How to hire Sales Executives & questions to ask in sales interview?

We get a lot of requests from our clients asking us to refer any good sales candidates to hire and how do we typically hire someone. We thought of collecting some of the learning we & our clients have had while hiring sales professional and share it with you.

We will cover aspects like Skills to look for, Recruiting channels, Questions to ask, Experience to look for and Red flags during a hiring process. So, let’s get started.

  1. Skills to look for
  • Any Interview requires the candidate to be able to convince interviewer to hire him/her. The candidate should be able to convince you to hire him/her. This will highlight candidate’s ability to convince.
  • Sales is 2/3 listening and 1/3 talking. That said, you should look for someone who can ask right set of questions. Look for people who can listen to you and figure out what you want as an interviewer. They should then be able to make an offer about hiring them. Candidates who can do this will also be able to do the same in their sales job.
  • The candidate should always be talking about next steps, they should have a next step when they walk out of the interview. A good sales person always has a next step defined at any stage of the sales cycle. So, look out for candidate who proactively define next step in every stage of the hiring process and even in interview. A good sales person always has clear next step, he/she is aware of it & acts accordingly.
  • The candidate should follow up. Whichever stage candidate is in interview process, they should follow up with you as required. If they don’t follow up during the hiring process, don’t expect them to follow up enough during sales job. Sales people who don’t follow up, don’t close deals.


  1. Recruiting channels
  • Make use of sales executive recruiting companies, It is okay to pay a little if you want to skip the headache of finding and shortlisting relevant candidates. Priority should be to look for recruiters who have already recruited people in sales field.
  • Linkedin is another good channel but cannot expect too many applications from it.
  • References are also a good way to find candidates
  • Try multiple channels and see the quality of application from each before trying more of it.


  1. Experience
  • Look for 2-3 year experience candidates, Ideal candidates would be people who have already sold products at the price point of your product, you might have to pay a little for it but the ROI could be better than hiring a person with no experience & training them.
  • Relevant experience doesn’t mean candidates who have domain knowledge of the product you are selling. If you find them then it’s a plus but even someone outside the domain who has sold the product in the similar price point or type of product is a good find. For example, a sales person who has sold software product would have relevant experience for a cloud-based software company with similar price points.
  • If you can’t find relevant experience, it is perfectly fine. Good sales people adapt to your business needs easily.


  1. Questions to ask
  • Tell us about a client you followed up the maximum number of time and still closed the deal – This will give you an idea if they do follow up and when do they typically give up.
  • What kind of objections you usually come across in your previous sales job and how did you handle them? – This will help you understand if they are prepared for objections and how do they handle them. Are they used to objection handling process?
  • What kind of deals have you closed, what was your target goal and how much did you achieve it? – This helps in understanding if they can actually generate numbers and hit targets.
  • Try to sell me the product you were selling previously? – This will actually give you a snapshot into candidate working style, do they ask relevant questions, how good are they in understanding client and making an offer.
  • Can you share the toughest deal you ever closed, how did you close it and why was it tough to close?
  • Have you closed a deal with a client who was already using your competitor product? Why did they choose you?
  • At first level of shortlisting when you qualifying applicants, ask them to send you an introductory email which they would send to one of your prospects. This gives you an idea of how well they can write an email. Do not hire salespeople who can’t write well.
  • People who qualify in the phone interview, ask them to send you a calendar invite for a meeting for next round of interview. This will help you see if they can send a professional looking invite & punctual for the meeting if he arrives at the meeting time.
  • In final round interview during meeting we found a question effectively used by other recruiters and worked out well for us too. You can ask “If we select you for this job and talk to your previous employer before giving you offer letter, what do you think they will say about your strength and weakness”. This will throw some light on their strength and weakness, relationship with previous employers and honesty.


  1. Red Flags during recruitment process
  • Candidates who are not punctual for meeting setup
  • Candidates who cannot write good emails during initial stages of process
  • Candidates who don’t ask for next steps(A sales guy should always push for next steps)
  • Candidates who often miss their sales target(This is difficult to find but talking to previous employer of the candidate could help you understand it)
  • Candidates who don’t follow up during interview process

Please share with us some of the key learning you had while hiring sales executive.

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