A Behind-the-Curtains Look at the Sales Interview Process

The Employers First & Only Objective of The Interview is to Determine if You Will be a Good Hire

Let’s take a look behind the curtain of the interview process and find out what’s really going on.

Because every company has access to the same technology and tools, and can even copy a competitor’s strategy, hiring the right people remains the one variable that can really be a game changer.

Talented people make all the difference.

When you go to your next sales interview keep the following in mind:

1. It isn’t about You

Carley Simon’s song sums up the interview process well if we make a few minor adjustments to the lyrics:

You probably think this interview is about you, don’t you, don’t you?

 Well, it isn’t.

You’re so vain!  

Interviews aren’t really about you in the traditional sense. They are about the employers. Their primary objective is to make good hiring decisions.


Employers have a lot of ground to cover and information to collect about you, but they are not there to talk about what you get in exchange for your fine sales skills.

Not until much later in the process anyway…

2. It’s about Your Transferable Skills

Employers want to know more about the sales skills you’ve developed and only the ones they can capitalize on.

Although you may be an excellent telephone prospector, if you’re job involves managing a handful of accounts, this skill may not be worth discussing in-depth.

If the role you’re interviewing for calls on higher education, but you’re currently selling to F500, you’ll want to think about clients who have similar buying styles to higher education.

Don’t talk about selling to high-tech companies because they tend to have a much faster buying cycle relative to higher education.

If you’re known at your current company for giving ‘the best’ demos but the prospective employer has solution consultants for that, focus on other more relevant skills.

Focus on transferable skills and parallel experience.

Highlight the parts of your background that demonstrate the kind of experiences that are valuable to the specific employer you’re currently meeting.

3. It’s about Your Manageability

The employer needs to assess one trait that his critical to his or her success: coachability.

  • Are you someone who can take feedback and make changes?

  • How have you adapted to feedback in the past?

  • Are you able to work well in a team?

  • Do you tend to see your manager as someone who’s there to help you or as someone who wants to interrogate and control you?

The employer must know that you can learn to adjust your behavior to the environment, and not expect the environment to adjust to you.

4. It’s about Your Ability to Perform

  • Are you a future termination?

  • Are you someone who hits your quota?

  • When you’re having a great year, do you stop selling when you’ve made enough money or do you keep going?

Employers must determine if you are a reliable performer who they can count on to deliver quota. After all, if you don’t look good, they don’t look good.

Employers need to quickly evaluate if you are a proven performer or just another good interviewer.

5. It’s about Uncovering Your Responsibilities

Employers need to understand your role in the organization. They need to figure out what you sell, how you sell, and who you sell to.

They need an understanding of the tools and resources that have enabled you to be successful.

If you’ve never given your own demo, but it’s a requirement in the new role, they will be surprised to see your training demo if they are under the impression you’ve been giving demos for a decade.

6. It’s about Understanding Your Expectations

If you thoroughly enjoy that your current employer lets you book travel as you deem appropriate, and the prospective employer is very strict about qualifying opportunities before any travel is booked, they need to understand your expectations.

If you are accustomed to big expense accounts and win clients with the aid of box office seats, they will need to consider if you’re approach will work with their sales process.

7. It’s About Understanding Your Behavior, Motivations, and Values

  • Are you able to close deals that you know won’t be implemented for at least a year?

  • Are you able to develop long term relationships with customers?

  • Do you become uninterested in clients after you close a deal?

  • Do you tend to bend over backwards and negotiate down profits to make a deal even if it’s a bad one?

  • What motivates you?

  • Do you do what you say you’re going to do?

  • Do you tend to lie to yourself about your prospective deals or are you able to qualify business unemotionally?

8. Once an Employer Knows You’re for Them, It’s Finally About You

Once an employer has decided that they want to hire you, the interview becomes more focused on what you’ll be getting by moving to the new company.

The conversation will lean towards where they company is headed, the corporate culture, the projects they are implementing and the long term career opportunity that exists within the organization.

Competent interviewers use the interview process to gather information, evaluate talent, and build consensus about prospective new-hires.

Their most important objective for employers during the interview process is to make good hiring decisions.

They will need to evaluate multiple applicants before deciding to put together an offer.

Consider this Idea Seriously: Great Jobs are Competitive, Mediocre jobs are Everywhere

At some point in your career, you may find yourself thinking, “I’m evaluating this employer as much as they are evaluating me.”

And in many ways, you are, and this is important.  

However, there are more people who want a great job than great jobs available. Great sales jobs pay strong base salaries, have solid solutions to offer prospective clients, and give employees an opportunity to earn, learn, and advance.

As you interview for better sales roles, that pay higher base salaries and commissions, competition will increase.

It’s important to remember that you’ll have stronger offers to evaluate if you choose to enter the interview with a give before you get attitude.

This is why when all else is equal, most job offers go to the candidate who is the most enthusiastic about the company, the role, and already feels like a part of the team.

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