A sales interview is about establishing the candidate’s credentials and identifying if he or she would be a good fit into your organisation taking into account personal characteristics such as presence, aptitude, manner, confidence and ability. It cannot be stressed enough that taking the time before and during an interview to put your potential sales employee at ease will make a considerable different to the outcome of the interview.
Helping the applicant out by preparing them better for the interview will result in them feeling positive and at ease. You as an interviewer will then be able to spend more time on important issues: determining and establishing the candidate’s skill and fit within your culture.
There are numerous methods in which you can help prepare and relax your candidate so here are some simple yet extremely effective methods:
Who We Are and What We Do
Describe the company – give an outline of the nature and history of the company, its products or services, its mission and philosophy and a few unique aspects. You should be able to provide the candidate with an idea of the company’s ‘personality’, culture and what it ‘believes in’. In addition, providing the background and titles of the interviewer(s) will also allow the candidate to feel relaxed.
Ask a ‘Settling Question’
Good candidates will have prepared beforehand and a ‘setting question’ would be something like ‘How much do you know about our business?’ or ‘How much do you know about our Industry?’. This will not only allow you to gauge how much depth you need to go into about your business and industry but will help settle the candidate as they are able to impress by talking fluently about the research on you that they’ve undertaken.
Pardon – What did that mean?
Language used when describing the company or job role should be ‘jargon free’ for easy comprehension, even if you deal within highly specialised work. This will consequently enable the candidate to understand more by not feeling uncomfortable by having to ask what a certain acronym means. Remember that some jargon may only be used by your niche sector or possibly even just your organisation. Also remember that your management speak may not be universally understood. I mentioned to a German candidate once about ‘thinking outside of the box’ and it took him a while to regain his composure as he interpreted it literally and had no idea what I was talking about!
We Are Above Average
Whilst highlighting achievements and company successes, one can cite client successes, awards won and mention employees whom have performed above average. This will demonstrate your commitment and dedication to client satisfaction, your team and its members.
Hand Over Your Brief
Brief candidates on the general outline of the sales interview. Communicate your plan for the flow of the interview, but do explain that this is not rigid. If an interview is based on set questions alone it can sound very boring and dull, particularly if you have both been “practising” ahead of the interview. Plan and have an agenda to ensure that you capture of the required information to interview and benchmark effectively but don’t be afraid to jump around the sections of the agenda for the meeting to be more natural.
However (as I am sure you are already aware) there are some people who have greater experience at being interviewed and it will be down to you to judge how much time to give the interviewee to prepare beforehand – you don’t want to waste their time if they are ready to launch straight into it.
Allow The Candidate To Shine By Getting Them Excited!!!
Throughout the duration of the job interview, help the candidate demonstrate his or her best knowledge, skills and hunger for the job. Start with “small talk” and factoring in a little “getting to know you” time by asking several easier questions until the candidate seems relaxed. This will provide endless benefits for you throughout the interview process.
You can initially look for and question an additional attribute to help the candidate relax: their passion. Find either a project that the candidate recently worked on, or their hobby or interests. The interviewee will probably get very excited – they will talk more quickly, be more animated and hopefully even forget for a moment that they are in an interview. This will highly benefit the candidates who feel very nervous and uncomfortable being in an interview situation. Talking about a passion of theirs will enable them to lose all signs of nervousness.
Admittedly, in an interview situation, the prospective employer and candidate are not equal parties. There is therefore a risk that the candidate will be afraid to be them self, relax or argue with you because you are in a position of power. However, if candidates are given the opportunity to discuss a passion of theirs that you have little knowledge on, they will be given a greater opportunity to demonstrate their selling skills by trying to convince or inform you on a particular subject.
Make Them Feel Comfortable
There is a chance that you may have a candidate who is inexperienced at being in interviewing situations or a person who may suffer from bad nerves. You will be able to make the best of your candidate during the interview (especially those who do suffer from terrible nerves) by creating an aura of relaxation - even if you are feeling the nerves too!
If you are to use any type of recording equipment then make sure the candidate is comfortable with it - explain what you are doing, why you are doing it and exactly how exactly the interview will be recorded and used post-interview. Do not under any circumstance undertake any recording of interviews without obtaining permission from the interviewee.
It Takes Two To Tango
Preparation prior to the interview (for example reviewing and highlighting essential points on the sales interviewee’s CV) will also help you feel at ease. Having two relaxed people talking together will make for a more natural interview. If you are uptight and nervous prior to or during the interview, it is likely to make the candidate nervous too.
Make sure you give yourself 10 minutes prior to the interview so you can gather all the materials necessary for the interview, this will help to reduce your stress state. If you are stressed you have a greater risk of creating havoc for the interview – being prepared and calm will help ensure things go smoothly. Also switch off your own mobile phone, blackberry, etc. and ensure that your team shouldn’t disturb you unless its critical. I had a client once that was checking his emails whilst interviewing and surprise, surprise the candidates wasn’t interested in joining his business!
Don’t Follow Your ABC’s
If you are holding an assessment centre or if a large number of candidates are to be interviewed over a specific period of time (for example over an afternoon), candidates may expect to be interviewed alphabetically by surname. Candidates with surnames that fall at the latter end of the alphabet will expect to be interviewed last. It could be good practice to list interview candidates in random order rather than alphabetically to provide variety to the interview process, manage potential employees interviewing order expectations and help Mr. Zaidi manage his nerves when he is expecting to be the last interviewed.
How Many Is Too Many?
Don’t overwhelm your candidate with a large panel of interviewers. This will only overpower the candidate thus making them more nervous, distressed, intimidated and further unable to perform to their full capability. Certainly at first interview, keep to a limited amount of interviewers during the initial stages of interviewing, preferably no more than 2 or 3 to allow the candidate to show you their true colours.
To conclude: Keeping the atmosphere relaxed will make for a better interview. Why? Because a relaxed applicant will be more honest, open and talk more. The more they talk, the more you will learn about them. This therefore makes for a better judgement and hire that will help you develop a strong, healthy, productive competitive organisation.