Acing Your Sales Job Interview: 5 Tips for Recent Grads

sales jobAfter four years of midterms, finals, group projects and everything else higher education brings, it’s finally time to put all those years of education to work. Your first challenge is the job interview, with what some might say is your toughest critic – a sales leader. Sales leaders are not only evaluating your sales aptitude by how well you sell yourself, they also expect you to demonstrate how well you can listen.

To get you ready for your next sales job interview, I spent some time with our sales leaders here at Velocify, asking them what they look for in a strong candidate. Here are five interview tips for the aspiring sales professional:

1. Do your homework.

A recent Glassdoor report found that the average corporate job listing receives 250 applicants. If you are one of the lucky few to get an interview, make sure to take it seriously. Before the interview do your homework on the company and the people you’ll be talking to. Spend some time on the company website. Go through the motion a prospective buyer might go through to understand the sales process better. Research the product or service being sold, look at competitive offerings, if the website has a lead form, fill it out and see what happens – how long before a rep reaches out by phone / email, what do they say in their voicemail, etc. Also, look up the individuals you’ll be interviewing with. Spend some time on their LinkedIn profile and look for content they have posted or written recently for conversation starters during the interview. If you really want to get geeky, check out Crystal Knows to get a personality assessment on each individual you’ll be meeting with.

2. The best interviews feel more like a conversation.

In sales, “telling” is only fractionally as important as “listening” when coming to understand exactly what the buyers’ pain points are and what they need. Interviews should go the same way. Find ways to engage your interviewer the way they’ll expect you to engage a prospective client. If interviewers are looking for traits that will ultimately lead to sales success, they’ll be paying more attention to how well applicants are at creating an engaging dialogue versus just listing their strengths.

3. Sell yourself, but resist the urge to brag.

Far too often the pressure of an interview and the eagerness to impress leads a candidate to vigorously promote themselves at every opportunity. This is a mistake for any job, but especially a sales role. If you have strong accomplishments that you’re proud of, those should be comprehensively listed on your resume, so that possible employers have them even if they never come up in conversation. Any interview that’s done properly should include plenty of opportunities to talk about your value as a worker. The key is to really listen to the questions and when you answer make sure to address the interviewers question, don’t just pull a canned example out of your back-pocket that you pre-prepared without demonstrating the connection to question being asked.

sales job
Confidence is key, but stay connected to the conversation. Avoid canned answers and go into the interview with a sense of curiosity.

4. Always, always ask questions.

When the interviewer passes the mic to you to ask questions the worst thing you can do is take a pass. The second worst thing you can do is rush through a list of pre-prepared questions without stopping to really take in the answer. Even if you think you completely understand, ask clarification questions anyway. You want your interviewers to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are present and respectful of their opinions.

5. Follow up after the interview.

A good sales rep is attentive to a prospective buyer, they take note of questions or concerns the buyer has and offer to track down the answers if they don’t have them, and after the call they follow through on their commitments with timely follow-up. Show your sales savvy after the interview by following up quickly with short personal emails to everyone you interviewed with. Keep it brief, but if there’s anything you neglected to mention or that came up in your discussion (e.g., “here’s a link to that great article I mentioned earlier”), your thank you note can be a great opportunity to make a final impression.

If you found this helpful, here’s another post you might like: Influencers and Leaders Share Top Sales Interview Questions

Alyssa headshot Alyssa Trenkamp is the director of marketing communications at Velocify and a 15 year veteran in the enterprise technology sector. Prior to Velocify, Alyssa spent nearly a decade as a marketing and public relations consultant for Microsoft. Alyssa holds a BA in Journalism from Western Washington University.

  • Daniel Kimm

    Being prepared and doing research on the company before your interviews goes a long way and shows the amount of effort and desire to work at the place.

    • AlyssaTrenkamp

      Couldn’t agree more Daniel – especially in light of this fact: 250 applicants per job listing… if you get an interview make it count!

  • Tim Dunlea

    Selling to sales people is the ultimate challenge. Be prepared

    • AlyssaTrenkamp

      Couldn’t agree more! Thanks for the comment Tim.

  • Branden O’Donnell

    A key note for me has always been making it more of a conversation rather than an interrogation. All steps will make you stand out, especially for a sales position.

  • John Laino

    Follow up is a great point – it’s critical part of a successful sales campaign so it’s an indicator of success potential during the interview process for a sales role.

  • Jesse Peterson

    Great advice! There’s simply no excuse for walking into an interview unprepared with all the resources currently available (company websites, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, etc). Don’t forget to dress appropriately and make sure you arrive early!

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