sales hiring via phone interview

Sales Recruiting 101: The Phone Interview

How to Ask the Right Questions and Make the Best Call

When hiring for a sales position, the phone interview is a crucial step to weed out candidates who aren’t a good fit for your organization.

You need to ask them sales interview questions…

But how do you ask the right questions during the sales interview? 

How do you ensure you’re making the most out of the phone interview so you can decide who moves on to the next stage of the sales hiring process?

This post covers all aspects of an effective phone interview. You’ll discover the dos and don’ts of setting up phone interviews, along with the questions you need to ask to assess the candidate’s communication skills, sales style, and leadership ability.

How to Approach the Phone Interview

A phone interview has a lot in common with face-to-face interviews, except takes less time than an in-person interview and has significantly reduced costs.

he phone interview has an important place in our sales hiring process, and is one of the first steps in eliminating candidates from your sales hiring funnel. Do not skip this crucial step.

Preparing for the Phone Interview 

Before you go into a phone interview with your sales candidate, there are a few things you should do to prepare. Read their resume again, and go over their sales assessment hiring data. 

that will give you clarity on what you need to know about them and their sales skills.

You should not spend  their information. Remember, the reason why we do the phone interview first is that it takes less of your time. This is part of the process of eliminating undesirable candidates, and you do not need to invest heavily in them at this point.

Be sure you have your standard sales interview questions prepared; the list of questions you ask all candidates (see below). 

One final note, don’t be afraid to be with your candidates: a huge part of what you’re doing on this phone call is establishing their ability to handle a sales call. Dealing effectively with indifference is a key component of their potential job. Make sure they can handle it.

What to ask on a phone screen interview

It isn’t so much what you ask but how you ask it! We recommend using open-ended sales interview questions, and following up on them. 

Be sure to pay attention to the answers they give and follow up with more open-ended questions. 

Ask about their experience and how they’ve dealt with situations that might be similar to those they’ll have to face. Follow up on what you learned from the interviewee’s responses. 

Above all, seek clarification on questions that may have come up on their resume or sales assessment…find out why they are applying for the position if it seems like a step down from the positions they previously held.

What to look for during the phone interview

Keep in mind this interview is just the first of three interviews you will be conducting with  successful candidate. Make it brief and let them do the work of convincing you they deserve the chance to come work with your company.

Again, you’re treating this phone interview like a sales call, and you’re looking for the following things…

  • Sales calls require the right amount of preparation. An unprepared candidate will get nervous and likely make mistakes. In the end, it can cause the interview to fail…and that’s ok! If they aren’t prepared for the interview chances are they won’t properly prepare for the sales calls they go on if you hire them.
  • See how the candidate goes about building rapport with you. What do they do to endear themselves to you? How do they seek to build a relationship with you? Again, what you see in the interview is how you can expect them to act on sales calls if you hire them.
  • This initial phone interview is very quick and to the point. The goal is to figure out what internal weaknesses the candidate may have. You’re validating the information the sales assessment tool and their resume told you. 
  • Check for their need for approval. If the assessment tool shows they have an elevated need for approval, look for signs of that during the interview and see if they can work around it. Some candidates can, and some can’t.
  • Watch how they close the interview. Do they set up next steps with you? Are they asking clarifying questions or thanking you for your time?

What to look for after the phone interview

In a word, follow-up.

How well do the individual sales candidates follow up with you? 

Do they send a thank you card or email or otherwise acknowledge the time you spent with them? 

Remember, the way they treat you is the same way they’ll treat your – at this point, they have to make a great impression.


Interviewing is an opportunity for you to find out whether or not a potential employee would be a good fit for your company. Phone interviews are often preferred by employers because they are less costly and easier for everyone involved.

In our sales hiring process, the phone interview holds a special place of importance. When used at the right time, it is a highly valuable tool in your arsenal for finding the right sales candidate the first time. 

Remember these 5 key points:

1. Use specific, open-ended sales interview questions.

2. Ask about the candidate, don’t tell them about the position.

3. Keep it short, no more than 10-15 minutes.

4. Always do a phone interview before you schedule an in-person interview.

5. Watch for how they build rapport with you and work to close the interview.


A phone interview is an important tool for screening out candidates who aren’t a good fit for the role or don’t meet the expectations of the position. 

When used strategically, the information you gain allows you to make the best hiring decisions. 

Phone interviews are just one part of our multi-step, -based sales hiring process that gets results. 

If you’d like to discover how easy it can be to hire top-tier sales talent, click here for details on our self-paced sales hiring training course. 

It’s a predictable, straightforward, repeatable process that helps you hire top-tier sales talent with ease while helping to increase your sales revenue!

900 400 Improve Growth
Share this article
Privacy Preferences

When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in the form of cookies. Here you can change your Privacy preferences. It is worth noting that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we are able to offer.

We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking “Accept”, you consent to the use of ALL the cookies.