How to Consistently Hire High-Calibre Sales People

Posted on Friday, May 20, 2022 by Graham Quinn

Effective sales hiring makes all the difference towards creating a high-achieving team. The more skilled your employees, the better the business outcomes.

If your interview and selection processes are poor this can put high-quality candidates off. According to Glassdoor, 72% of candidates share their interview experience online and 86% of job seekers research company reviews to decide on where to apply for a job.


The better quality the candidate, the more discerning they are in the companies they apply to. If candidates leave a poor review of your recruitment process, this can reduce your ability to hire quality candidates in the future.

According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, the average annual turnover for sales teams is around 27%. Being able to consistently recruit high-performing sales people is essential to the long-term effectiveness of your team. Investing time to improving your recruitment process is therefore well worth the effort.


Here are our Five Key Methods to Help you Attract and Screen the Best Sales Talent.


  1. Create an Ideal Candidate Persona


    Create a profile to use when hiring. This will help you to identify an ideal set of skills and experience for sales people. Start by listing the traits and qualities of your top performing sales people. This will guide you to create an effective yet realistic persona.  


    If you are a start-up and creating a whole new sales team, here are some key sales traits HubSpot  identified in their research:  


  • Coachable: Can absorb and apply feedback

  • Curious: Interested in learning more about prospects; willing to ask probing questions
  • Intelligent: Able to master a subject
  • Hard-working: Put in the time and energy
  • Previously successful: Has a track record of success, whether in sales or sports, school, another job, etc.

    1. Invest Time in Creating a Quality Job Description


      Dragging out the same job ad you’ve used for years or using job descriptions copied from the internet won’t help you attract high quality candidates.


      Create a bespoke job advert based on the skills and experience from your ideal candidate profile. However, don’t be too rigid in your ‘must haves’ as this can discourage applications.


      Organising the requirements by their importance is a good way to avoid this. HubSpot suggest labelling the skills in the job description as required, preferred, and bonus.


      ‘This will ensure people who meet 60% or more of your requirements will apply — which is exactly the percentage you’re shooting for.’


      Other errors which can make job adverts unappealing are unclear job descriptions or not featuring essential information.  Avoid using jargon or over-used terms such as ‘highly motivated’ which have become meaningless to potential applicants. 


      When considering which information is critical in adverts, research by Hays suggests ‘above all candidates are looking for a detailed role description. The vast majority (80%) want to know exactly what the job is before they consider applying.’


      Make expectations clear but brief and ensure they are aligned with the current requirements for the role.


    2. Develop a Pre-Interview Screening Process


Pre-interview screening saves time and helps avoid personal biases affecting our ability to choose the right candidate. According to HubSpot, these biases mean ‘only one in five interviews actually help employers identify candidates that will be successful.’


Written tasks therefore provide another layer of information rather than relying solely on the interview. Written screens puts the time cost on the candidate, weeds out candidates not willing to make the effort and can give a better sense of a candidates’ abilities. Open ended questions such as ‘tell me about a time when…’ are a good way of seeing how they have dealt with tricky situations.


An alternative to a written screen is to set up a mock presentation or demo. This kind of role play can give you a better feel for their selling skills. It also gives a better idea of  how the candidate will perform with your prospects than interview alone.


4. Sharpen your Interview Techniques


Along with personal preferences, we can also be affected by primacy and recency bias at interview. Primacy is remembering the first user more than others, and recency bias is favouring the last candidate.


To help combat these biases, space out the scheduling of interviews. Also, ask colleagues to join you and add their opinions, and each take detailed notes.


Using the same set of carefully planned questions for all candidates ensures equal treatment of all those who apply. Keep the focused on the job requirements and each candidate’s previous experience. This helps you compare candidates against each other more effectively.


5.Carefully Plan your Questions


Ask open questions that encourage the candidates to explain their ideas in detail. This will give you more to go on and help you evaluate which candidates are high performing.


Plan interview questions to cover the salesperson's skills, knowledge, and experience. Add some questions to help you discover if their personality would be a good fit for company culture and the role.


Give candidates plenty of opportunity to display their technical skills. Sales people who can explain the products they’ve sold effectively and in detail will help you identify those who are willing to invest time learning all about the product.


Add some questions to assess how candidates might react to situations they may encounter in the role. This will also reveal much about their attitudes and motivations.




Investing in improving your recruitment process does bring great rewards. However, it does take a little time and testing to perfect.

A reputable recruiter specialising in sales can help you achieve these results more quickly. Choose an agency which specialises in your industry to ensure they have the necessary knowledge.

If you decide that ‘time is money’ and choose to take the agency option, you can use these tips to help you evaluate the effectiveness of their selection process.


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