Peer Advisory & Executive Coaching Blog

How CEOs Get the Truth From Sales Candidates

Every job seeker “exaggerates”---Sales people most of all. They’re supposed to be good at presenting information in the best possible light.


So how do you cut through their claims of past success?

Tom Rea, former VP of Human Relations for Fisher Scientific, recently presented an interviewing workshop to my Seacoast Vistage group.  Tom told this group of NH CEOs, "Interviewing job candidates is universally hated by all CEOs."  

He suggested that the process is so painful because you can generally tell in the first few minutes if the candidate is NOT a good fit...and then you're stuck for the next hour.  

Interviewing sales candidates is the most difficult because they are paid to be good liars!  He suggested that behavioral interviewing is a way to separate the true high performers from those who might just have been part of a sales team that was successful. 

Behavioral Interviewing is based on the theory that "Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior."

 Your job is to ask questions that gather information about a candidate’s past or current behavior. The assumption is, if a job candidate showed good initiative in the past, it’s likely they will show the same initiative in the future.

 Here are some examples of behavioral questions.

“Tell us about your own sales process.”   Every successful salesperson has a personal system that is unlike anyone else’s. Although most companies have a formal sales process, I’m asking about the system that the person uses to manage his own day-to-day process of selling.

 The best salespeople have their own tools (color-coded folders, checklists, wall charts, diaries and notebooks, calendars and tickle-files, hotlists, apps, etc) that they use to actually manage their workflow. They use the company- supplied tools like CRM systems, but highest achievers augment the “official” process with their own private-personal system for managing their work.

 They use their personal system constantly- and it’s intuitive to them. They use it to make sure they are working on the right things at the right times. They also make sure they have the information they need when they will be contacting a customer.

Ask them about their personal system. They’ll likely tell you funny stories of superstar mentors who taught them how to do it years ago- early in their sales career. 


 "Tell me about your typical Friday afternoon"

 Top sales performers have routines. They don’t just wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “I wonder what I’ll do today?”  Every week is planned out—they do the same thing, on the same day, every week.

High achievers are creatures of habit…and why not keep repeating behaviors that produce good results?

You want to hear that Friday afternoon is the time for them to catch up on their “paperwork”—updating the CRM, sending confirmation emails, reporting to management, etc.

Great sales professionals want to “hit the ground running” on Monday. They don’t want to waste the first day of the week doing paperwork and getting organized.

Candidates, who “waffle” about their typical Friday afternoon, probably are making up stories about what they think you want to hear. A true professional will be able to rattle off their usual activities —all the tasks they do and the reasons why.

Try asking behavioral questions to get the truth from sales candidates.  It will help you separate the imposters from the true achievers.


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