Sales Interview Tips: The Interviewer’s Perspective

Interview Formats

Recruiters and hiring managers may use several interview formats during the hiring process – a phone call for the initial screening, followed by a face-to-face interview with the hiring manager, and maybe a panel interview with the potential team. Technology has introduced some additional options such as the video conference call or a Skype interview in which the recruiter or hiring manager can speak to a candidate “face to face” via computer or mobile device. These methods help companies eliminate travel costs in the earlier stages.

Companies aiming to save time may utilize the group interview, a format in which multiple candidates are invited to “interview” at the same time.

The group interview may be largely informational, consisting of a presentation on the company and what the job entails, or it may be more like an audition interview in which candidates are put together and expected to solve a problem or discuss a topic. The hiring manager can then observe how individual candidates respond to a team environment, who naturally falls into a leadership role, who is particularly persuasive, etc.

While candidates may feel slighted by the group interview, it can be an effective way for companies to quickly narrow the applicant pool. Most companies, however, give candidates the courtesy of a one-on-one evaluation.

Interviewer Styles

An interviewer’s personal interview style is usually dictated by their management style. That is, a manager who instills fear in employees will likely adopt an intimidating interview style, and a more approachable manager will likely have a friendly interview style.

While most often, the interview style develops naturally out of the interviewer’s inherent personality, it can also be a strategic choice used to test a candidate. For example, an interviewer may adopt a more intimidating style during the stress interview, or they may choose to be overly friendly in an attempt to make the candidate so comfortable that they reveal more about themselves than they might have done otherwise.

Sometimes interviewers adopt a persuasive style in an attempt to “sell” the job to the candidate. A persuasive interview style, like the friendly style, can give the candidate false confidence. Alternatively, a transparent interviewer will be upfront with the candidate about their intentions and expectations for the interview without being overly friendly or intimidating – an approach welcomed by most candidates.

Types of Interviews

Receiving an invitation to interview is a mini victory in and of itself, but if you want to win the battle for the job, you’ll need to be more prepared than any other candidate. Knowing the prominent interview techniques available can help candidates get ready, but remember, it’s unlikely the interviewer will select one style and use it exclusively. Most interviewers will settle on some combination of the following types of interviews: (Learn more about these interview techniques):

  • Traditional
  • Directive
  • Behavioral
  • Case/Audition
  • Stress

Business Insider advises avoiding questions like these:

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • What country are you from?
  • Is English your first language?
  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Do you have any outstanding debt?
  • Do you drink alcohol socially?
  • How long have you been in the workforce?
  • Which religious holidays do you observe?

Illegal Interview Questions

A good interviewer will dig deep to uncover what kind of employee a candidate might be, however, there are some areas best kept covered. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits discrimination against a job candidate based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Alison Green (of Ask A Manager fame) says that questions on these topics are not actually illegal, but making a hiring decision based on the answers to them is. To play it smart, most employers will stay away from any question that may cause a candidate to disclose information related to EEOC prohibited topics.

Note that if the question is relevant to a candidate’s ability to do the job, the interviewer may factor the answer into the hiring decision. In the case of hiring a sales rep expected to conduct business in operating rooms, questions related to their ability to be credentialed for hospital access may be relevant.

If an interviewer does ask one of these questions, you may try to change the subject or simply decline to answer. Remember though, the questions themselves are not illegal. More than likely, it’s just a sign that you’re dealing with an inexperienced interviewer.


BACK: Sales Interview Tips NEXT: Post Interview Questions