How to Know You’re Interviewing an “A” Player

You want a killer way to know if you’re talking to an “A” player during an interview? There is one thing that the best of the best sales people do during an interview that others don’t. They ask the questions that matter.

Let’s stop and think about it for a minute. What is an interview? An interview is a way for an employer to evaluate the ability of a candidate to do a job. In this case sell or lead sales teams.  Therefore, if the objective of the interview is to evaluate the ability of the candidate to do the job, the best candidates ask questions that will help them understand what it will take to get the job done.  “A” players, those great candidates who you desperately need to find, are like business analysts. They look at opportunities as investments. They understand that success is predicated on what they know or can learn about the position; the goals and expectations, the environment, the challenges, the competitors, product readiness, market placement and more.

“A” players understand employers have a problem and that’s why they are looking to hire someone.  They understand, many times better than the hiring manager, that understanding what the problem is and having a clear understanding of what it is going to take to fix the problem is the only way to ensure the job will get done.  “A” players dig into the job. They want to understand what it is the employer needs to accomplish. They want to understand the goals of the position and how they affect the rest of the organization. “A” players want to know what the challenges are. They dig in order to ferret out all the hurdles and barriers to success. “A” players are like analysts or consultants probing to understand the business and the critical paths to success.

Why? Why do “A” players do this?

“A” players dig deep because they are evaluating the position in terms of their ability to deliver.  “A” players are trying to determine what it will take for them to deliver on the employer’s goals. They are trying to determine how realistic the objectives are. They are evaluating where the opportunities for success lay and what challenges they will need to navigate. “A” players are probing with the vision of themselves in the position. They are trying to ascertain what it’s going to take to successfully execute against in the role. Simply put, “A” players are trying to determine what it’s going to take to win and if they can be the catalyst to success.

“A” players understand that the traditional interviews circumnavigate the position being hired for and that behavioral questions regarding how one has done something in the past provides little insight into what the employer is specifically trying to accomplish.  Questions such as; “Tell me about a specific time you struggled with an underperforming rep and how you handled it,” do a great job of providing insight into how a candidate would address that tactical element of the job but it gives little insight to the ability of the candidate to deliver on the overall goals of the job. Unless the job is for an H.R. position or for someone who has a shitty team and will constantly have to deal with underperforming reps, this type of question is too myopic.  Instead, “A” players want to talk shop. They are looking to brainstorm on ideas, strategy, vision, goals, deliverables, challenges, resources, and opportunities. They are sizing up the opportunity in terms of deliverability and want you to be able to give it to them.

You want to know if you have an “A” player? Listen for questions like:

  • Tell me what the goals of this position are, how do these compare over the last two years? Has the organization or my predecessor been successful in delivering on these goals?
  • Besides reaching the goals, how will success in this role be measured one year from now? What will have been accomplished?
  • How do we stack up against the competition, do we know our win rate against them?
  • How would you rate the current team in its ability to reach the goal?
  • What is the quota attainment distribution? Is everyone making quota or a just a few bringing in most of the revenue?
  • How much do you expect your current market to grow in the next 1-3 years?
  • Can you tell me about the product roadmap and how prepared are you to deliver on it?
  • What have been the 3 biggest challenges to reaching the goals the organization has been struggling with?
  • Do you currently have a structured sales process in place? Can you share it with me?
  • What’s the average sale cycle length, has it been getting longer, shorter, or stayed the same?
  • Can you share the current organizational structure and how it relates to the goals?
  • Does the team currently complete account plans, can you share one with me?
  • Do you have sales team strategy; can you share it with me?
  • Etc.

“A” players ask questions that allow them to ascertain what is going on in the organization and what it’s going to take to meet the goals the employer is hiring for. “A” players are “A” players because they execute. They know how to deliver and delivering requires a solid understanding of the environment, the goals, challenges, required resources etc. They have excellent assessment and analysis skills and bring them to bear in the interview.

“A” players want to know if they can be successful before they ever take the job. Therefore, to them the interview is an assessment, an evaluation. You can see “A” players a mile away. They are the ones trying to understand and then solve your problems before they even start the job.