Fundamentals of an Effective Sales Interview Process: Part 2 (handouts included)
A 2-part series covering tips and tricks for structuring your interview process.
Part Two > 📌 You are here.
Writing Your Job Description
Job descriptions tend to be boilerplate, so spicing them up with videos, articles and screen grabs of your product in action can go a long way in capturing the ideal candidate’s attention in a sea of job postings.
✨For founders moving quickly, write a blog post about why you’re building what you’re building along with a case study of how your product/service is used in the market today then link it in the job description. Here's an example.
An unfortunate reality is that many candidates don’t read the entire job description. Adding articles, case studies and videos gives your recruiters or first round interviewers a way to weed out people that don’t invest the time into doing basic research into you or your company.
Who is asking what? In a meeting with all the individuals that will be part of the interview process, this is the first question to answer. Each stakeholder needs to ask all the candidates the same questions and be tasked with extracting a specific quality or trait from the candidate.
Here's a representation of what an extensive and comprehensive interview process might appear like, from the perspective of each individual stakeholder:
Interviewer 1 - Smarts (Decision-making, planning, verbal and written communication and active listening)
Interviewer 2 - Role (Adaptability, influence, detail-oriented and overall fit)
Interviewer 3 - Leadership (initiative, problem solving, collaboration and growth potential)
Interviewer 4 - Culture (teamwork, values and adaptive learning)
If you have an applicant tracking system, build out your interviewer questionnaire to help in making this a repetitive process. At the end of a hiring process, you must be able to compare candidates using a consistent ranking system as much as possible.
Avoid adding new stakeholders to the interview process whenever possible. If you have four interview rounds, stick to the same four interviewers. Adding a stakeholder that wasn’t originally part of the alignment discussions about the ideal candidate profile will likely put too many cooks in the kitchen and will worsen the candidate experience, thereby decreasing your chances of winning the candidate at the offer stage. Be disciplined about extracting what you need from an interview round with a candidate.
The average speed-to-hire is 38 days for a tech sales role. This is an unacceptable amount of time for most companies where growth is essential. I recommend 4 interview rounds with the last two interviews happening the same day. Your goal should be to get the entire process completed in 10 business days or less.
A simple interview process should be structured like this:
First interview. This is generally with a recruiter who confirms basic must-haves and interest in the company/product (30min).
Some example of must-haves include:
Day-to-day metrics alignment
Years of experience
Industry knowledge or interest
Comfort with estimated deal size and velocity
Relevant previous experiences or display of grit
Second interview. A discovery call presentation to one or two stakeholders about your product. The presentation is 20 minutes with the rest being a Q&A. The presentation and Q&A should be recorded and distributed to all stakeholders for feedback. Get into the why, what, where method on this call. More on this method can be read in the bonus read below (50 min).
Third interview. This is with the future direct manager or co-founder to get into the weeds of the role to confirm alignment and fit. We recommend all stakeholders compile a few follow-up questions from the presentation and Q&A for the stakeholder owning this interview to ask (30 min).
Fourth interview. This is with a cross-functional member of the team to test culture fit and allow the rep to ask questions about the business of someone outside the immediate leadership team (30 min).
References/back channel. Collect 2-3 references and make the calls.
Offer. 20% of candidates reject an offer, so approach this final stage with care to give yourself the best chance of winning. Make a call to let the candidate know they have the offer and congratulate them. Be prepared to talk through why the candidate should accept it because of what you learned about them during the interview process.
For individual contributor hires, a sales exercise is a must-have in your interview process. Leap recently made a change to our recommendation to clients by recommending the sales exercise be the second-round interview, so you’re not investing in a candidate too early in the process. It’s painful and expensive to get a candidate all the way through the final round interview, only to have them disappoint on a sales exercise and not meet the criteria for making an offer.
It’s common to see candidates with incredible resumes do really well in the interview process up until the mock pitch. By doing the mock pitch earlier in the process you save your team time by not having them interview candidates that don’t do well in the exercise.
Ultimately the interview process is your decision, but if you do decide to take our recommendation, be sure to record the candidate’s presentation in the second round and share it with all stakeholders to get their input before inviting the candidate to the third round.
For many companies, the sales exercise tends to be centered around a presentation. However, the key to understanding a sales rep’s capabilities is to understand how they ask questions. It’s a lot easier to teach someone to pitch slides than it is to ask good questions, listen and follow-up with “deep dive” questions to understand pain points and create urgency around those concerns.
✨Here’s a helpful handout that includes an example prompt for the exercise that you can send to candidates, along with a scorecard featuring a simple points system for scoring things that an experienced salesperson should know for a successful discovery call.
If you do the work mentioned in this article alongside your team before speaking to candidates, you’ll be ahead of the vast majority of companies that shoot from the hip when interviewing candidates. These simple steps will drastically improve your chances of quickly landing the right sales hires for your business.