Five Must-Ask Questions When Hiring Top Sales Talent


By Marty D. Blake, Chief Operating Officer, Optimé International Inc. 


Hiring for any role can be challenging. Screening and selecting a high performing sales rep can be amongst the hardest hiring jobs to do. After all, they usually know at least the basics of selling and know how to present the right arguments. Sometimes they can pose their way through an interview and it’s not until they’re onboard and you’re fully invested in them, that you find out they aren’t cut out for the role. They might be adequate on the job but you’re looking for someone to consistently hit home runs and they’re barely making it to first base.

Years of experience in helping clients assess potential sales talent has taught me some of the best screening techniques around. These unique interview questions will help to separate the “base-hitters” from the “grand slam home-runners.”

Before we get to my ‘must-ask” category of questions, I want to touch on what NOT to ask. Don’t ask generic questions like “Why should I hire you?” (they’ll have practiced that one). And PLEASE don’t try any difficult logic-problems that will just waste everyone’s time.


The following five questions during an interview can help open a window into the candidate’s true nature and this can show you which ones have what it takes to score big.

1. When I ask your former manager about your strengths and weaknesses, what will they say?

This will build anxiety in some of your candidates – and that’s OK. You aren’t looking for a perfect track record. Most of them will have a few ghosts. What you’re looking for, is to see the honesty of their responses. The great candidates will calmly bring up the past – ghosts and all. The less than stellar candidates will deflect uncomfortably trying to make themselves look flawless. Nobody is flawless.

2. Thanks for joining us today. Over to you.

You are looking for someone confident and able to take control of a conversation. I’ve always believed that the “the one who asks the most questions, wins.” Especially in sales. If the candidate is confident and is adept at handling meetings from start to finish, this one should be a breeze for them. Look for people that take charge, set the agenda, ask questions, and provide and schedule next steps at the end of the meeting. The ones who are clearly uncomfortable in this scenario won’t have the skills to excel in closing deals.

3. How did you prepare for this interview?

Top performers will have done their homework on you, your company, and your product. If the candidate can outline the steps they took to prepare for the interview, you’ve got a winner. If they can’t, he or she won’t be prepared for “real-world” sales calls. It’s simple. You’re looking for research techniques that go beyond “I checked out the website.” Look for those who signed in for a Shareholder’s call or watched your CEO interviews on YouTube. Something beyond the minimum.

4. You’ve got the qualifications on paper, but I’m not sure you are a top producer, and I only have room for top producers.

In your face, right? This isn’t really a question, but an invitation to push back. A weak performer will shy away and then politely thank you for your time. A top performer will loveresponding to this question. They’ll flex their objection handling and give you a glimpse of their grit. Overcoming objections is key for top salespeople to close the deal. Let them show you their skills first-hand.

5. How do you think this interview is going right now?

This is another question that could throw a weak candidate off their game. It will also allow reps that know how to rise to the occasion to shine.Top performers will dive deep into this question, while poor performers will provide a more shallow, self-conscious response.

When hiring for a championship sales team, the type of questions you ask will make all the difference and the five questions above will give you a strong head start. If you are looking for ongoing support with assessing your potential talent, Optimé has some great solutions than can help you make sure you build a winning team. Every time. For more information, please visit our Talent Assessment page.