The following is a list of suggested questions you can ask to gather information about the
candidate’s background and ambitions in the interview process. These questions, where
possible, have been organized under the five categories discussed in the previous section
detailing the traits of successful salespeople (See also Characteristics of Successful
EMPATHY. To determine if the candidate has the ability to identify with customers,
feel what they are feeling and to make customers feel respected, ask:
1. What’s your definition of consultative selling? What factors do you consider to be the most important for successful selling?
2. What do you know about our company? ... products?
3. How you go about finding common ground with customers?
4. Describe a situation in which you were able to effectively “read” another person and guide your actions by your understanding of their individual needs or values.
5. Trust bonds are an important aspect in the consultative sales relationship. Describe a time when you were successful in dealing with another because you built a trusting relationship.
6. How do you handle an irate customer on the telephone?
7. How do you show a customer that he/she is important?
FOCUS. In a salesperson, focus produces best results when it is balanced with empathy.To determine if a candidate is goal-oriented and can stay attentive to one topic, ask:
1. How would you define a self-starter? How do you rate yourself in this category?
2. What would you hope to achieve in your first year of work here?
3. What plans do you have for further education during your career?
4. Can you provide me with an example of how you overcame your own mental block or prejudice to make a sale?
5. What have you done to improve yourself in the past year—attended courses, self study
materials, joined an association?
6. What kind of position would you like to hold in 5 years? What are some of the ways you see your career developing?
7. What is the most rewarding thing that you have ever done?”
8. Do you have goals in life? Are they written down?
9. Give me an example of a time when you felt you were able to motivate your coworkers
10. What did you dislike about your previous supervisor/manager?
11. How do you react to criticism?
12. What do you most often criticize others for?
RESPONSIBILITY. To determine if the candidate is a person with a strong sense of responsibility who does not place blame on other people when placed in a difficult
1. What aspects of your present/previous job do you like the most?
2. What aspects of your present/previous job do you like the least? Why?
3. Describe a recent misfortune in your life and how you handled it.
4. Describe for me a situation at work when a project or assignment did not turn out as expected.
OPTIMISM. To determine if the candidate is a person who has persistence and can
remain optimistic while dealing with interpersonal conflict, rejection or time demands, ask:
1. Can you describe a situation where a crisis occurred and you had to shift your priorities and workload quickly? Outline how you resolved the situation and what you learned from it.
2. Describe a job-related incident where you faced problems or stresses that tested your coping skills. What did you do?
3. Tell me about a time when you had to cope with strict deadlines or time demands. Can give me an example?
4. How do you handle rejection?
5. When have you had to cope with the anger or hostility in another person? Give me an example?
EGO-DRIVE. To determine if the candidate is persistent for the purpose of succeeding and above all winning, ask:
1. How much do you want this job?
2. Tell me of something you wanted in the past or about a goal you wanted to reach and what you did to get it.
3. Have you ever assumed an existing sales territory? If yes, what was the dollar volume when you started and what was it when you left?
4. Describe a specific occasion when you conformed to a policy or decision with
which you did not agree.
About the Author:
The Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) is a national organization of 30000 sales and marketing professionals. Members receive significant savings on travel, business costs and more. The CPSA also offers exclusive sales training and certification programs.