I recently wrote about the top four traits that I look for when hiring sales reps. It generated a lot of buzz and made me realize that those traits are useful for any team, not just sales.

I also received a lot of inquiries on how to actually vet for those qualities. It’s a great question, since asking directly on any of them is unlikely to get you anywhere. But the good news is once you’ve honed in on the attributes you want on your team, you can design and focus an interview process around learning more about the candidate’s aptitude with them.

Here are some methodologies that have worked for me to vet candidates for my top attributes: coachable, curious, driven, and smart.

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During the interview, coach them. Give them feedback and see how they respond. Have them do a role play, then highlight one thing you like and one where they should improve. Next, have them repeat the role play.

Did they take your feedback to heart and put it into action? Can you make this person better at their job during your 30 minute interview? If so, imagine what you can do if you work together for a year. That’s a very coachable rep.


I don’t ask people if they are curious, because it’s easier to wait and see if they ask me. At the end of the interview, did they ask more questions than I did?

A great candidate will be asking me about everything. Do they want to know more, or are they just sitting back and taking what you give them? I don’t necessarily care what you are curious about, so much as that you are curious.

I like it when people ask about where leads are generated, what the process is from there, why we do things that way, how we came to our current setup, what happens after the customer closes, who handles support items, how the teams interact, and on and on. This isn’t about what I ask them, it’s about what they ask me when I’m not asking them anything.


To start, I love the approach to hiring self-motivated people that was outlined in this post by Hunter Madeley.

In addition, I look at the candidate’s career path and see what they've done. Ask about short term and long term goals to see where they want to go from here. Ask how this job will help them get there. Find out what this person is passionate about, and ask them goals they've hit that mean a lot to them.

People with a burning desire to be the best are what you want, and that’s not something that turns on and off throughout life. Go back to high school or college and have them talk about something that wasn’t prepared, and dive in deep there.


You can get signals here from the resume, but you can also get a lot of false positives. Talk to the candidate about recent decisions, or about questions you're facing today. Can they process and react to information presented? It’s less about the answers and more about the thought process to get there.

By the end of the interview, you should have discussed a number of topics. Ask yourself: Did they get it and can they keep up? Is this person going to be a thought partner on your never-ending journey to improve? If so, that’s the kind of smarts you need.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking you can hire anyone for whom the answer here isn’t a clear “yes!”

Finally, I have one bonus trick to help with the screening process. Create a Google form that has your top attributes on it, and share it with the entire interview team to score the candidate on each attribute from 1 to 10. This doesn’t replace the normal feedback loop you take internally to discuss candidates, but I’ve found that when teammates know they are going to have to complete the form after the interview (and score them on the attributes you’ve highlighted), they are much more likely to successfully focus their conversation on the things that matter.

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Originally published Nov 12, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated October 01 2019


Sales Interviewing