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The #1 Reason Why Candidates Get Rejected in a Sales Interview (and What to do About It)

Having conducted literally thousands of interview debriefs with hiring managers, I can confidently say that there is a #1 reason why interviewees get passed on.  They simply talk too much.  This is sales 101 stuff, two ears, one mouth and yet I see experienced sales professionals with impressive resumes commit this sin every day.  Most of them (I hope) have learned how to curb this problem with prospects.  The problem, as I see it, is that few sales professionals have much experience interviewing.  When the pressure gets turned up (i.e. an interview), the learned behavior (listening) goes out the window and the natural inclination (extroversion – talk, talk, talk) comes out.  Compounding this, it’s rare to get honest and direct feedback after an interview.  And the cycle continues…

If you’re still reading this, this may be a problem for you.  You got into sales because you’re extroverted, like people and like to talk. Bringing this back to interviewing, long-winded answers pose several problems but let’s start with a big one.  Even if a hiring manager loves you, they can’t possibly process and remember a 3 minute answer.  The more you talk, the more you water down your answer and increase the likelihood that the hiring manager won’t register your main point.  I could go on a tangent about sales reps going on tangent after tangent with their interview answers but then I’d be committing the same sin.

The Trick to Succinct Answers.

The best tool I know is to use check-ins.  They help you clarify that you’re on the right track and each time you use one, it allows the interviewer to digest the previous statement and take in a new one.  A proper answer can look like this…

Hiring Manager “Please share with me your approach to prospecting.”

You “Are you interested in the metrics or would you like an example of how I break into an account?” (clarification)

Hiring Manager “Eventually both but I’d like to know your metrics.”

You “We have a fairly simple approach to metrics that works.  25 dials = 1 appointment.  5 appointments per week = 2 deals.  8 deals per month = quota.  I’ve brought a call report with me showing my last quarter’s prospecting #s.  Would you like to me share it with you?” (check-in, beautiful)

Hiring Manager “Yes, I would like to see that”.

I believe you get the point.  How would anyone not like this style? You’re prepared, you’re giving the hiring manager the information that they want to know and you’re giving it to them in digestible (and memorable) amounts.  A good rule of thumb is to check-in before you’ve talked for more than 60 seconds straight.

So how do you get good at check-ins? It takes practice.  Practice with your spouse, your friends, and make it a habit.  Good communication flows out of clarifications and check-ins.  It tunes in the person who might otherwise tune out.  This new found skill-set might help you land a dream job one day.  Even if it doesn’t, I’ll all but guarantee you that it will help you close more deals.

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. Our posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

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