In every industry, it’s wise to prepare before an interview. Preparation should be viewed as part of the interview process, as central as the questions and answer portion.
If you haven’t taken this advice seriously in the past and have decided on a career as a sales representative, you will want to rethink that strategy.
In the United States, in 2022, there were 13 million salespeople. With so many positions in many specializations, how can you stand out amongst others applying?
When preparing for sales job interview questions, keep these 18 common interview questions in mind and put yourself at ease.
1. “Tell me about yourself.”
When a hiring manager asks you this question, they are looking for you to identify your strengths and give a brief overview of the skill set you possess to be a successful salesperson.
When answering this question, keep these tips in mind:
- Focus on your passion for whatever field you are trying to sell in (i.e., medical device sales, insurance, realty)
- Highlight specific examples of your interest and knowledge of the field
You want to be professional but approachable throughout the interview to become the hiring manager's ideal candidate. Answer this question honestly and succinctly.
You want to make an impression that you’re a good salesperson with all of the competencies they’re looking for in a new team member, whether you’re gunning for an entry-level position or something higher-up.
2. “How did you hear about this position?”
There are initially three ways that you will learn about available sales positions.
School Job Fairs
When you are approaching graduation, look for an internship within the area of sales you are interested in.
You can do this by going to job fairs or career counselors at your school who will help make introductions that will lead you into a field you love.
Over 90 percent of all internet traffic is using search engines, so it would make sense that you found the position through Google. And while this is a perfectly acceptable answer, you likely did more research into the company before applying.
Rather than tell the hiring manager you just “looked up sales jobs” in your area, talk about how you found the listing online and, after looking into their company, saw that their values resonate with yours. You knew you had to apply and try to become part of their company culture as a sales professional.
In the world of sales, you have most likely worked to expand your network because the more connections you have, the more opportunities you have to excel. For this reason, someone may have told you about an opening at their company.
When using a referral, mention the name of the salesperson who referred you. This will immediately build trust between you and the hiring manager as they will consider the individual who sent you their way must have seen something in you that was a good fit for the role at their company.
This is also where you can highlight the recruiter who introduced you to the position, if that applies.
3. “Why did you choose to apply?”
This is an excellent question that hiring managers use to help gauge your interest in their product and company. This allows them to check your research and help determine whether or not your values and needs align with theirs.
For example, most applicants seek more than just a job in the medical device sales industry.
When this question is brought up, don’t be afraid to be authentic if you want to help patients or improve the world by improving patient outcomes and overall quality of life.
Answers you may consider highlighting:
- Identify the values of the company and what about them appeals to you
- Explain why specifically you want to work with this employer
- Talk about the road that led you here — what led to your passion for sales? \
4. “What are your biggest strengths?”
Feel free to brag here. First, begin with your professional strengths and sales skills — you want to prove you have the problem-solving skills hiring managers are looking for in sales candidates. Then, you can move to personal strengths.
Try to avoid cliche and vague answers common within your industry, such as “outgoing” and “ambitious” — if you will use these attributes, find specific examples where they were brought into play.
If you do not have a background in sales, you shouldn’t count yourself out just yet. To pitch yourself to the hiring manager, look for transferable skills such as strong customer service or communication.
5. “What is your biggest weakness?”
When asked this question, the purpose is not to catch you off guard but to judge how self-aware you are and what you are doing to combat this weakness in an actionable way.
When you answer, don’t give the hiring manager what you think they want to hear. Instead, be honest and genuine. This will build more respect between you and the interviewer.
6. “How do you keep up with current trends within the industry?”
No matter what you are selling, you will be expected to keep on top of industry trends to understand new products and pain points for your prospects.
The best salespeople stay current on the sales process and understand the nuances of cutting-edge sales strategy — you should do the same.
Consider how you review news. Such options may be:
- Online Articles
- Organizations or Groups
- LinkedIn and other Social Media
- Figureheads in the industry you admire
7. “Why did you choose a sales career?”
Although your first response may be to give a generic answer to this question, you should dig a little deeper to show the interviewer what motivates you and how sales, as a vocation, allows you to bring in the best parts of yourself to the field.
Often hiring managers are looking for examples of you being passionate and goal-oriented. Consider your answer to your strengths questions and reinforce them here with examples.
8. “What past experiences make you good as a sales representative?”
When interviewers ask this question, they usually want to learn about proven results you had in your previous position. They probably want to gauge your sales potential if your job wasn't in sales. Sometimes, it’s a little of both.
Explain your hard and soft skills with examples to back them up. What are your biggest challenges, and how did you rise to the occasion?
9. “Tell me about a time you met your sales goals?”
Along with the question above about your past sales experiences, they will want to know when you have succeeded, which should not come as a surprise.
They are looking to hire someone to fill the role of someone who will continue to bring in revenue, new clients, and maintain accounts.
This is an excellent time to talk about the strategies you’ve used in the past — explain an opportunity you were given, what the goal was that you established, and the ending result.
You are offering them a formula that has worked for you in the past that they may want you to bring with you in the future.
10. “Tell me about a time you did not meet your sales goals?”
Along the lines of “tell me your biggest weakness,” this question may seem like a trap. However, the interviewers are likely looking for a more in-depth description of your sales experience and how you have bounced back from not achieving your goals.
Use a specific example that you prepare in advance. Consider the challenges you faced and how you got back on track.
The hiring manager is likely looking to see how quickly you can bounce back from setbacks and how self-aware you are so that you are more likely to reach your sales goals.
11. “Why should we hire you as a sales rep?”
This question was designed to test your knowledge of the company’s culture, mission, and values. Don’t just discuss how great you are at cold calls or how pleasant you are at sales meetings.
You want to better position yourself to be seen in this sales role, so consider answering these questions using a variety of your strengths and how you would benefit the company, and how well your beliefs align with the position you are applying for.
12. “What interests you about selling our products?”
Hiring managers want to know what drew you to their company, but most of all, they want to see that you have a basic understanding and knowledge about what their company’s product has to offer.
If you can sell the product to yourself, you can sell the company’s product to customers and companies like that. This question requires you to be prepared and authentic to secure a strong response from the hiring team.
13. “How did you build rapport with customers?”
Many people will cite that they have excellent communication skills on their resumes. You may have even studied communication in college.
This question asks how you approach and communicate with prospects, clients, and co-workers and how you can apply those skills to the sales position at the company you are applying to.
14. “What are your career goals?”
Often, hiring managers are looking for someone who is seeking upward mobility. This shows your initiative and drive, two leading characteristics of great salespeople.
Not only are you looking to make sales quotas, but you are also looking to grow within the company, meaning a long-term commitment.
15. “Sell our product to me.”
Similarly to what was mentioned when we listed, “what interests you in what we are selling?” this question requires you to learn about the products (or at least a few) for an in-depth sales pitch.
Use the company’s website and online reviews; try to test the product yourself if you can.
16. “What type of work environment do you prefer?”
This is a great question to determine whether you prefer to work in a sales team or individually and where you have the most experience.
Depending on your role, there may be different expectations regarding how often you will be expected to be a team player, working in person with others, and working individually – and potentially from home.
After many companies moved to completely virtual during the pandemic, some have kept those practices and may require you to work from home.
Depending on the position, highlight how you stay motivated when working individually and how well you use teamwork and delegation that help you thrive within a group environment.
17. “How do you handle being in high-pressure situations?”
Most professions experience high-pressure situations from time to time. However, in sales, almost everything you do is high-pressure based on meeting sales quotas, following a sales cadence with multiple prospects, maintaining current accounts, and answering any questions from long-time customers.
This question isn’t necessarily an “at work” question but is about managing a work/life balance and keeping you from burning out. Two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout at some point in their professional careers.
A company wants to invest in a long-term employee, and those employees will often have set systems in place to help alleviate the symptoms of burnout.
18. “Are you applying for other jobs?”
It’s simple. Your interviewers want to know your level of investment in this position. That isn’t to say if you apply to other places, you should hide it. Instead, if you are applying for other jobs, let them know.
There’s no need to disclose where else you are applying unless a competitive offer has been presented within the industry. This could potentially be used to negotiate a higher starting salary.
Consider this when applying for more managerial positions, such as regional sales management.
Even if you are applying to other places, follow up after an interview with a thank you note or email to keep yourself at the front of the sales manager’s mind.
When applying for sales positions, you want to stand out amongst your competitors and prove that you are a successful salesperson.
By preparing for your interview with various verifiable facts and examples using storytelling, you will make a lasting impact and are more likely to land the job.
Sales and Related Occupations | BLS