. This will aid in the evaluation process when comparing candidates later on. Additionally, consider implementing a scoring or rating system that allows you to objectively assess each candidate's performance against predetermined criteria. This system will help you make more informed hiring decisions based on concrete evidence rather than subjective opinions.

To ensure a fair and comprehensive evaluation, encourage collaboration among interviewers. This can be achieved through post-interview discussions or debrief sessions where interviewers share their observations and insights. Collectively evaluating candidates will provide a more well-rounded perspective and minimise individual biases.

Avoiding Bias in the Interview Process

Unconscious biases can inadvertently influence hiring decisions. It's crucial to be aware of these biases and take steps to mitigate them. Some strategies to consider include:

1. Standardising the interview process:

Create a structured interview format with predetermined questions to ensure consistency across all candidates. This reduces the likelihood of biases creeping into the interview process.

2. Blind resume screening:

Remove identifying information such as names, gender, and age from resumes before reviewing them. This helps prevent unconscious biases based on irrelevant factors.

3. Diverse interview panel:

Ensure that your interview panel consists of individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives. This diversity of viewpoints can help challenge biases and foster a more inclusive hiring process.

4. Training and awareness:

Educate interviewers about common biases and provide them with the tools to recognise and mitigate these biases during interviews. Encourage them to focus on candidates' qualifications and skills rather than personal characteristics.


Crafting effective interview questions for sales candidates is a crucial step in the hiring process.

By utilising open-ended, situational, behavioral, hypothetical, and role-play questions, you can gain valuable insights into candidates' communication skills, problem-solving abilities, past performance, critical thinking, adaptability, and selling techniques.

Remember to actively listen and take thorough notes during interviews, and use a scoring or rating system to objectively evaluate candidates.

Collaborative decision-making among interviewers ensures a well-rounded assessment of candidates.

Additionally, make conscious efforts to avoid bias by standardising the interview process, implementing blind resume screening, fostering diversity in the interview panel, and providing bias awareness training.

By incorporating these strategies into your interview process, you'll increase the likelihood of identifying top sales candidates who possess the skills and qualities needed to excel in their roles.

Mastering the art of hiring effective salespeople will contribute to the success and growth of your sales department and, ultimately, your organisation as a whole.

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

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