5 Tips for Hiring Better Sales Account Executives

Salespeople play a crucial role in the success of any organization. After all, they are the ones who generate the revenue a company needs to grow. One common mistake that hiring managers make is focusing too much on the numbers and other details that are already on a candidate’s resume.

Job interview

While it is important to know what a sales representative is capable of, taking the time to ensure that he or she is a good fit for the business is even more critical. The key is to use a style of interviewing that draws out themes that give essential insight into the candidate’s motivations.

The Chronological Interview

When hiring managers go through the prospective salesperson’s resume chronologically, it allows them to uncover personal attributes that remain consistent across various positions. Another benefit of this approach is that it gives interviewers an objective way to learn about the interviewee’s career path.

Some examples of interview questions for account executives that incorporate the chronological approach include:

  • What are your primary responsibilities in your current or former position and what metrics did you use to measure success? A person who desires a job in sales should be able to clearly describe the duties he or she completes daily. Additionally, a salesperson who cannot explain what constitutes success displays an unacceptable lack of motivation.
  • With the benefit of hindsight, what would you do differently in your current or previous job to achieve even greater success? This question highlights a job candidate’s ability for self-reflection and whether he or she accepts and implements feedback from managers and other sales staff.
  • What attributes do you appreciate in your current or former sales manager? The purpose of this question is to weed out negative people who cannot come up with anything good to say about their superiors. It also determines the type of boss the sales professional prefers.

Break the Interview into Different Types of Questions

Each interview should include a clear warm-up period, questioning that proves the interviewee’s fitness for the job, and a closing. The first part of the interview allows people to build rapport while assessing each other’s personality and speaking style. Typical questions at this stage focus on the candidate’s current position and accomplishments along with his or her reason for seeking a new opportunity.

The more creative the interviewer can be with the proof questions, the more telling the salesperson’s answers. That is because he or she will not have had the opportunity to rehearse them. Some examples of this line of questioning include:

  • Describe what is in your rolodex. The answer to this request demonstrates the number and level of contacts the salesperson has in addition to the types of companies they currently sell to.
  • Tell me about your toughest customer. How did you win this person over? The candidate’s answer here shows his or her problem-solving skills, persistence, and dedication to meeting goals.
  • What is your current prospecting process? This should include tools used, criteria to qualify a lead, and knowing when to back off from a deal.

This represents just a small sample of prove it type of questions. One take-away for hiring managers is that the most telling responses will come from highly creative and challenging questions.


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