sales job interview mistakes

Don’t Make These 10 Mistakes In Your Sales Job Interview

Working at a sales recruiting platform, we’ve heard our share of bad sales interview stories. There’s nothing more disheartening than hearing that a great candidate tanked their interview due to a common mistake. Don’t let that be you! Here are 10 of the most common sales interview mistakes to avoid:

1. Talking sh*t about your current job.

There’s really no scenario in which it’s okay for you to crap on your current position, boss, or work environment. It shows a lack of maturity and bad judgement. If you need to communicate that something was less-than-perfect at a past gig, do it tactfully and stick to facts, not judgments. You may want to say “I struggled to find exciting career paths for my growth at the company,” instead of, “The company doesn’t promote top performers.”

2. Not doing your homework.

If you walk into an interview not knowing what the company does or why you would be excited to sell the product, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. At a minimum, you should know the basics about the company, product, clientele, and leadership team. Get bonus points by preparing some insightful things to say about the company’s competition and what the market’s like.

3. Taking too long to respond to the hiring manager.

If you don’t respond quickly to get an interview scheduled, you risk not seeming passionate about the job. Even if you’re having a busy week at work, shoot them a quick note to let them know you are very excited but won’t be free for a few days.

4. Talking about your amazing strengths and accomplishments—and that’s it.

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice we can give you is this: Don’t be perfect. It’s okay if you have some weaknesses or areas you want to work on and mention some of these things in the interview. Be confident, but don’t act like you’re Ziglar‘s prodigal son. You’ll connect better with your interviewer if you are human.

5. Playing the victim when talking about past failures.

We’ll save you the surprise: You will probably get asked tough questions that will force you to explain why some of your previous experiences didn’t work out. The best thing you can do is own up to what you could’ve done better and what you learned. For example, you may say “At my previous job, I had a hard time finding new leads in my territory. I learn that I should voice my challenges earlier to my manager.” instead of “The company I worked for assigned me a territory with no leads.” Talking about these mistakes candidly and the lessons you extracted will be a refreshing way to respond to your interviewer.

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6. Touting other job offers or opportunities waiting for you.

Even if its a hot job market and you’ve got other suitors, there’s no need to showboat. Your interviewer may wonder if you are truly passionate about the opportunity or just merely competing all of your offers for the highest pay.

7. Not preparing insightful questions of your own.

One of the most effective ways to showcase your sales acumen and passion for the job is by preparing a few insightful questions for the interview. Go beyond shallow questions like “What kind of CRM do you use?” or “Who are your competitors?” Ask questions that demonstrate a deeper understanding of the product, industry, or role itself. Let your intellectual curiosity take over, but try to ground your question with a desire to better understand the job opportunity.

8. Flashing lofty job titles and non-relevant experiences.

If you are interviewing for a quota-carrying sales position, it hurts your candidacy to discuss previous experiences managing a sales team. Hiring managers want to see success, but they are looking for people who are grounded and fit the role. Touting non-relevant job experiences is like pitching a value proposition that doesn’t address a client’s pain point. Make sure you understand the role you are interviewing for and highlight why your prior experiences are a perfect fit.

9. Missing crucial cues from your interviewer.

Most interviewers will try to guide you towards the answers they are looking for. They may drop hints, state leading questions, or use subtle body language to help you out. If you can’t detect these free tips, you’ll leave the interview thinking it went great and be shocked when you find out you weren’t selected for the next stage.

10. Raving about an unrelated hobby or project.

While hiring managers like to see signs of creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit, there’s a fine line between a hobby and a career. If you talk too much about your acting career, angel investing, or restaurant venture, employers will start questioning your level of commitment and passion for sales.

What did we miss? We want to help you perform at your peak on interview day! Email us at and we’ll add it to this list. 

Jordan Wan

Founder & CEO of CloserIQ. Previously Sales Strategy & Management @ZocDoc, Head of Analytics @PayPerks and Trading Strategist @Bridgewater Associates. MIT Bachelor’s & Master’s in Computer Science. CFA Charterholder.