Candidate Advice – Interview Tips
- Interview Etiquette
- Telephone Interviews
- Interview for Success
- Situational Interview Questions
- Sales Achievement Document
- Personality/Behavioural Assessment Tests
1. Interview Etiquette
Rule no. 1 is to understand the mind-set of the interviewer. You will be assessed how you as an individual would represent the organization. This is especially true in sales as you are typically in direct contact with customers. If you turn up for interview unprepared and dressed inappropriately, this would be a clear indicator on how you would approach a client meeting. Interview etiquette is therefore crucial. Here are a few things to consider:
Before the Interview
- Dress appropriately
- Ensure you have pleasant body odour. Do not smoke before an interview
- Arrive early
- Be prepared. Have all relevant documentation with you, including several copies of your CV
- Turn off your mobile before walking into their building
During the Interview
- Make eye contact
- Do not mention salary, benefits or small details about the company on the first interview
- Do not speak negatively regarding past employers
- Listen carefully to questions to ensure that you answer correctly. Don’t appear too rushed or eager to answer a question
- Focus on your ability to do the job and avoid topics that could potentially alienate you from the interviewer such as religion, politics, or personal issues
After the Interview
- Follow up immediately with a thank you letter or email
2. Telephone Interviews
Preparing for the Interview
- Your objective of the phone interview is to get a face-to-face interview.
- Avoid conducting the interview on a mobile phone. Coverage can be unreliable and can give an impression the interview is not a priority for you.
- List questions you may want to ask and have them in front of you with a pen and writing pad for notes
- Put a suit on if it makes you feel more professional.
- Go to a room where you will not be disturbed by any noises or distractions.
- Block out an hour even if you are told it will only be a 30 minute call (better safe than sorry).
- In most cases the reason for a phone interview is to assess how well you articulate over the phone
- Do your research on the company and industry and know why you are interested in the position, and how you can help them do it better.
- Know your stats. Have your CV in front of you. It doesn’t look good if you get dates or facts wrong. Write down your sales performance year by year
- Be prepared for situational questions such as: Tell me about your greatest accomplishment, sale, toughest sale, the biggest sale you lost, if you could do it again what would you change, and so on.
- Anticipate questions. If you have a gap in your CV or a short period at a company you can be sure the interviewer will ask you about it
During the Interview
- Stand up! It allows for a greater flow of air through your lungs and your voice will project better.
- There is a saying: you can hear a smile through the phone
- The 3 Es – Energy, Enthusiasm and Excitement. Convey this via the phone. Your voice is your biggest asset during a telephone interview
- Have some pertinent questions to ask at the end of the interview, eg ‘What are the career opportunities in the future?’ and ‘How do you see the industry evolving?’
- Never raise questions about salary or benefits at this stage. Such questions should only be raised when the company has established an interest in you
- Always close unless you already have a confirmed time and date for the next step. After all, this is a sales interview. If you do not close they will almost certainly not take you forward.
- Prior to closing ask for and uncover any hesitations the interviewer might have. It might be a simple misunderstanding or it might be a concern you can easily handle. This will give you the opportunity to overcome it.
- Final tip – have fun!
- Send a thank you email immediately to demonstrate your follow up skills, interest and professionalism. Be sure to check your spelling and grammar.
- Establish a day that you will call to follow-up and then follow-through.
3. Interview for Success
In today’s job market, employers are increasingly looking for individuals who can successfully drive corporate initiatives and be company ambassadors in front of prospects/clients. Employers have many interviewing strategies to find the right candidate, but mostly what they perceive can be controlled by you during the interview. With typically an hour long interview, you should demonstrate why you are the best person for the position. Use this opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and make an impact on your interviewer. This can be as simple as saying the right things during the interview
Here are a few examples:
- Be yourself
Don’t be afraid to let the “real you” shine through. Most interviewers want to come away with at least a general sense of who you really are. You often do yourself more harm than good if you play the part of the “ideal candidate”
- Avoid being over-charming
As important as it is to establish rapport with the interviewer, don’t overdo a good thing. Your objective is to draw a connection between what you have to offer and what the job requires. If you focus on that issue in an honest and enthusiastic way the rapport will usually develop on its own
- Keep your answers concise
Keep your answers as focused and brief as possible. Let any pauses work in your favour, giving the interviewer time to absorb what you’ve said. Look for visual cues – eg, nodding of the head
- Present Your Case in Writing
Even though the interviewer will have read your CV prior to the interview, you should nevertheless make the effort to prepare a short note that spells out the specific skills and attributes you bring to this particular opportunity. This information will set you apart from the competition and will allow the conversation to be more about you
- Make an Offer
If things go well in the interview and you decide you want the job, make the interviewer an offer. For example, offer to spend a day in the field with an existing sales rep, or put together a sales plan, etc. If you take the initiative, they will either accept or decline; either way you will have demonstrated your willingness to go the extra mile
- Invite yourself back (CLOSE!)
At the end of the interview, close the interviewer for a next step: “Do you have any hesitations about me moving forward to the next step” They will either say ‘yes’ and give you an opportunity to overcome any objections, or they will say ‘no’ and you can schedule the next step
- Leave behind a relevant document
Prepare ahead of time a document you can leave behind (apart from your CV) that can enhance your chances of being recruited. This could be a ‘sales achievements’ folder, a list of skills and attributes that you bring to this job, a 30-60-90 day plan, etc. Such document guarantees you additional ammunition for the interviewer to select you over the competition, and will give you a reason to follow-up
4. Situational Interview Questions
Situational interview questions are commonly used in sales interviews. Here are a few common ones:
- What separates you from the rest of your sales team?
- Give me an example of a time when you had to persuade a prospect to buy from you over your competition.
- Give me an example of a goal you set for yourself in the past and the steps you took to achieve it.
- Give me an example of a creative way you closed a sale.
- What types of things do you do to increase your overall effectiveness on the job?
- Tell me about a time when you worked really hard for something and you did not achieve your goal.
- What obstacles get in your way at work and what do you do to overcome them?
- Can you give me a specific time you had to deal with a disgruntled customer?
- Give me an example of a time you went above and beyond the call of duty?
- Describe a typical day at work.
- Describe a typical sales call.
- Why did you leave your previous position?
In addition to preparing for situational interview questions, be prepared to role-play a sales call! Make sure you cover all the steps of the sales cycle.
- Build rapport
- Probe for Needs
- Sell to the needs of the prospect
- Trial Close
- Overcome objections
The best way to answer situational interview questions is to give specific examples and follow the SAR model (Situation, Action and Result). For example, with the question “What separates you from the rest of your sales team?” give a specific example of something that you do.
5. Sales Achievement Document
The Sales Achievement document should be in a professional looking presentation folder. It should be well organised with a list of contents at the front. You should have a 2nd copy with you which you can leave with the interviewer.
Sales Achievement documents are highly recommend for use in sales interviews. Unfortunately, many sales reps exaggerate their sales abilities and accomplishments. Being able to document and present actual sales performance will greatly increase your chances of securing a job as well as providing you with additional leverage to negotiate a strong base salary.
Example Contents of a Sales Achievement Folder
- This section should include any research you have done on the company and industry. Highlight the key points that interest you and use this information in the interview.
- This section includes product information and brochures from your current company. This is a tool that you will use if you are asked to do a role play of a sales call.
- All documentation of accomplishments
- Last 3 years sales figures, and current year-to-date stats
- Sales quota certificates
- Photos of plaques and trophies
- Any inter-company memos stating contest and sales results
- Letters from customers
- President’s Club or Achiever’s Club documentation
- Any documentation showing increased revenue in your territory
- Sales training courses and employee reviews
- Letters of recommendation
- Proof of previous years’ earnings and current year earnings to date
A well prepared sales achievement document will allow you to showcase your accomplishments and set you apart from the competition.
6. Personality/Behavioural Assessment Tests
Personality or behavioural assessment tests are becoming increasingly common as the job market becomes more competitive and companies steer away from making decisions based solely on a “gut instinct”
Companies typically use assessment tests to establish the “fit factor” – candidates’ core competencies are measured and evaluated in connection to the competencies required for a sales position. Other companies may simply be looking to better understand their candidate so in order to better help them succeed when they do accept the position.
While it may take a significant amount of extra effort on your part to complete testing, keep in mind that the company you are interviewing for may also be noting your commitment to the company and your interest in the position. If someone is truly not that interested in a position, he or she will more than likely not put in the time that it takes to go through additional testing, especially if the testing requires a major time commitment on their part.