How to Know the Sales Person You are Interviewing is a Superstar

You want to upgrade your sales team, either because someone or somebodies didn’t work out or because you’re growing and could use some more sales power. Either way, if your adding a new sales person, you are upgrading your team. You wouldn’t hire someone worse or less impressive than the last person OR the existing team, would you?

Let me help you a little on this one. If you are hiring, the goal had better be to upgrade. So then, how do you know if the person you are hiring is a superstar?

There you are, you and the candidate sitting across from each other. Game on! The candidate is slick. They are prepared. Like a typical sales call, they are ready to overcome objections, zero in on your needs, and sell you on them. They are ready and their sites are set on you. Sales people are good interviewers. To them, interviewing is just another sales call. Sales people are right at home in the interview process.

With sales people being experts in the interview, you are at a disadvantage. How do you determine if the person across from you is a superstar or a dud waiting to screw up your sales team and cost you 10’s of thousands of dollars?

The answer is surprisingly easier than you think. It’s all in the interview.

First, and foremost you have to know what a superstar looks like. I posted about this a few weeks back. To me a superstar posesses these four things:

  1. Business Acumen
  2. Creativity
  3. Leadership
  4. Drive

Without all 4 of these things you don’t have a superstar. (if you have your own list, write it down):

To find out if the guy or gal sitting across the table from you is as good as advertised, you must be willing to be comfortable, making them uncomfortable. You have to be OK pushing them to get real. You have to be comfortable setting the table and letting them know you don’t want canned answers, ass-kissing or high-level generalizations. You have to let the candidate know that a successful interview is determined by how real and deep they are willing to go.

Getting real means asking specific, targeted, open ended questions designed to uncover how the candidate THINKS, not just acts. You have to push the candidate to explain what they do and WHY the do it that way. After they’ve shared what they do and why, challenge their decisions. Don’t except the answer at face value, point out a flaw in the approach. Identify a weakness in their choice and ask why they still chose that direction inspite of the potential issue.

Another approach to finding out if you have a superstar is to ask them to share examples outside of work. One of my favorite questions is to ask them to share their greatest achievement or a lifelong personal goal they set and achieved. Superstars set goals and make them. They set BIG goals both personal and professional. A superstar will have a number of personal goals they’ve achieved and they will be quick to share. Superstars are superstars in all aspects of their lives. They are the kids in school that started a new program or brought in an activity they school didn’t have. Superstars start things. They lead. They take on church events. They’ve started businesses. They’ve created non-profits. Superstars leave a trail of successful initiatives and accomplishments. Just as with work related questions, once they share with you what they’ve done you have to dig deeper. You have to ask WHY they made the decisions they did. And again, challenge them on the choice. If they chose to spend 6 months traveling the world, play devils advocate and challenge them on the cost of not being responsible and starting their career like other people their age. The point isn’t to suggest they made a bad choice but to get more insight into how they think and how they will respond to being challenged.

Superstars are “doers.” They know how to think. They will and can defend their choices and positions. They aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Superstars leave a trail of successful initiatives. The aren’t afraid to be challenged.

If you want to know if the person sitting across from you is a superstar, stop being nice. Push the candidate, challenge them, challenge their choices, challenge their approaches, and then listen. Supertars will have good answers. They will embrace the challenge. They will challenge you back. They will defend their position AND acknowledge opporutnities for improvement or mistakes made. Superstars won’t wilt under the pressure. They will only get better and stronger.

Knowing if you have a superstar in front of you has more to do with you and less to do with them. Are you prepared to find out?

Take Aways:

Be comfortable making your candidate uncomfortable

Don’t accept canned answers

Look for and listen to specific examples and stories of where the candidate showed the traits you’re looking for

Go deep, challenge the candidate’s approaches, decisions, and choices

Focus on how the candidate thinks and the choices he/she made based on that thinking

Look for both personal AND professional examples of being a superstar

Set expectations upfront in the interview on how you expect it to go






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