Seven Interview Questions to Hire a Sales Superstar

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Interviewing sales candidates is extremely difficult since even a subpar seller is trained to tell people what they want to hear. 

Candidates who look great on paper can later show lackluster performances. Due to the enormous cost of bad hires, it is critical to get the hiring right.

The key is to look beyond the resume and test for certain personality traits.

Here are the seven most common personality traits found in top sales performers and tips to determine if the candidate across the table truly possesses them.   

  1. Success Driven: Unlike skills, a desire to succeed cannot be learned.  Since no sales candidate will assess themselves as unambitious, the interviewer must delve deeper.  High performers have a pattern of accomplishments across all areas of their life, not just at work.

  • Tip to interview for patterns of success: Include questions in the interview script that identify the achievements where candidates express the greatest pride.  Start with their achievements at work but then transition to areas outside of work such as sports or the arts where they demonstrate being goal-oriented.

  • Confidence versus false bravado: A salesperson can exude confidence in an interview and still wilt under rejection or criticism. When the best salespeople are told “No,” they are not defeated; they are invigorated.

    • Tip to interview for confidence: While testing a candidate’s determination is important, do so in a way that is not offensive.  A successful sales person will not wilt under pressure, yet they will want to feel wooed at the same time.  Ask for examples of times they showed extraordinary determination.

  • Competitive fire: Merriam-Webster defines competitive as “having a strong desire to win or be the best at something.”  This is the fuel that powers salespeople to hunt new business opportunities, cold call, get in front of the key decision makers and close deals.

    • Tip to interview for competitiveness: Ask the candidate to describe how they strive to be the best salesperson possible. If they talk about using their co-workers recent big deal as motivation to come in early or stay late, or express a desire to surpass their own best sales numbers, this is a key indicator that the candidate is a top performer.