Interview Questions to Screen Applicants for Sales Positions

Esteban Gomez | February 1, 2015

Finding quality salespeople for your organization stems from the ability to properly screen applicants with the right interview questions. While many people get into sales at some point of their their career, not everyone is cut out for sales and able to build a successful career from it. In order to build a strong sales team, it’s important to be able to screen applicants who are cut out for the job and will be able to deliver. Although each sales role comes with its own unique responsibilities, challenges and perks, the following questions make sure you cover a broad spectrum to help identify the superstar your company deserves.



Professional selling is competitive. Sales representatives compete to identify opportunities, win new business and gain customer credibility. As a competitive role, screen applicants with questions about motivation like “What motivates you as a sales professional?” To get a deeper understanding of the competitive streak of a sales representative Ken Sundheim, founder and CEO of KAS Placement likes to screen applicants with, “Give me an example of when you’ve prospected a lead creatively and what were the steps you took to do so?” Behavioral questions about motivation probe candidates to give a concrete example of how far they have gone to win a deal.

Everyone in sales understands that some months are better than others and experiencing ups and downs comes with the role. While nothing’s wrong with a temporary slump, look for candidates who have learned from it and avoid candidates who claim they’ve never experienced a downturn. Screen applicants with, “Have you ever had a losing streak? How did you turn it around?” It’s important to see which candidates can pick themselves up and keep moving forward.


In order to attract, win and keep clients, sales representatives must be able to have quality communication and social skills so that they can understand how to properly sell to various types of people.  To get a better understanding of applicants’ ability to work with prospects and customers, Sundheim screens applicants with, “can you give me an example of a complex contract negotiation you’ve completed and how you did it?” Look for answers that show how a candidate was able work with a client in order to land a deal that was a win-win for both parties.

In an attempt to find the world’s greatest salesperson, OgilvyOne asked candidates to sell a brick. Yes, the small red rectangular block typically used for building. Acknowledging the unique screening method, Mat Zucker, Executive Creative Director of OgilvyOne said, “We thought it was time to reassert the importance of sales and honor the timeless craft of persuasion.” To follow suit with OgilvyOne, screen applicants with unique questions that pushes them outside of their comfort zone and tests their raw ability to sell. Because hey, if you can successfully sell a brink, you can probably successfully sell anything.


According to a Glassdoor survey, lack of growth opportunities is one of the top three reasons that would cause a salesperson to look for a new job. Screen applicants with questions like, “What is your ultimate career aspiration?” or “Where would you like to see yourself improve in the area of sales?” to get an understanding of the candidate’s goals for their career. If the candidate expresses a desire to pursue a career move that your company can’t provide, you might want to discuss this with the candidate so that you aren’t interviewing again sooner than you’d like.

Having an efficient sales team is crucial to any organization’s growth and while no salesperson is ever perfect, asking the right questions helps recruiters identify the best salesperson for their company. What are your favorite questions to screen applicants for sales roles?


If you would like to talk about how interviewstream can further assist in screening applicants, head over to our website so we can connect!

About The Author

Esteban Gomez is a marketing consultant with interviewstream. He loves learning and has a passion for traveling, having visited many countries including China, Colombia, Italy, and Peru.


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