Three Strategies You Can Use When Interviewing Long-Winded Sales Candidates

The Secret to Dealing with Sales Candidates Who Talk too Much During Interviews

I had a candidate in my earlier recruiting years that loved to talk. At the time, I thought perhaps he just loved to talk to ME.

I considered myself to be a pretty good listener so I figured he would cut down his answers in the proceeding interviews.

Well, despite my warnings about being careful not to “hog all the air time”...he wasn’t able to apply the feedback when he met with my client.

My client, the VP of Sales from a software company, let me know he gave obvious visual ques during the meeting—he kept looking at his watch, and even got bold and yawned at one point.

But my candidate didn’t get the hint. He didn’t pick up on the gestures.

When he called me after the interview he said he thought the interview went really well.

I find today’s sales candidates have evolved.

They are better than they were ten years ago. Most salespeople don’t consider the ability to talk a “sales gift.”

Great salespeople tend to listen more than they talk and make continuous efforts to understand clients’ needs.

Occasionally, you’ll run into a candidate here and there who’ll be a bit loquacious.  After all, sales tends to attract the extroverted.

How do you handle it?

  1. Set the Agenda-- Let the candidate know how much time you have for the meeting and the number of questions you have to get through. Sometimes this is the only direction they need and they’ll quickly become more precise.

  2. Interrupt—In everyday communication, interrupting is considered rude. So some people have a hard time doing it, but when you’re interviewing, sometimes it’s important to move through questions quickly. Interrupting is a good way to do this. Besides, strong listeners allow others to interrupt them, and good candidates are happy to move on to additional questions.

  3. Be Direct—If the long-winded answers continue, it’s time to be candid. “John, we only have an hour and I have a lot of questions to get through, please keep your replies as concise as possible. If I’d like more detail around a particular question or situation, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, we need to pick up the pace.”

Not all long winded candidates are bad salespeople. Sometimes candidates will lengthen answers to simple interview questions in an attempt to develop a relationship and build rapport.

But if you’re not careful, too many calls over your allotted time, and you’ll notice you’re leaving meetings without the requisite information and a chunk of your day is gone forever that you’ll never get back.

When you manage the interview process up front and take control of your time with candidates, you’ll be less likely to overlook strong hires because of a mismatch in communication styles.

Those candidates who can take direction and follow your lead are likely to be highly adaptable and could potentially be your next top sales hire! If they can’t take the direction and continue to talk, it might be time to cut the interview short and move on to other applicants.