8 Common Red Flags You Need to Avoid Demonstrating in Sales Interviews, According to Experts

Download Now: 22 Free Job Seeking Templates
Jay Fuchs
Jay Fuchs


Welcome to “The Pipeline” — a weekly column from HubSpot, featuring actionable advice and insight from real sales leaders.

sales candidate demonstrating sales interview red flags and undermining her chances of getting a sales role

Sales interviews are like speed dating. In both cases, you‘re given a tight, stressful window to prove that you’re worth a sizable investment of time and effort — and like a speed date, an otherwise smooth interview can be ruined by you demonstrating glaring red flags.

So to help you avoid the sales interview equivalent of wistfully talking about how you and your ex “used to come to this place all the time” and/or going on an unprompted rant about how Limp Bizkit's cover of “Behind Blue Eyes” is better than the original, we've asked some experts to give their perspective on the big-time red flags you need to avoid at all costs while interviewing.

Let's take a look at what they had to say.

Free Kit: Everything You Need for Your Job Search

1. Not Demonstrating Any Evidence of a Growth Mindset

According to Tracy Graziani, Owner and CEO of Graziani Multimedia, recruiters are wary of candidates who don't exhibit curiosity and sincere ambition.

She says, "I always ask people what was the last thing they learned that wasn't required for work or school. I also ask what skill they want to improve and what their plan is to do so. Both are going for the same thing — is this person a lifelong learner? Someone who strives to be better?

“If not, they won't be successful in our industry. Things constantly change and we have to continuously be learning to remain competitive. No evidence of a growth mindset is a definite red flag for me.”

2. Lacking Self Awareness

Benjamin Goldman, Sales Lead at Canva, suggests sales candidates should demonstrate a knack for self-reflection and some degree of humility.

He says, "I have a few questions to gauge self-awareness. My favorite is, ‘What would your current manager say is the biggest risk in us hiring you for this role?’ If the candidate can‘t think of anything substantial, it either means they’re perfect (unlikely) or have some pretty big blind spots."

3. Being Too Risk Averse

Greg Linnemanstons, President of Weidert Group, Inc., says recruiters keep an eye out for candidates who come off as indecisive and reluctant to be assertive.

He says, “I always ask how they buy big-ticket items, like a car or a house. If they're decisive with a bias for action that's a plus, and they're comfortable expecting the same behavior from customers. If they take forever and are extremely risk-averse, that's a red flag.”

4. Being More Arrogant Than Self-Assured

Louise Varley, Business Development Manager at EDITED, suggests that recruiters tend to be mindful of whether a potential sales hire seems a little too confident.

She says, “I'd probably say someone who comes across as arrogant rather than having a good level of confidence and being self-assured. Arrogance suggests a lack of coachability and someone who would probably find it difficult to drop old habits.”

5. Not Being Able to Cite Times You Tried and Succeeded to Get Something You Wanted

Kristin Dennewill, Co-founder & President of Denamico, says interviewers often make sure candidates have both the tenacity to pursue objectives and skills to actually attain them.

She says, "A red flag for me is a salesperson who doesn‘t have examples of where they’ve had to be tenacious to get something they wanted and were ultimately successful in doing that.

“It's one thing to check a box and say you did what you were supposed to do, but that's often not enough to win the deal. Being successful in sales requires having a lot more grit and perseverance than the average person.”

6. Only Being Motivated by Money and Status — Not Solving for the Customer

Tobbias Schloemer, CEO of Thought Leader Systems, says interviewers generally make sure sales candidates are in the field for the right reasons.

According to him, "The most detrimental thing about new sales reps would be if they claim or seem to be motivated by money or status. Today, only helping customers can win and should be an intrinsic motivation for all salespeople.

“Inbound sales would not be possible without a service mentality among sales reps. Candidates should have demonstrated this capability at some point in their lives. That doesn't necessarily have to be in a previous sales role — it can even stem from an experience in a service role.”

7. Treating a Sales Role Like a Stepping Stone to Another Field

Kelsey Corcoran Galarza, Co-Founder and Principal Consultant at Orange Marketing, says she looks out for potential hires who aren't “all in” on pursuing a sales role.

She says, “I'd be wary of someone who is really looking for a 'different' job and is using a sales role as a stepping stone to another field. They often don't plan to work their butts off as a sales rep, and your investment in training can be wasted.”

8. Not Being Able to Shift Gears in a High-Pressure Conversation

Trygve Olsen, Business Development Director at BizzyWeb, sees value in a rep‘s ability to have dynamic conversations — that’s why he thinks candidates who can't shift gears mid-discussion when speaking to interviewers might not be the best pick.

He says, “I always ask a sales candidate to tell me a joke. If they can't be in a high-pressure situation like an interview and then completely turn on a dime and go in a different direction in a meeting they aren't a good fit.”

So there you have it — eight crucial red flags you need to be mindful of when interviewing for a sales role. Obviously, this list isn't exhaustive, and there are a number of other ways you can rub an interviewer the wrong way.

Still, be sure to stay on top of the “no-no” actions and tendencies covered here — and put yourself in as solid a position as possible to nail your next sales interview.

Apply for a job, keep track of important information, and prepare for an  interview with the help of this free job seekers kit.

Related Articles

22 resignation letter, resume, and cover letter templates.

    Powerful and easy-to-use sales software that drives productivity, enables customer connection, and supports growing sales orgs