3 Behavioral Interview Questions to Ask Every Sales Candidate | SMR Group


It’s easy to ask candidates what they imagine themselves doing in a given situation. It’s even easier for candidates to give a glowing response to that question. Humans are often optimistic – we tend to give the most upbeat picture of ourselves in imagined scenarios, even if what we actually do is quite different.

Behavioral interview questions avoid the optimism trap by focusing on what candidates have done, not what they aspire to do. By learning what a candidate did in the past, as well as what they learned from that experience, hiring managers to get a clearer picture of what the candidate might do in the future.

Here are three must-ask behavioral questions for every sales candidate:

1. Tell me about a time a prospect or customer said no. How did you respond? 

No one likes to hear “no.” The word hits especially hard for sales professionals, whose careers and livelihoods depend on hearing “yes.” Yet every salesperson, at some point, has had a prospect or a customer turn them down.

When asking this question, listen to how the candidate describes their efforts, as well as what they say. Candidates who take a “no” in stride – or even relish the challenge – offer a stronger approach than candidates who seem defensive or defeated.

2. What did you do the last time you realized you weren’t going to make a deadline or a sales goal? 

Like hearing “no,” every sales professional realizes at some point that a deadline has come too quickly or a sales goal is out of reach. Also, like hearing “no,” how a sales professional responds to this realization had a profound effect on their own work and that of their teammates.

Here, the candidate’s response may shed light not only on their response to roadblocks or disappointment but also on how they work on a team. Listen for answers that align with your team’s current culture. For instance, you may seek candidates who say they immediately asked a teammate for help.

3. What’s one thing you wish you had done differently to prepare for this interview? 

Hindsight is 20/20. Often, aspirational interview responses take advantage of that hindsight at the expense of reflecting on what actually happened. This question combines the best of both aspirational and realistic answers. Here, you already see the results of the candidate’s preparation, and so does the candidate. Listen for how the candidate reflects on the results of their interview efforts and offers suggestions for their own improvement.

Ready to Switch Up Your Interview Questions and Ask These?

Looking for your next sales superstar? At SMR Group, our experienced recruiters connect our clients in the medical device, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries with some of the best sales and marketing talent available. To learn more, contact us today.

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