J Patrick + Associates Blog

No Preparation for Sales Interview? Guaranteed failure!

Posted by Daniel Sullivan on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 @ 11:00 AM


Another example of what makes recruiters crazy.

Recently a veteran sales candidate, an individual who clearly had a long record of success selling complex Information Security solutions to global enterprises, was cruising in an interview, connecting with the hiring manager, making his case and generally "firing on all cylinders", when the interviewer asked him if he knew anything about their main product set, their competitors and what an ideal customers would look like.  The candidate did not know anything about these products, and had no direct experience selling them.  That was not a major requirement of the position, but here was a time to demonstrate all the characteristics of a high-performance, low-maintenance employee, and more importantly, professional sales person.


When I started in recruiting, the expectations of what candidates would know in preparation for interviews was laughably low compared to the present day.  Quite often the first 10 to 15 minutes of the interview consisted of the interviewer (HR or the direct hiring manager) describing in detail what the firm or business unit was involved in, market conditions, a rough org chart and then the actual job function and requirements.  Then the screening/recruiting part of the interview would commence.  

No more.  

Candidates had better bring their "A game" now when it comes to preparation, because employers expectations are much higher now, the competition is hotter for the most worthwhile positions, and there is no question of acccess to information.

In fact, candidates, particular in the types of revenue-producing roles our search practice focusses on - Sales, Sales Engineering, Channel Sales - should see this phase of the job search as an opportunity to show potential employers the kind of attention to detail, drive, and intitiative-taking that hiring managers gobble up.   With proper preparation, sales candidates can give the hiring manager a clear idea of the approach they would take to encounters with prospects and customers.   

We generally give the candidates that we are scheduling phone screens, videocall and in-person interviews a short list of items for them to assimilate beforehand.

Job Description - - This may include our posted ("sanitized") version, as well as the original JD supplied by the hiring firm.  

Compensation - - Salary range, and On Target Earnings (OTE)  Sales plan (quota, average deal size, commission payment schedule, acceleratos, SPIFs, etc.  Depending on what the firm wants us to disclose, this can also include a benefits summary sheet, stock options, PTO, and any other "moving parts" germane to the compensation discussion.

Hiring Manager Profile - - We'll pass on our impression of the HM based on our experience with him (this can be zero experience or 20+ years, and we disclose that.)  We will also forward a link to the HM's public LinkedIN profile.

Link to Company website - - Most of our clients are technology vendors or resellers, so it is vital to know the firm's product or service offerings, who their partner are, their customer base and who they compete with.

Candidates can't prepare for every contingency but there is baseline level of knowledge that is assumed when you show up to the interview.   Asking informed questions based on strong preparation is a great way to demonstrate how you would perform as an employee.

I'd love to hear about your preparation for interviews.