selecting the right top sales candidates

Sales Candidate Selection Criteria – Get it Right or Fail

Posted in: Hiring Salespeople

Want to know how to hire the best sales candidate? Establish true selection criteria for sales candidates to find the best salespeople for you. You want to hire high-performing sales candidates for your team. Right? Well, to find these top performers, don’t start the process by writing “we have a job opening” ads. Start by determining what it really takes to be a successful salesperson in your market and for your company. Selecting an employee that’s best for the position on your sales team can make all the difference.

Interview the job to capture key sales position criteria. To figure out what it takes to succeed in your sales position, interview for the job. What would the job tell you it sees in winning job occupants? It probably would not say things such as “applicants need minimum 5-years industry experience, college degree or familiarity XYZ products.”

We’ve seen many companies misrepresent their sales positions. If you’re concerned about how to hire the best salespeople, you want to avoid this. They are not purposively lying. They just have failed to understand the job, truly. Many companies rely on HR to write a standard job description. If you want a real job description, we suggest you interview for the job!

How to Hire the Best Sales Candidate for Your Company


1. Selecting a sales candidate that’s best for the job is imperative for a successful company.

Ask the job about what it requires for success in areas such as:

  • Commitment
  • Sales grit
  • Work ethic
  • Mindset
  • Selling skills
  • Willingness to learn
  • And, more

Ask the job what makes it hard to succeed in the job and how it rewards success. Think about what the job would tell you about the traits/skills necessary for phenomenal success.

The job might tell you that successful applicants need to be persistent and resilient, able to take the initiative, and not afraid of very long hours. Unsure what the job would say? Ask current or former high-performers who held the job. What problems did they face? How did they overcome the obstacles?

selecting an employee how to hire the best sales candidate
How to hire the best sales candidate when selecting an employee

2. Don’t use a standard laundry list job description.

While many sales job descriptions start with listing criteria such as length of industry experience, or level of education, these requirements are poor predictors of success in sales. Several companies, such as Facebook, Google, and other top tech firms, recognize the poor connection between applicant experience and success. These companies know how to hire the best salespeople. So let’s take a look.

Some people report that Facebook posts this in its HR department:

Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.”

Facebook, Google, and similar companies look for folks with the right attitude and aptitude. Managers at these companies recognize the best hires are often folks who are not the best fit for a job opening based on education, experience, or other credentials. These companies use the adage of “hire for attitude and train for skills.”

When selecting an employee, consider what is your company’s sales DNA? Don’t try to copy the cultural descriptions of industry leaders in describing your sales DNA. Be authentic. What makes your company distinctive? How does your company reward success?

3. You might not want to go as far as the ad below we saw several years ago.

“Make more money than you ever dreamed of working for a jerk. If you are hungry, hardworking, and can put up with me, I’ll show you the way. The weak need not apply. Call 555-555-5555 and ask for Bob.”

No doubt, applicants understand what they are getting in working for Bob. You’ll need to take a different approach for a host of reasons, but you do want to be authentic.

You must consider the specific job and your company’s unique culture. For the job, do you need?

  • A hunter to blaze trails into new territory or to introduce a new product
  • A nurturer to take solid inbound leads and guide them to the close or
  • A farmer to maintain and grow relationships with existing customers

3. What is your company’s culture, and how does the sales team live in that culture?

Which types of salespeople thrive in your culture? Your culture will probably include aspects of the following:


When selecting an employee in a competitive culture, the company’s heartbeat is a personal achievement. These companies (think Microsoft or Oracle) celebrate folks with a “killer instinct.” The culture encourages competition and rewards individual achievement rather than team accomplishments. Sales is indeed king in this environment. When considering how to hire the best salespeople, it’s important to remember this information.


An organization with a controlling culture will focus on order and alignment around goals and objectives. These companies (think AT&T or IBM) will emphasize a scripted process. In these companies, all power resides in the executive suite. The sales teams at these companies will face a large bureaucracy in the selling process. Sales teams need persistence, precision, top-notch diplomacy skills, and patience to thrive. The power centers in these companies reside in finance and production.


For companies with a creative corporate culture, the core value is self-expression. These companies like to “think outside the box.” These organizations encourage and reward problem-solving. Visionaries often lead these types of cultures (think Apple or Google). Creative corporate cultures embrace change. Sales teams must be very adaptive.

How to hire the best salespeople for a collaborative environment: Companies with a collaborative culture value teamwork (think Quicken Loans or, with its Ohana Culture). Top leadership will encourage shared decision-making. Top management may seem to take a long time to make decisions. These companies promote long-lasting customer relationships. Sales is often focused on customer retention and new business development.

4. Combine ideal traits and corporate culture to define your selection criteria

The traits of your ideal sales candidate can include the following:

  • Attitudes necessary for applicants to thrive in your specific sales job and culture
  • Skills necessary to thrive in your sales environment
  • Behaviors need to sell to your type of customer or client
  • Personality traits such as sales grit, persistence, competitiveness, resilience, and precision

Once you clearly define the salesperson you need and understand your sales culture, you’re on the path to building a winning sales team.

Need Help with Selecting the Right Sales Candidate?

Contact us, and we can discuss how to define your sales culture and the job’s sales DNA.


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