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Sales Interview Tips: The Interviewer’s Perspective


Download the ebook: Sales Interview Tips Guide

In an ongoing effort to provide value to customers, recently published a “Guide to Effective Interviewing” for our job-posting members. Full of interview questions and techniques, the guide offers practical strategies to help medical sales managers interview job candidates.

As the MedReps writers compiled the research for the Guide, they quickly realized how valuable the information would be to candidates on the other side of the interview. It would almost be like seeing the competitor’s playbook! The guide that follows contains the same information we provided to our job-posting members, in some cases, rewritten to address the candidate’s perspective.

Read on to learn about the various interview styles and techniques used by hiring managers in the interview and what it is they’re looking for when they ask the tough questions.

The Problem with Interviews . . .

Anyone who’s ever been on a first date knows how awkward conversations with strangers can be. But despite the discomfort, if both parties see something worth pursuing, that first date will probably lead to a second, third, or fourth before it gets serious, and then there will be countless more dates before a couple decides to make the ultimate commitment.

Okay, so the analogy isn’t perfect. Obviously accepting a job offer isn’t quite as permanent as the decision to get married, but it does involve choosing to work with people who – on some days at least – you will spend more waking hours with than you do your spouse. And yet, many times this decision is made after a couple hour-long conversations between a time-pressed manager and an eager candidate who is on their very best behavior.

46% of new hires fail within 18 months of employment and only 19% achieve unequivocal success.

This doesn’t mean the hiring manager’s goal is to “trip up” a candidate and get them to say something incriminating, but a good interviewer will ask questions designed to reveal a candidate’s character, work ethic, value system, and of course, their proficiency in the skills required by the position. Candidates hoping to impress should know the various techniques an interviewer may use to glean this information, but they should also understand the interviewer’s ultimate goal – to better grasp the candidate’s experience, skills, and attitudes.

Results on a resume can tell a recruiter or hiring manager something about a candidate’s qualifications, but managers generally rely on the interview to “get to know” the candidate and see if they’ll be a “good fit.” Likewise, candidates use the interview to better understand and evaluate the position, the corporate culture, and the people they’ll be working with.

No doubt a lot rests on the interview, and yet, the interview process itself may be flawed. A three-year study by Leadership IQ found that 46% of new hires fail within 18 months of employment and only 19% achieve unequivocal success. Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, explains why the interview process is partly to blame:


“The typical interview process fixates on ensuring that new hires are technically competent. But coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament are much more predictive of a new hire’s success or failure. Do technical skills really matter if the employee isn’t open to improving, alienates their coworkers, lacks drive and has the wrong personality for the job?”

How to answer interview questions


HR thought-leader Dr. John Sullivan agrees that the interview process is severely lacking. His manifesto on the 50 most common problems with interviews covers a range of probable issues including an interviewer’s inherent bias, a lack of weighted questions and rating systems, the general difficulty of evaluating for fit, and inconsistencies in the questions asked during the interview, the structure of the interview, and the interviewers’ expectations.
Needless to say, the candidate is typically less concerned with “fit” than the hiring manager. Candidates are often so eager to get a job offer that they lose sight of whether or not the job is right for them. Managers on the other hand, must focus on finding someone who can not only do the job – but is also a great fit. This is why skills assessments and resumes alone are not enough to evaluate a candidate for a job. The interview, despite its flaws, remains a necessary part of the process.The instinct to lie in order to make a good impression can also be a problem in interviews. Managers may be tricked by candidates who embellish, but candidates may also be duped if the interviewer or other employees aren’t up front in their answers to questions about how they enjoy their jobs, if they like their manager, or about the manager’s style.

How Interviewers Prepare for the Interview

Just as candidates go through extensive interview preparation, employers must also prepare by spending some time defining their ideal candidate’s values, attitudes, and work habits. By doing this, they will have a clearer idea of what qualities to look for during the interview.

A typical job description goes into great detail about the qualifications and technical skills required by the position but usually only cites generic terms like “team player,” “go-getter,” and “hard worker” to describe the ideal candidate’s attitude. As a result, the manager has no criteria for evaluating the candidate’s personality, and thus is likely to rely on their own personal preferences to determine “fit.”

For example, an outgoing hiring manager may dismiss a shy or soft-spoken candidate as “not right for the job” even though the position may not require an outgoing personality. But by outlining the personal traits important for the position prior to meeting with candidates, the interviewer would be less likely to let irrelevant preferences affect their decision.

To aid this process, early in the interview, the candidate may want to come right out and ask which specific characteristics the manager believes are important for the position. While candidates shouldn’t try to change their personality based on what the interviewer says, it may be useful information to keep in mind as they formulate answers.


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