13 Serious Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next Sales Candidate

Does your sales candidate align with what your job requires? I recommend that you conduct a competitive comparison of their previous sales job and the one they’re applying for at your company. Here are some questions to ask before hiring your next sales candidate for a HUNTER sales job – especially someone from within your industry.

1. Did they inherit customers to sell to?

Will you offer your sales candidate a book of business with which to sell to? This is serious if you don’t. Many time sales reps will simply sell to existing customer for more business (like and Account Manager) instead of generating new customers. In addition, they may attempt to gain new customers only through referrals, which may be insufficient without other prospecting methods.

2. Did they inherit a “rich” territory?

This is a territory with little to no competition. How much competition will your sales candidate face in your territory? If it’s a lot, will they have the capacity, tenacity and resilience to be competitive as well? A good sales assessment will tell you what you need to know.

3. Were they provided company-generated leads?

Any time a company provides some or most of the leads to their sales reps, the reps can become dependent and their personal prospecting efforts begin to wane. If you require your reps to generate leads themselves, this can pose a serious problem. Before hiring your next sales candidate, ensure that they have the prospecting skills and experience to create self-generated leads.

4. Were they provided a warm call environment?

This is where sales reps acquire their leads through trade shows, networking, or leads groups. These are great forms of acquiring new customers, unless these are not your company’s prospecting methods (you don’t attend trade shows, etc.) If not, then your sales candidate will have to learn a whole new set of prospecting skills. They may be wired for a true hunter sales role. Instead, they may have acquired new customers by receiving web leads, warm referrals, inbound calls from advertising, etc. Do a thorough job of finding out exactly how your candidate acquired leads.

5. Were they provided with a well-defined, proven sales process?

I’m a big advocate for a strong sales process. However, if your company has gaps in your sales process, it’s undefined, or you rely more on the skill set of your reps, then this can lead to disaster. Without a solid sales process, you’re relying on more of the sales reps personal problem-solving skills. If they lack these skills and require a very defined sales process, they will most likely fail. Asl your candidate about the sales process from their previous employers. How clear and effective was it? Will that sales process apply at your company?

6. Was their previous commission plan equivalent to yours?

  1. Larger base and smaller commission? (ie. 80% salary & 20% commission)
  2. Equal base and commission? (ie. 50% salary & 50% commission)
  3. Small base and larger commission? (ie. 20% salary & 80% commission)

The is significant because a big salary with a small commission is typically reserved for Account Managers of existing accounts… not hunters. If your sales candidate has a comp plan like this, and you offer a large commission, your sales candidate may have a serious conflict with the compensation… and they won’t sell. Be wary if your candidate focuses heavily on wanting a higher salary during the interview process. This is a clear sign of a farmer or Account Manager style sales rep. Again, probably not a hunter.

7. How much autonomy did they have?

How much authority did they have in negotiating deals such as prices, terms, and conditions? Did they come from a flat rate pricing model or was their negotiation involved? Who made the call on the size of deals they could pursue – the rep or their boss? If the sales rep made the decision, now you have to find out about margins, discounting, and commissions. Too many sales reps make a lot of sales because they repeatedly discount the price. No margins, but plenty of new sales. If the sales manager was involved, then how involved were they? Does that match the involvement you will have? These details make a huge difference between achieving sales quotas or not. Before hiring your next sales candidate, drill down with these questions to be sure you know what you’re getting.

8. Did they have a lot of oversight by management?

Did they work in an office with their boss? In a satellite office? In a home office? Did the sales manager go on sales calls and help the rep close deals? Is that the same practice in your company? If not, you may have a dependent sale rep who needs you to close deals for them. Ask them about the level of involvement of their sales managers in the sales process. Some sales reps are almost prideful about how their sales manager enters into the sales process when it was time to negotiate and close the sale. Not good if you expect them to handle that themselves.

9. Were they required to do their own data entry in their CRM system?

How much time each week was dedicated to data entry? Is that more or less time required than the sales position at your company? Do you want a superstar sales rep selling or doing administrative work? Be sure these align or you could lose a great rep who doesn’t want to spend hours of prime selling time each week doing $15 an hour tasks.

10. Did they research and build their own prospecting lists?

Who provided the leads list for the rep to contact – the company or the rep? If it’s the sales rep, how much time did it take them to build a list each week/month? How much time will you allot for them to build a list? Will you give them a list, but it needs to be cleaned? That takes lot of time too. Specifically, what resources will you provide to help your sales rep get started? Be clear about your expectations regarding administrative tasks and responsibilities.

11. Did they create and deploy marketing campaigns to acquire new leads?

What type of marketing did the rep engage in to generate leads other than traditional prospecting methods? Did they use LinkedIn, Facebook, X (formally Twitter), or direct email campaigns? Who wrote the content? How much time did they invest in this each week? What were the metrics to justify their investment of time and energy? How much competence in social media or direct email marketing is required at your company? What are your expectations? What skills or experience do they need?

12. Did they hand off the account after the sales or service what they sold?

This is a bigger issue than you think. Did they hand off the account to an Account Manager once it was sold? Did they service the account themselves? If your sales candidate handed off the account after the initial sale, then they had more time to build a pipeline and close sales. On the other hand, servicing accounts take a lot of time. Sure, they can leverage upselling and referrals, but that’s a different type of sales role. Neither role is better than the other. But they are different. You need to clearly communicate this before you make an offer.

13. Complete order entry on their own?

After the sale was made, did the sales rep have to complete order entry into an order entry system? How much time did that take? What is required in your position? Again, this is an admin function that many sales reps have to do. Once again, you have to decide if this is the right use of limited time and resources your sales rep has to do their job.

Follow these guidelines before hiring your next sales candidate. That way you’ll be sure to hire premium sales talent and avoid the posers.