The majority of your sales candidates are going to come to you without experience. That can go either one of two ways — they come from an environment completely different from your own, or they have no sales experience, period.
How can you screen for skills that will only become apparent after you decide to hire someone? Here are some questions to help you get a clear view of who’s going to be a good fit for your organization.
1. Why Are You Applying For This Position?
Many entry-level job seekers view sales as a career path with a low barrier to entry. They’ll apply, they’ll get hired — and immediately realize that sales just isn’t for them. This leaves you with an unsatisfied employee, and equally unsatisfying turnover rates after your new hire inevitably jumps ship several months in.
Make sure you’re making the right investment in a new employee by ensuring the candidate views sales as a career they’re serious about pursuing.
2. Are You Applying To Other Positions? If So, What Are They?
We’ve all seen it — candidates vying for a job are just more likely to tell you only what you want to hear (I mean, can you blame them?) If you want to separate the truth from the flattery, remember: actions speak louder than words.
Ask a candidate about other roles they’re applying to or are interested in. If more than half of the roles are not client-facing (e.g. consulting or banking roles), that raises a red flag. It could indicate that the candidate doesn’t have a clear vision on their career goals, or that they’re simply not as into the job you’re offering as they say they are.
That’s not to say they don’t have the skills and drive to do well in a sales role. But if they don’t indicate a genuine interest in working with prospective customers, a sales role is unlikely to be truly rewarding and compelling for them in the long term.
3. Describe Some Of Your Hobbies.
Having a candidate describe some of their hobbies outside the workplace can be a good indicator of who they are.
The majority of candidates new to sales can speak easily about why their hobby intrigues them, but what makes a candidate stand out is when they turn the situation around and try to learn more about your current interests. A personable hire is a good hire!
4. Describe Some Past Experiences You’ve Had Working In Sales.
Ask a candidate to describe their involvement in the sales process of their past/current employer. If you learn from their own words where they fit in a previous workflow, you’ll get a good glimpse into how they view themselves as a part of a team, and just how passionate they are about building a brand. Focus on their contributions and what they thought really stood out in a positive way.
5. What Work Experiences Have You Enjoyed The Most? The Least?
Asking a candidate about their “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” moments can say a lot about their potential place in your organization. If their biggest dislike is something that’s a major part of your process, look out. Conversely, if their likes overlap well with the needs of your team, this person may really enjoy transitioning to your company.
6. What Are Your Career Goals/Aspirations?
For candidates with sales experience that differs from your process, ask about their aspirations to better understand how their prior skills could translate and grow your company. Understanding that sales encompasses a wide spectrum of styles will make sure you’re not overly optimistic about a candidate’s odds of transitioning well to your needs and system. Remember, placing a candidate doesn’t mean much if they don’t last!
What You Need To Consider:
Be honest with yourself about what your sales team needs. If you’re selling a well-known product, you’re probably better off hiring competitive, activity-driven sales reps who will work hard. On the flip side, if you’re selling a new product that needs to rely on vision and innovation to grab a prospect’s attention, you may benefit more from a natural storyteller who will thrive in a shifting environment.
Screen sales applicants with no experience differently than those with past experience. For those fresh out of school or taking their first stab at a sales career, confirm this is what they really want. Sales is a tough world — a craft that needs to be developed. You know it’s not the type of role you can treat as a failsafe, and your talent should be just as passionate about the role (and company) as the rest of your team.