Certain red flags wave so vigorously during the interview that they smack you in the face. Like a spotty work history the interviewee cannot explain. Or they show up unprepared.
Others are less obvious. Which is why we asked our talent sourcing experts to share red flags that business and sales leaders often overlook as they interview and vet candidates for open sales positions.
11 Red Flags You Cannot Ignore When Interviewing Sales Candidates
1. Ignores implicit questions
Here’s a talent-sourcing tip for you – slip implicit questions into the interview.
Instead of directly asking about a topic, use shifts in body language and tone to imply you want to know more.
Does your candidate pick up on the cues and respond with more information?
Their ability to recognize subtlety during the interview indicates they will be equally attentive and perceptive with clients.
2. Unwilling to role-play
A resume cannot convey a salesperson’s ability to think on their feet and find the right response to a delicate situation. Role-playing during the interview is your best chance to measure a range of traits like:
- Communication skills
- Industry and product knowledge
- Problem-solving capabilities
- Performance in stressful situations
- Closing skills
- Reaction to constructive criticism
Your candidate should expect role-playing during the interview. Pushback or a reluctance to participate might indicate they did not prepare for the interview or view the exercise as a waste of time.
If they have that attitude during the interview, ask yourself 2 questions:
What will they be like when they’re asked to do something they don’t want to do on the job?
Will they show up to meetings with clients equally unprepared and disengaged?
3. Never offers specifics
As your candidate recounts their work history, you’re listening for specifics. This is only partially about data and results. In addition to listening for key metrics and results, you want the big picture.
How they connect with prospects, the strategies and processes they use, what works, approaches they discovered don’t work and why give you a fuller understanding of the candidate and whether they’ll succeed at your organization.
4. Presents every aspect of their career as a success
100% win rates do not exist. Your candidate experienced failure.
Be concerned if a candidate hides or refuses to share setbacks, explain what went wrong and the lessons they learned.
Here’s a subtle indicator our talent sourcing experts use to check if a candidate is over-representing their track record: the interviewee’s answers are exclusively about them.
5. They’re always the star of the show
Since sending a cold email or calling a prospect are solo activities, it’s easy for a salesperson to cast themselves in a starring role when reaching out to prospects and closing a deal.
You know the truth is more nuanced – prep work and teamwork set them up for success
A great salesperson reviews marketing campaigns before calling a lead. Then they share prospecting information back to the marketing team to help them improve.
As they answer your questions, listen for:
- Mentions of other departments
- Collaborative work
- How they talk about their colleagues
6. Plays the blame game
Anyone who pins the blame for lost deals on other people or external factors during the interview will bring that mentality with them to their next job.
Negative behavior typically brings down morale and causes frustration across your entire organization.
Hire resilient salespeople who own their failures and successes.
7. Presents activities as achievements
In describing their process, your candidate presents themselves as a successful sales rep because they pack their days with hours spent cold calling and emailing. Several nights a week, they head out to networking events.
Get hard data
Sending dozens of emails every day and spending nights hopping from one event to the next is only useful if it yields results. Have your candidate calculate their close ratio from these efforts.
8. Slow to adopt new processes and tools
You ask about their process and get a detailed answer that mentions tools and strategies that worked perfectly – 10 years ago. You inquire about recent technologies. They reply that they prefer to use systems they know work instead of losing time to learning a new approach.
Their refusal to adapt makes you less efficient
The long-term benefits of new techniques outweigh any short-term productivity drop. Salespeople who are willing to learn demonstrate they value personal development. As they integrate new skills and tools into their own processes, your entire organization becomes more efficient.
9. Over-reliance on a particular tool or strategy:
Closely linked to a refusal to try new technologies is the danger of relying exclusively on a tool or strategy. It could be the latest and greatest product available. It doesn’t matter. Their insistence on using a specific product is another sign they are inflexible.
Ideally during the interview, your candidate will share how they blend multiple tools and strategies into a strategic sales process.
10. Unfamiliar with industry-specific trends and jargon
Candidates show they are prepared for the interview and the role you want them to fill when they:
- Comfortably and correctly use industry-specific jargon
- Identify current market trends and problems
- Speak about your main competitors
An inability to carry on a conversation like this is only an orange flag for entry-level salespeople
Less experienced salespeople will not have the same familiarity with industry jargon as a seasoned professional.
If you’re hiring for an entry-level role, set your expectations around the industry accordingly. Consider putting a professional development plan in place to help your new hire grow.
11. Overemphasis on Money
89% of respondents to a LinkedIn survey said a salary range helped them decide if they should apply for a job. It was the second-highest response, after responsibilities for the role.
It’s a best practice that makes sense. Salary ranges on job descriptions, or early in the application process, saves time because you do not vet a candidate who expects more money.
Once a candidate has a general idea of what the compensation package is, it should not dominate the interview. Constantly revisiting salaries and bonuses might signal the candidate is driven by short-term priorities or is constantly chasing more money. If you hire them and a better offer comes along, they will likely leave because their motivation is money, not your organization, products or services.
Objective, Thorough Candidate Analysis is Labor-Intensive
The 11 red flags detailed above are a partial list of warning signs to watch for in an interview. We haven’t even touched on signals at other stages in the application process that should set off your internal alarm bells. Instead of managing the process on your own, find a talent acquisition partner to source and screen candidates on your behalf.
Get Dedicated Talent Sourcing Resources
When you partner with ProActivate, your talent acquisition manager will find top-tier talent for your job opening. You will not post a job, read resumes or conduct endless interviews.