Provide the interviewer of a hiring company with actionable insights on interviewing and key considerations for the first phone screening you hold with a potential candidate.
- A top sales candidate is in demand. They are interviewing with several companies and evaluating culture, role, career growth, mentorship, brand integrity, long term and short term benefits. Remember that as you are interviewing them, they are interviewing you.
- As an interviewer, your responsibility is to represent a role with transparency and accuracy –explain the ‘daily life as a X role’ accurately while serving as a brand ambassador –what about Company X makes this role exciting (from leadership to solution and employee experience, all of these ‘sell factors’ should be sold effectively to the candidate).
- Be prepared. Hold an interview when you are planted, with full attention on the candidate. Take notes –everything from tone of voice, pauses before a response and details in their response itself have insights. For areas where you think their response could shed greater insights into a candidate, take notes –add a ‘Q’ next to points you want to question the candidate on further.
- An interview should be a conversation –fluid feedback between candidate and interviewer enables greater insights. Ensure you are asking questions and pausing to give clarifying statements so the candidate knows they too can ask questions and engage in a conversational manner (i.e.: does that make sense, are we on the same page, you following?).
Step 1: Launch Call
Take control of the call to ensure communication runs efficiently and with a collaborative flow. For example:
- Hi, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. I am looking forward to hearing more about your background and interests, and to share more about Company X. So let’s dive in.
Step 2: Get a high level sense of who they are
Asking broad questions can tell you a lot about someone. For sales, think about what information they are choosing to share and how they are choosing to share it. For example:
- Before we talk about the company or the role, why don’t you tell me about yourself:(what are they sharing, is it relevant, are they engaging)
- Why did you choose to attend X University OR why did you major in X and/or why did you commit to X as your employer?(Does their response have intent, logic, short term and long term considerations, passion and drive?)
- What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your education or career and how did you overcome that challenge? (Does the response include grit, persistence and perseverance? It should.)
- Can you give me an example of a time when you have thrived under pressure or influenced others in an organized fashion to drive change or action?(Sales pros that are successful, even before getting a seasoned career in sales, generally thrive under pressure and are influential for causes or ideas that have passion for –they know how to commit, communicate and create action from others).
Step 3: Assess company knowledge
You are aware of what you know about them thus far, yet you don’t know what they know about the company so start there. For example:
- I am excited to share more about this incredible company that I get to work for but before I do, let’s dive into what you know about the company to date.
- So, what do you know about our company? (Have they done their homework before the interview? What does their response touch on –the brand, competitive landscape, solution, culture, recent recognition, ventures backing the company? While they may not know much, they should know more than the tag line and basic value props obvious on the website. They should have shown a proactive and inquisitive interest before the interview).
- Why are you interested in this particular role? (Their response should include interest in sales, the industry and the company specifically).
Step 4: Give the candidate the floor
Giving the candidate a chance to take control and ask questions can be just as insightful as the interview you conducted. An important thing to remember is that this candidate may have had interviews or managers where they didn’t get to take the floor and where them asking probing questions or qualifying questions were looked down upon, so ensure they know they are encouraged to ask anything nd have a candid conversation with you. Here is how I would suggest you evaluate candidate questions after you’ve set the stage for them to ‘ask away’:
- Did they ask strategic questions about the company?
- Did they shed any insights into the role and their interest now that they have learned more?
- Are their questions taking an accurate perspective on this role and how they would fill the shoes of this position?
- Are they asking you the right questions to assess their own candidacy?
Step 5: Set expectations
If a candidate is unqualified, waiting for a later date to tell them is wasting your time and theirs. If granted the authority, tell them transparently on the call what your next steps are. For example:
- It was great speaking with you and I so appreciate your interest in the company. For X, Y and Z reasons, I don’t see you as a direct fit for this role. What is missing in your candidacy is….. OR What really drove me to this conclusion is…
If they don’t take no for an answer, listen. It is showing perseverance and might be worth a second glance. If it’s not, it is not. Either way – remember, they now have engaged with your brand. They have been rejected from your brand and you do not want them to walk away with a negative connotation about your brand because you never know where they will share that. Close out in a complimentary fashion.
Based on X, Y and Z, I think you have great potential for this role and I’d like to serve as an advocate for you to move forward in the interview process. Here are the next steps. Lay them out clearly with a timeline and details of individuals involved in the hiring process. Explain the interview process, should the candidate have a consensus with your team to move forward with interview steps.
Step 6: Evaluate their follow-up
For any role, and especially sales, follow-up should be timely and personable. Here are some evaluation metrics:
- Did they follow up within 48 hours? (For sales, they absolutely should)
- Was their follow up personable? (For sales, it absolutely should)
- Was there a call to action and push for next steps? (For sales, is should yet if they are truly junior, this may not be present –remember, they may come from an environment that encouraged them not to drive action in such a way, so take note and remember to touch on this…ask them why they did not push for action and ensure that there is no judgement, rather, that you are curious. Their feedback will allow you to shape where they are coming from and what their though process is in driving action).
- You are a direct representation of your brand, this role and the employee’s perceived value of joining this team.
- You are being interviewed by the candidate. Consider the candidate as the customer –a top performer will not be desperately interviewing, but evaluating you as they strive to put their best foot forward during the interview process.
- They care about who you are –you are a part of this team, you have insights they want. Be personable, make them feel comfortable to be their authentic self. You are hiring them and their authentic self is who you are getting so make sure you are interviewing the true them. You can do this by making them feel comfortable to be themselves. A big way to do that is simply to be yourself, be transparent and be engaging.