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  • Behavioral-Based Interviewing: The Best Way to Get Job Applicants to Talk

    Questions for Sales Positions

  • 506 Carnegie Center, Suite 300

    Princeton, NJ 08540


    1 Questions for Sales Positions

    Many hiring managers find the interview process to be one of most difficult parts of hiring and selection. How do you know what to ask? How can you get beneath the surface to find out how a job candidate will perform? What can you ask to get past the resume? That’s where behavioral-based interviewing comes in.

    Unlike a traditional interview, a behavioral interview includes specific questions about past experiences, actions, and employment-related situations to understand how the candidate handles important job-related responsibilities. Knowing how an individual has behaved in the past can help predict future performance and provide insights into the lessons the person has learned along the way. The following list of questions, and suggestions on what to listen for, will act as a guide to help you understand how a job candidate will perform if you bring him or her onboard.

    DISCLAIMER: The following questions are general in nature. While we provide suggestions on what to listen for, these questions are not directed toward any one job candidate or position. In order to get interview questions matched to a specific individual, please use the Caliper Profile Interview Guide. For more information about the Caliper Profile Interview Guide and other Caliper services, visit

  • PROBLEM SOLVING AND DECISION MAKING These questions focus on the sales candidate’s strengths in thinking through solutions to problems. RECOGNIZING PROBLEMS When are you most likely to follow your instincts? • This answer should aid in identifying whether the candidate is willing to take risks. It should also help to identify whether the individual is an impulsive decision maker or a calculated thinker.

    Describe a situation where your ability to see the big picture aided you in understanding a client or co-worker better and ultimately solving his or her problem. • Listen for the way the candidate thinks and how he or she went about providing a solution to the problem. Evaluate the complexity of the situation. Did the big picture remain in focus?

    Tell me about a time when you were indecisive. What were the factors involved? • The answer to this question should help you decide if the individual has a tendency to overanalyze problems and suffer from analysis paralysis. Also, does this candidate become confused or overwhelmed when a lot of information is thrown at him or her?

    When are you likely to bend the rules to solve a problem? When have you done this in the past? • Listen to understand if the candidate ignores policy to solve problems. Under what circumstances is it okay to sidestep procedure to handle both client-facing and internal issues? ANALYZING PROBLEMS Tell me about a time when your judgment was right on target. • Listen to see if the candidate made an effective decision. How did he or she evaluate the situation?

    Describe a situation in which you were so focused on one solution that you did not pay attention to the alternate solutions present. • People can sometimes be very single-minded; listen for reasons why the individual was not open to or paying attention to alternative solutions. 506 Carnegie Center, Suite 300

    Princeton, NJ 08540


    2 Questions for Sales Positions

  • Discuss a situation where your ability to analyze the components of a problem helped you bring that problem to resolution. • You want to listen to the methods he or she used, thus gaining an understanding of the rationale the individual employs to solve problems. EVALUATING ALTERNATIVES Describe a situation where you were able to resolve a problem because you were thorough in obtaining the facts before coming to a conclusion. • Answers to this question help ascertain if the candidate collected and analyzed the information before providing resolution.

    Describe a time when you did not see the big picture because you did not take into consideration the information resources around you. • Responses should measure the candidate’s flexibility, ability to think in the abstract, and awareness and openness to alternative solutions.

    Tell me about a time where you had very little information but were still expected to resolve a complex problem. How did you solve the problem? • Listen to see if the candidate researched information or used multiple resources effectively. Was the approach analytical and strategic? How did he or she gather information?

    Describe a situation in which you were able to provide a solution to a very difficult problem. • How did the candidate use information resources? What was the approach used to gain information? TAKING TIMELY ACTION Tell me about a situation in which quick action on your part made a positive difference. • Is part of the position being quick on your feet? If so, is the candidate’s style appropriate for your organization?

    Tell me about a situation where you should have taken a risk but did not. • Answers to this question should help ascertain how venturesome or risk averse the candidate is.

    Describe a situation in which you had to take immediate action despite the fact that you did not have all the information. • Responses can help you evaluate the candidate’s ability to be decisive. Did the candidate consider the information available? Was there a long delay while waiting for additional information that may not have been necessary?

    506 Carnegie Center, Suite 300

    Princeton, NJ 08540


    3 Questions for Sales Positions

  • Tell me something you have done that demonstrates your ability to troubleshoot. • Listen for responses that explain whether the candidate reviewed relevant factors and potential options. Did the reaction seem like a panicked gut reaction, was the response one of procrastination, or was the response appropriate? SALES POSITION QUESTIONS This section focuses on sales characteristics and helps you to identify the following sales competencies: persuasive motivation, communication and presentation skills, handling feedback and resistance in negotiations, and closing a transaction successfully. Each item is presented along with areas for you to consider as you evaluate the candidate’s response. PERSUASIVENESS Tell me about a presentation that you were particularly proud of. Why was it effective in winning others over to your point of view? • Listen for cues on how strategic the presentation was, the professional level of the audience, and the amount of persuasion required. Try to determine if the approach was more telling or responsive and whether the individual’s style and methodology are consistent with your organization’s expectations and culture.

    Tell me about a situation when you really wanted to win in an argument or discussion but were not successful because you used the wrong approach. • Responses can reflect an inability to listen, stay on track, and adapt to the circumstances and responses of the other person.

    Tell me about a time when you were so intent on getting your point across that you may have come across as “pushy.” • Look for a need to “tell” rather than “sell” an idea or product. Too much aggression can turn people off, particularly in a longer cycle sale.

    Describe the style you utilize in order to sell your ideas. • Response to this question will demonstrate how focused the candidate is and whether he or she is aware of his or her personalized methods for increasing business. Are the style and methodology consistent with your company’s philosophy?

    506 Carnegie Center, Suite 300

    Princeton, NJ 08540


    4 Questions for Questions for Sales Positions

  • SOLICITING AND RESPONDING TO OBJECTIONS When do you find yourself becoming too accommodating? Describe a real situation. • We can gauge the candidate’s personal threshold for handling resistance, rejection, and conflict. Agreeing too much with a prospect can dilute one’s ability to negotiate and persuade. It is important to understand an objection but also to overcome it.

    What types of people can cause you to back down more easily than others? Why? • Many salespeople can handle a warm prospect or referral, but other prospects can cause them to feel intimidated or less confident. You will want to learn if the people who make the candidate uncomfort able are similar to those whom he or she will face on a regular basis during your organization’s sales process. Understanding why the potential salesperson backs down may help to determine whether training or coaching will help.

    How do you go about overcoming recurring and formidable resistance? • It is important to understand how a salesperson continues to control the transaction when rejection occurs. The candidate should demonstrate an ability to deal with resistance and remain persistent enough to pursue a


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