The best sales candidates are typically well looked after by their employers in this competitive market. Salaries are good, buybacks are increasingly common and as a result, professionals are often reluctant to change roles or move to a new company.

 When hiring for a new sales professional, it is key that you know exactly what you’re looking for. Know how to assess them effectively and understand the key characteristics that determine a successful sales candidate.

 Our specialist consultants speak to hiring managers and interview sales professionals every day. We know exactly what our clients are looking for and what to look out for in an interview. To ensure you are well placed to assess the candidates you’re interviewing and are able to identify the best people for your organisation, we have pulled together some useful tips.

 Assessing a candidate

In order to effectively assess whether a candidate is suitable for the vacancy you are recruiting for, we recommend using the balanced scorecard approach based on four to five of the core competencies you are searching for in an ideal candidate. Using these competencies as categories for your assessment, list the skills, experiences, working examples and personal characteristics that the candidate possesses which fall under each of those categories.

For example, if one of the key competencies is “Build and manage strong stakeholder relationships” you might list experience such as internal and external communication, stakeholder engagement, builds fast rapport, easy to have a conversation with, friendly and/or professional along with relevant past roles and examples discussed in the interview. If done correctly, you will have a snapshot of their skills and capabilities that meet the core competencies of the role. However, there are a number of ways you can implement this strategy. We suggest this method for three reasons:

  • It allows you to ‘revisit’ each candidate’s interview at a later date and compare candidates while maintaining accuracy.
  • Ensures you make a well-informed decision on who makes it through the interview process.
  • Enables the hiring manager or recruiter to provide the candidate with structured feedback.

A good sales professional is inquisitive, driven, enthusiastic and self-sufficient when they need to be. On top of this, a good salesperson will listen, sit back when they need to and mirror their customers, then sell when the timing is right. A top candidate will always know their numbers; their sales targets and measure their performance in relation to those targets. They should also have a strategic plan for achieving their targets. 

Technical sales roles

When recruiting for more technical, or industry-specific sales roles, the CV should provide an insight into whether or not the candidate is suitable in terms of the qualifications and sector-specific knowledge they possess. However, digging into the detail during an interview is still key.

It is a good idea to build a solid understanding of the businesses and sectors they have worked in, the product ranges they have sold and the USPs of all these products. While you may already know this information, asking sector related and market-intel questions while using industry specific terminology will validate their understanding and will provide you with confirmation of the capabilities of that candidate.


When you are interviewing a good candidate, you should be thinking long term. You should not only be interviewing them for the position they have applied for but also assessing their suitability for the next two to three roles in your business. Be on the lookout for the qualities that match the vision you have for the business and how you see the team developing in the future. Sales qualifications are limited, but good education, growth, succession and development can all be found on a good CV. The ability to stick at something and be successful at it over a period of time is something that stays with a good sales person until they retire. Flexibility and resilience: these often define the ability to achieve this.

It is also important that in an interview, you are able to determine whether someone is motivated and has the right drive. Quite often, this can be done by mining into the CV; the education and training they have completed, their career journey and the decisions they have made. These decisions are often based on their motivation and drive, and what aspirations they have for their future, so be sure to ask some questions about their goals. Those looking to be successful are sure to have a vision for their role in the company which should highlight their intent to progress and develop into management positions.

Ensuring a successful hire

The personality of a candidate and their cultural fit is key. A candidate may have a perfect CV on paper but that doesn’t guarantee that a person is perfect for the role. At Michael Page Sales, we spend quality face-to-face time with both our clients and candidates which ensures we are able to assess their fit. It is important for us to be able to imagine a professional and an employer in a room together – working together, having a discussion - and determine whether the working relationship could function. A CV is a foot in the door, but the old adage of people buy people, however cheesy, still applies.

If you would like any more information, or to discuss how we can help with your recruitment needs, please contact your local office. Alternatively, submit a job spec and one of our specialist sales consultants will be in touch.

For a confidential discussion on how we can help you get the best talent with the right skills, get in touch with one of our specialist recruitment consultants today

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