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Resource Center / Justworks Updates

Justworks' Robert Lopez On Hiring Sales Candidates

Hiring is tough. Like really tough. But like any other skill, you can get better at it. This is what I learned.

Robert Lopez, VP of sales and business development at Justworks
Robert Lopez
Mar 26, 20154 minutes
Negotiate for more than just salary

Hiring. It’s one of the most difficult, yet rewarding duties as a manager. I have had the good will to have hired over fifty people between my current role as head of sales and business development at Justworks and previously at Groupon over the last few years. With that kind of volume, there are a number of important lessons I have learned and questions to ask to determine if a candidate can be the right one for you and your organization. I like to divide this into attributes I look for and questions to determine whether the candidate fits the role.

Must-Have Attributes in a Sales Candidate

Raw Intelligence

This isn’t only demonstrated by high GPAs or great test scores, although those are all great signs. Does the candidate understand your business?  When you ask detailed questions about your business, is it clear that the interviewee has done his or her diligence? Are insightful questions asked about the future of the business?  I also like to ask a brain teaser or two that tests analytical ability.  No need to have a PhD in Math, but having a solid analytical foundation is helpful for almost all roles.

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Work Ethic

While this might be an obvious one and a no-brainer, it is extremely hard to determine this in an interview. Asking, “are you a hard worker” will surely get the answer you want to hear, yet you are better off wasting your time watching paint dry than asking that question.  It’s better to ask about projects worked on that the candidate is extremely proud of and what it took to get it across the finish line. In those descriptions, it is easy if passion comes out while the candidate is describing the project.

A Proactive Approach

This is probably my favorite -- Especially in high-growth environments.  If someone always needs to be told what to do, I would prefer that they not work on my team.  Of course, structure and goals are imperative, but once given, the person needs to run with it. Ideally this would include proposing new systems that make current processes more efficient or bringing an additional client on board that was not expected.

My Go-To Sales Interview Questions

What are you most proud of professionally and why?

This question gives you insight into what the candidate is passionate about, but also, you can align their answer to the requirements with the role being interviewed for.  For example, if you’re interviewing someone with a financial background for a sales role and she tells you about an excel model that was built, she is probably not the one. However, if she talks about a presentation she did and how she convinced her broader team to buy-in to the idea, then you have a solid candidate.

Give me an example of a time when you failed, what you learned, and how that shapes your thinking.

We all make mistakes and it’s important to acknowledge them and try to learn from them. This question also shows how self-aware the candidate is.  Self-awareness is huge in my opinion because people who are self-aware and more open to feedback have a lot more potential to grow.

What gets you excited to come to work and what are you passionate about?

I love this question because it can really bring out the physical cues in candidates. Body language is extremely important and the combination of the answer and the way the question is answered is a great combination to tell if you are being bs’d or the candidate truly wants to come work in your organization. 

It’s also important to note that mistakes will be made – as much as you try to weed out the bad ones, it’s inevitable that you hire somebody that won’t work out.  At some point, I’ll write a post in more detail about letting the wrong fits go, but for now, I’ll leave you with this advice: Try to make sure that you identify this as quickly as possible.  Ask any good manager – it’s extremely difficult to change people so it’s better to make the tough decision sooner rather than later.  Good luck.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.