How to conduct a great sales interview

5 Minutes

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

It may sound like a an odd question for a sales interview and you might even get a risqué answer, but thinking outside of the box when it comes to interviewing may be the key to finding you your next top salesperson.

Taking on fresh talent and bringing new people into your sales team are essential in maintaining the strong upward trajectory of any company. So naturally, only the very best salespeople will do. When it comes to hiring for your team, the interview stage is crucial in finding the ideal candidate.

From the way you structure the time to the questions you ask, identifying a great salesperson has never been easier with these tips on how to conduct a top notch sales interview, from Pareto sales manager Andrew Wood.


Find out what the team needs.

Assess the gaps in your sales team, find out what your team think they need and above all, have an idea of who will fit in with the team you’ve already built, Andrew says.

Once you know what your team and your business needs, you know exactly what you’re looking for in your candidates.

“A feeling as to whether they’ll fit culturally, how they take control and an idea of the sales style they would have once they’ve started in the team” is key, says Andrew. He continues: “You want to see their natural inquisition along with their need and desire to question further and understand everything they’re going to be doing within the company.”

What do you want to ask?

Make sure you’re prepared – an interview may take on an open-ended structure, but preparing questions is essential to understanding how a person works and how they’ll react in certain situations.

To drill down into that kind of detail, you’ll need to adopt a competency-based interview approach. Andrew says he regularly deploys competency-based interview questions to better understand an interviewee: “I always ask about previous experiences to learn about the rationale behind their actions. It could be anything, including why they chose their degree. I’m not necessarily interested in the experience itself, but I want to challenge them and discover how they construct their arguments.”

The competency-based interview approach has often proved useful, says Andrew, particularly with entry-level or graduate sales jobs. He says, “Your previous role could be in a theme park selling waffles, but if you can turn that into a story and it’s engaging and you’re enthusiastic, that shows a powerful individual.”

To give you an idea of some great questions and what they can reveal about your candidate, Andrew has provided his top three he wouldn’t go to an interview without.

  1. What is the the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?

“This is a great way to find out if they’re a good fit for your business as anecdotes about their life experience and pursuits can tell you more about how they think than a list of qualifications will. Sometimes it might slightly toe the line of professional conversation but it's a good way to help a candidate put their guard down, open up and let their personality shine through. An added benefit is that their ability to storytell and talk about their own experiences helps build rapport and relationships with clients and colleagues alike.”


  1. Introduce this scenario: You start the job with someone on the same day and quickly become friends. You’re performing really well and are close to hitting the record. Your friend is about to miss their target for the 3rd month in the row and as a result, is close to leaving the business. What do you do? Help your friend or go for the all-time record?

“There’s no right answer to this question. What I’m interested in is how they think and rationalise this situation. How they feel and how they would work through this issue gives insight into their logical thinking and attitude. A team player will help, which is valuable and the drive of the ambitious is also good in sales.”


  1. Rank these four things in order of importance: health, wealth, happiness and family.

“This tells you a lot about the person. It focuses on personality, values and gives you a chance to figure out how they work if they don’t have previous sales experience.”



Turn up the heat

Sales is a high pressure career and bringing an element of that intensity to your interview can reveal a lot about your interviewee and how they handle pressure.

Initially, find something on their CV you can relate to and talk to them about it. After you’ve built up a rapport and created a relaxed environment, take the interview in a different direction and ask them challenging questions to up the pressure a notch.

By doing this, Andrew says, “I want to see them handle challenges, maintain their composure and bring it back to a relaxed interview setting. If I was a buyer I’d be putting them under pressure. I want to see them take control and run it as if it was a sales meeting.”  

If you’re still on the fence, Andrew recommends looking out for someone who’s open, accessible and personable. “The more you can open up and trust them and believe them, that’s when you realise there’s a good fit,” he says.

Once you’ve nailed down all of these tips at interview, you’ll soon be hiring your next star salesperson, but if you need a little help finding that all-important talent, Pareto is here to help you out.

Looking to strengthen your Business?

Let's Talk