What interview techniques I should be using?

I’ve interviewed a few people for a sales position and I seem to be getting the same, pre-rehearsed answers from candidates. It’s making it hard to get to know what they are really like. Are there any different questions or techniques I should be using?


If Maxwell Smart was writing this, he may say, “Ah, it’s the old… keep doing the same thing and you will get the same results… trick.”


And he’d be right, so its time to get smart.


Common sales behavioural questions that follow the SAR technique (situation, action, results) tend to focus on building rapport, meeting customer expectations, handling difficult clients, attracting new business, exceeding targets and negotiation skills.


Thanks to the internet, candidates are savvy, well rehearsed and armed with prepared answers and their sales success stories.


Same answers often result from using the same questions and are usually based entirely on past performance.


So if you have these in your repertoire you may need to go back to basics and write questions that directly correlate to your key criteria rather than using generic questions.


Most companies have a position description but haven’t created a job analysis first. Basically, a job analysis sorts out what’s critical to the position and what’s not.


It doesn’t need to be a thesis but needs to detail the main purpose of the role and main accountabilities, any direct reports, critical success factors, technical skills (if any) and most importantly the behavioural aptitudes that are going to fit with your culture.


There should be between five and eight key areas of accountability, listed in order of priority.


For a sales position you may include cold calling, regular follow up, motivating a sales team or establishing business networks.


When looking at the critical success factors, think about why your current clients buy from you and then list these in the job analysis.


Areas you could include are always delivering on your promises, friendly sales team or extensive industry knowledge.


From this analysis you should be able to ascertain the aptitudes that will best fit with your company and clients.


Whilst past performance is important, it can always be verified during the reference checking process.


The following list of behavioural aptitudes can be used as a guide in creating your own interview questions:

  • Driven to achieve
  • Ambitious
  • Blue skies thinker
  • Optimism
  • Energetic
  • Competitive
  • Persuasive
  • Out going
  • Friendly
  • Achievement oriented
  • Strong communicator

Lastly, to mix it up, you can introduce some role-play in the interviewing process. Draw upon some real sales scenarios that have happened with your clients.


For transparency, ensure you let the candidate know prior to the interview that they will be required to participate in a role-play.


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