Neat Interviewing Tips

Here are four short but effective tips to tuck away for when you are tasked to hire salespeople.

Tip-1: Use TORC When Hiring

Not checking with a candidate’s previous employers is a serious mistake that many companies make when making a hiring decision. Sometimes it’s impossible to check a person’s employment record or do meaningful reference checks because the candidate is still in his first job.

If you have someone you want to hire but the candidate is still employed, use TORC to deal with the situation.

TORC stands for “Threat of Reference Checks.”

Tell the candidate that you always make job offers contingent upon receiving a satisfactory reference from his current employer. If the candidate is having problems with his employer, he’ll disappear in a flash. If things are OK, he’ll accept the condition and make sure he leaves his current employer on good terms.

Tip-2: Conduct Group Interviews

If your firm is keen on using a team approach to selling, it might be wise to include some or all of the current sales team members in on the final selection interviews for a new salesperson. If there’s going to be a personality or other type of conflict, better you find out before you hire the person than after. Make sure that each of the people on the interviewing team comes prepared with one or two relevant questions.

I recommend an informal setting for the interview. You don’t want it to turn into a good cop/bad cop thing where the team tries to beat the truth out of the candidate. This is an interview, not a rubber-hose interrogation! Keep it light but meaningful.

Another advantage of having this type of interview is that it allows you to take a less active, observer role so that you can see how the candidate reacts to the situation and to the other team members. This is likely the way the person will react when dealing with your customers when he first meets them.

Tip-3: Interviewing Frenzy

If possible, try to interview all your candidates on the same day. Line them up to arrive one after the other at one-hour intervals.

I usually allow 45 minutes for the interview, 10 minutes to make post-interview notes and 5 minutes between interviews to catch my breath, clear my mind, and get ready for the next interview.

The advantage of this approach is that you can more easily compare one candidate with another. You lose this advantage when you’re interviewing salespeople days or weeks apart. It’s also more efficient use of your time.

Consider having someone sit in on the interview with you as an observer. Then compare notes after the candidate leaves. The observer is likely to see, hear, or sense things you miss.

Tip-4: Don’t Hire a Liar

When asked why he left his previous employment, the candidate gave a plausible reason. When asked the same question at a subsequent interview, however, he gave a different answer. When challenged to explain the differences, the candidate stumbled around, saying that he didn’t think it was important, but it became apparent he had gotten caught in a lie.

Asking the same question twice can often uncover a candidate who is being less than truthful. Liars sometimes have problems with consistency of answers because they are often made up at the spur of the moment, whereas the truth is always the truth.

People who lie before they’re hired will lie after they’re hired. If they lie to get a job, they’ll lie to keep one, and they’ll lie to a prospect to get a sale.

Is this the kind of person you want dealing with your customers?

Tip-5: Test Your Interview Questions

Before inflicting your new interview process on a candidate, test your questions on some of your own people first. Gather up two or three people, preferably members of your sales staff, and tell them that you want to practise your interview questions with them.

The idea is for you to see what types of responses you get from people you know and hopefully like. This will better prepare you for the answers you’ll get from real candidates.

It also gives you an opportunity to receive feedback from the test people (I was tempted to use the phrase “test dummies” here but I resisted) as to how they felt about the questions. Did they feel threatened? Were they inclined to respond honestly, or would they have spun a story if this had been a real interview? Ask them how you can refine your questions.

The key to asking good questions is to know what answers you are looking for and what is and isn’t a good response. It’s also a good idea to have a list of appropriate answers to your questions as well.

Bonus Tip: Standardize Your Interview Questions

Having a set of standard interview questions provides a number of benefits:

Keeps you on track.
Provides a consistency to your interview process.
Minimizes your interview preparation time.
You begin to know what to expect in the answers and are less likely to be caught off guard.

Having standardized interview questions does not mean having a script. Any one of your standard questions might lead to two or three additional questions as you seek clarification or to more fully engage the candidate.

Here’s hoping these tips will help you make even better hires.

Good luck!