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Interview Questions for a Sales Role

What to ask in a Sales interview

Sales employees drive the front end of your company’s success – so it’s vital that they can do their job effectively. When you’re interviewing for a sales role, it pays to be on the lookout for the following competencies:

  • Outstanding interpersonal skills. Because they deal directly with clients, your sales employees need to be personable and sensitive to the motivations of others.
  • Confidence. Sales employees need - of course! - to be able to sell your product or service. They should be clear, convincing and self-assured so you know they will win clients’ notice and trust.
  • Quick thinking skills. Sales staff have to operate on the go - whether that’s in person or on the phone - so it’s vital they can think on their feet.
  • Commercial awareness. As the face of your company, sales staff should know where your company stacks up in the industry and in turn what kinds of questions they’re likely to field from potential clients.
  • Willingness to learn. Entry-level candidates need to be enthusiastic about their work and eager to expand their skills. They should have researched your company before their interview and be keen to gain insight into the role by speaking to you.

See our general guide to hiring graduates in sales for further tips.

Like all interviews, sales interviews should contain a mix of question types. Let’s take a closer look.

General questions about background/future

These are broad, basic questions that the candidate is likely to have prepared, and they should open the interview. The aim is to get an overview of the candidate’s experience and ambitions – that is, a sense of where they are in their career and what they are likely to want from this job.

Possible questions could include:

  • Talk me through your CV.
  • Can you tell me more about this particular piece of experience?
  • Tell me about your degree. What was your favourite course/module and why?
  • What are your longer-term career ambitions?

Questions about personal traits

These questions assess the candidate’s suitability for your role based on their character and personality. They aim to clarify the candidate’s interpersonal skills, engagement and quick thinking skills.

Possible questions could include:

  • Tell me about a major piece of work you completed. What were its challenges? What was your process for getting it completed on time and to a good standard?
  • Tell me about one of your strengths and how you think it comes out in your work.
  • What does a great day at work look like for you?
  • If you could improve one of your skills, which would you choose and why?
  • What motivates you?
  • What does good communication look like? How do you achieve it?
  • Tell me about a time you had to compromise on something you didn’t really want to compromise on. How did you go about it? How did the other party react and how did you manage that reaction?
  • Tell me about one of your hobbies. Why does it interest you and how do you do it?
  • Tell me about a time you had to change your approach to a problem quickly. What did you do?

Questions related to the company/role/sales specifically

The aim is to see whether the candidate has a clear interest in and understanding of what is involved in sales, in this specific role and in this particular company.

Possible questions could include:

  • Why this role?
  • Tell us what you think we do/what’s your understanding of how we work? (If necessary, gently correct/add)
  • What do you find most exciting about working for this company?
  • What do you find engaging about sales? How do you think it suits your skills and personality?
  • What do you think the purpose of sales is? What can it achieve at its best?
  • What could you bring to this role that is unique and valuable?
  • Which companies do you admire and why?
  • Tell us about an example of really good customer/client service you have seen. What made it so good?
  • Tell us about an example of really poor customer/client service. What would you do differently?
  • What do you hope to learn in this role?

Scenarios

When interviewing for a sales role, it’s useful to see the candidate in action. We suggest presenting them with a hypothetical sales scenario, to assess their quick thinking and people skills. It’s best to do this in a face-to-face interview.

Your scenario should be company-specific and involve a difficult client or need for negotiation. Your candidate’s response to your scenario should be well-thought out, even if not necessarily correct; it should demonstrate an understanding of your company’s aims and tone; and ideally, the candidate should propose doing something similar to what you would do.

Practical and closing questions

These are brief, straightforward questions to close the interview and to give the candidate a chance to ask questions.

Possible questions could include:

  • Can I confirm that you are legally allowed to work in the UK? Note that we have a guide to working visas here.
  • Do you have any questions for me?
  • When would you be available to start?

What to do next

Once you’ve found your new sales employee, it’s time to make them an offer. Check out our guide on How to Make a Job Offer for some handy tips.

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