5 sales job interview questions you have to answer well
The interview is your one chance to make a great first impression and convince the interviewer you're the best person for the job. One of the most challenging interview tests is coming up with intelligent answers to tricky questions on the spot. For sales jobs, questions can normally vary from the very direct to the abstract.
No matter how many times you’ve been in interview situations, these questions can still catch you out. Review these five difficult sales job interview questions, and learn how to answer them with confidence at future interviews.
“Tell me about yourself”
This question is asked at the start of many sales interviews. It's deceptively simple, but can be a significant hazard for many salespeople. What do you include? What do you omit? Should you include personal information? Instead of giving a chronological history of your education and work experience, focus on your qualities, strengths and skills that make you suited for the job. Include concrete examples where possible, but never diverge into a lengthy story. Include interesting information that the employer will want to further discuss. This will help structure the interview and underscore why you are qualified for the role.
“Why do you want to be in sales?”
Never reply to this question with “Because I like it,” “Because it gets me out and about” or “Because the money is good.”
These responses do not inform the interviewer, or differentiate you from other candidates.
Use this opportunity to focus on your sales experience and history. Think back to when your enthusiasm for sales began. Was it through a summer job at University, or working in sales in a gap year? Summarise your passion with real-life examples of success. Then relate it to today, explaining why you want to work for this potential employer. Interviewers will be impressed by your long term ‘connection’ to sales, and are more likely to remember your answer because of the personal story context.
“What motivates you to sell?”
This question enables you to emphasise your positive attributes as a salesperson. Be careful - it can be hard sometimes to elaborate on exactly what motivates you when under pressure. Do not give a nonspecific, or vague, response. Use this question as an opportunity to provide insight into your character; are you goal motivated, or do you need to be a member of the group of highest performing salespeople? It is important to deliver this response with enthusiasm and confidence; otherwise you may appear as a ‘jobsworth’ rather than an extremely motivated salesperson.
“What's your greatest weakness?”
This popular sales interview question is a great opportunity to take a negative and turn it into a positive. Saying something like, “My biggest weakness is that I never give up on a sale,” will not impress the interviewer, and may appear insincere (it is not even a strength, as smart salespeople know when to move on to the next sale).
To respond to this question, think of a true (not too serious) weakness. Maybe you get stressed easily, or distracted when trying to multitask. You can give specific examples as to how you already have (or are) making an effort to address these weaknesses. This will demonstrate to the interviewer that you're honest, able to recognize your weaknesses, and able to proactively fix them.
“Why did you leave your last job?”
This is another key question that is almost guaranteed to come up. The answer will tell the interviewer a lot about you. It is likely that you have already left, or are considering leaving your last sales job because it wasn't a good fit, you missed your sales target, or because you didn't like the work environment, the pay, or management. Though they may be honest answers, all of these are negative reasons for leaving and could ‘finish’ the interview. Always respond with positive comments about your last job. Maybe you developed new skills, received training, or enjoyed working in your team. Then migrate the focus of why you left by explaining what you are looking for in your next job (that was absent in your last job). This could be a new market sector, more responsibility, relocation, or a different company culture. This will present your past employment in a positive light, compliment the position for which you're interviewing, and demonstrate why you are an excellent fit for the role.
The best way to familiarise yourself with these questions is to now plan your answers, and practice delivery out loud so that you can sail through this set of difficult questions at your next sales interview.