sales interview framework

The Interview Framework We Use to Hire Top Sales Candidates

For hiring revenue-generating talent, an efficient interview framework is particularly important. On one hand you need to be thorough so you don’t hire the wrong person. But with top talent you want to get them through your hiring funnel quickly or you could lose them to another offer.

You also want something that is repeatable. Repeatability adds objectivity to the interview process, making it easier to compare candidates and their outcomes so you can make the best hiring decisions for your team.

At CloserIQ we’ve experimented with a few different approaches as we’ve tripled our team within the past year. We created the following sales interview framework to maintain the balance between a speedy and thorough process,
while allowing us to have something repeatable to compare candidates.

Step 1: Phone Screen

You can only learn so much from a resume – you need to get your candidate on the phone to really understand their selling potential. A phone screen is a perfect opportunity to qualify for things like compensation and the candidate’s desire to be a part of your mission. It’s also a way to evaluate the candidate’s communication skills and demeanor.  

Whenever possible, have the hiring manager run the phone screen. Ultimately, they are the key decision maker, and if a candidate doesn’t clear that bar, you can cut them out of the process early. This will save exponential amounts of time for your team.

Try to keep the phone screens between 15-30 minutes. You know what attributes you’re looking for and you probably have a list of go-to screening questions already.

Step 2: Multiple In-Person Interviews

Our interview process consists of three, 30 minute in-person interviews with hiring stakeholders. You can include members of the executive team and maybe a senior staff member or two who can focus on different areas of evaluation.

For example, we test for different skills like written communication, analytical horsepower and industry knowledge. My team has found that this builds efficiency in the process. It also helps the team gather more specific information and avoid overlapping conversations.

You and your team should get together after the interviews to discuss what you’ve learned about the candidate and how the candidate responded to different interviewers. Compare notes and share insights. Everyone’s input can help draw a clearer picture of the candidate.

Step 3: The Mock Pitch

Who doesn’t love a mock pitch? A practical selling scenario can assess the candidate’s preparation skills and the effectiveness of their sales acumen within the context of their potential role.

Largely, we are testing their sales framework. Within that framework, we grade things like preparation, rapport building, and the ability to ask the right kinds of questions. You’re mainly looking for their sales potential and current skills. Specific knowledge of your company and service can be taught during onboarding.

Step 4: Evaluating for Cultural Fit

Invite the candidate to a team lunch or happy hour to get a feel for how the candidate blends with your team. Your sales reps represent your brand, so you should be comfortable with how they interact with others in various settings.

Social skills are important, especially for salespeople. Small behavioral clues like manners and speaking with confidence in front of a group are most likely not apparent in a typical interview setting.

Step 5: Extending the Offer

Once you’ve made the decision to extend an offer, pick up the phone and call your candidate to discuss the offer before you put it in writing. This is your chance to sell. Give the candidate the opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns.

Make sure you’ve discussed any potential barriers with them and that they have an intention to accept before you spend time drafting an offer letter. For the official offer, invite them to your office and present the offer in-person. This is a great way to build momentum before their start date. And you may even be able to handle some of the formal HR onboarding so they can focus on selling as soon as they arrive for their first day.

Hopefully this sales interview framework will help you establish your own system for evaluating sales candidates. We try to get each candidate through this framework within 2-3 weeks, but every situation is different. Whatever process you put into place, we recommend you use a grading rubric to help you make more objective decisions throughout your hiring process.


Jason Lalk

Jason is the VP of Sales at CloserIQ and a Venture Partner at CoFound Partners. Previously, he was the Head of Sales at Bindo.