By Kathleen Mauriot, Division Manager at Treeline, Inc.
So you walk into your interview calm, cool and collected. You confidently think “I’ve got it. I’m so prepared that nothing will stump me.” The first few questions are text book. Really? Could they get even a little creative? And then, smack! Yeah that’s right. The booby trap questions! All of a sudden you start sweating. You respond with “I’m sorry can you rephrase the question?” That didn’t work so you start fake coughing and ask for a glass of water to give yourself a little more time. Wait a minute. What just happened?? Do I answer it this way or that way? Do I tell them yes or no? OMG!!! SOS!!!!!
Sales is about thinking on your feet and expecting the unexpected. The same holds true for interviewing. It appears that you were missing crucial information about the company and the job that you were applying for and was able to navigate skillfully through those tricky, booby trapquestions.
Here is a list of the Top 10 Sales Booby Trap Interview Questions and the best way to handle them.
What do you dislike about your current sales position? Jot down on a piece of paper all of your daily tasks as a sales person. Now rank them from the things that make you most successful as a rep to the things that do not influence your success as much. Now what is on the bottom of that list? There’s your answer. To say you dislike prospecting will most likely be the kiss of death in a sales interview. But perhaps admitting that filling out expense reports is your least favorite task may not be viewed as such a negative.
What are you looking for in your next opportunity? If you do not know many details about the job you are applying for, this question can be fatal. If the role is 100% inside sales and you express interest in travel, the hiring manager may conclude that you will not be completely satisfied in the role and risk you leaving within a short amount of time. Try to get a job description off the website or look up reps on LinkedIn who work for that company and see what information you can gather in their profiles about the job. Perhaps you will recognize a contact that you can reach out to for information.
Why did you leave ABC Company? There are many different reasons why people leave their jobs. And as tempting as it may be to gossip about the owner’s affair with the secretary and to air the company’s dirty laundry in public, don’t do it. Do not come across as someone who gets caught up in office drama. It is a detriment to success. Focus on the explaining the reasons why you are moving toward a better opportunity rather than running away from one. Show logical career moves on your resume and be prepared to convince them that you are not looking for just another job but how this opportunity moves you closer to your career goals.
How do you like to be managed? Managers have very different personalities and styles. Some are micromanagers and others macro managers. Sales reps, as well, have different personalities and needs from their manager. Be honest when answering this question. You need to like who you’re being managed by and you need to feel confident that they will give you everything in their power to help you reach success. If you clash, it can make for an unpleasant working relationship and jeopardize your ability to achieve.
I only have time for one question. What would you like to ask? This one is very simple. They are looking for the close. “Do you have any questions or concerns about my ability to do this job?” Candidates get confused because they feel that they should be asking questions about the job, company or the interviewer’s background. Although those questions are important, when you are forced to just ask one, a sales manager will look for your demonstrated ability to close them.
I am looking to fill a marketing role that your background aligns well with. Would you be interested in hearing more about it? This question should definitely raise a red flag. Typically this means that the hiring manager has concerns about your interest, or your ability to perform well in the sales position you applied for. If you fall for this question by showing even the slightest interest in the marketing opportunity, there’s a great chance they will drop your candidacy. Most likely, the marketing role he teased you with does not exist. So stand firm, let them know your sincere interest in sales and give them specific reasons to back up why you would be a good fit for the role.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Think before you answer this question. Most people’s knee jerk reaction is to answer “management,” but be careful. Depending where you are in your career and the size of the company and its growth goals, management may not be an option at certain companies. This could backfire and lead the hiring manager to believe you may not stick around. If you are a recent college grad looking for a B2B sales position to use as a stepping stone to land a pharmaceutical sales position in a year, you do not want to openly share that. Think about it. Why would a manager want to hire someone who is already looking to move on before they even start? The best way to answer this question is to explain that your goal is to master the position, exceed your goals and consider growth opportunities within their company when you feel it’s the right time.
Tell me about a time when you and your colleague did not agree. What happened? This is a typical example of a behavioral interview question. It is known as the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Answering these questions can be tough because they are looking for details. They will know you are bluffing if you cannot speak to specifics. The situation you choose should illustrate your ability to work challenges out effectively and logically amongst your peers. Additionally, you want to share a situation with a positive result.
Do you like hunting or farming? The best way to answer this question, if you do not know specifically how much of each the job requires, is explaining that having the skill set of doing both effectively ensures all around success in the sales process. Developing new business allows you to keep your pipeline strong, while maintaining accounts allows you to strengthen your partnerships, which leads to customer retention and repeat business.
What is your biggest weakness? Everyone has things they can improve on, but chose a weakness that a sales manager can live with. For example, telling a manager that you have problems getting to work on time, or that you are not good at setting goals and reaching them, will not bode well. However, confessing that maybe you are a bit of a perfectionist is easier for a hiring managers to accept.
Do you have any examples when you were asked a booby trap question and had to think on your feet? What was the question? How did you respond?