resume review questions to ask

Sales Resume Reviews: Ask the Right Questions

How to use your sales candidate’s resume to create the interview questions that lead to sales hiring success.

How many resumes did you get the last time you posted a sales job?

It’s not uncommon for hiring and sales managers to look at resumes for hours on end. Maybe you even search Reddit for “top sales resume examples” to help you find what you think you’re looking for…

But if you want to find top-tier sales talent, there is a better way. 

Discover how to leverage the resumes you receive so you can ask the right questions to determine if your candidates can sell for your unique brand, and reveal the candidates’ fit with your organization. 

The purpose of this article is to provide you with the tools you need to effectively ask the right questions. It’s designed to guide you through the process of creating the most productive set of questions based on the information you see on the resume.

How most companies handle sales resume reviews…

Many companies use resumes as a way to filter people out of their hiring process. This may be helpful for other roles within your organization, but when it comes to sales recruiting, you need to consider all resumes, and not discount the ones that may appear less than stellar at first glance…

Most companies think resumes should be spotless and look amazing. Great formatting. No spelling or grammatical errors! 

But oftentimes, salespeople’s best qualities don’t come through in a written form. The skills that make them great at selling also mean their written communication skills may not be their strongest skill set. 

By equating their ability to present themselves in written form with their ability to effectively sell, you run the risk of ignoring candidates who have the skills, desire, and ability to sell, but don’t know how to create a resume.

The resumes you receive in response to your carefully curated sales job ad have one purpose: They should be used to create questions for the interview process. 

That’s it! That’s the only thing a resume should be used for in your sales recruitment process.

Along with the assessment tool, a resume gives you the information you need to ask the right questions about the applicant to determine their ability to sell for your unique organization. From there, you have to determine how much of their resume is true, and if they can do the job you are hiring for.

Create follow-up questions based on the resume.

“I made the President’s Club five years in a row.” 

That looks impressive on a resume…but what were the requirements? If all they had to do was meet 75% of their quota to achieve that “award,” is that really so impressive?

“I was the Top performing salesperson for 2 years.”

Congratulations! How many people were on your team? Oh, there were only two of you, and the other one was the owner’s nephew with built-in job security? Well, you may be good at selling, but this isn’t the thing that assures me of your abilities.

You can see how we use the specific things listed on the resume to dig deeper. Find the follow-up questions that give insight into the (probably) overinflated claims your applicants are making about themselves.

Ask open-ended questions and don’t stop at just one! 

By asking multiple, open-ended follow-up questions, you’re getting much more than “yes” or “no” responses. 

If a candidate doesn’t answer one of your questions, don’t assume their answer is “no” just because you didn’t get a direct answer. Instead, use the information you’ve collected to come up with a second, better question to ask the candidate.

Determine the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Get clarity on the things that don’t make sense to you about the resume. This is where sales candidates are often trying to hide their weaknesses, but they may also be camouflaging their talents as well.

For example, if they’ve recently been in a sales leadership position, why are they asking for a salesperson position? Were they let go for issues that make it unlikely they could get a good recommendation and they were hoping you wouldn’t notice? 

Again, use multiple questions to gain insight into why the candidate is looking for a position with your organization. Watch out for evasive or circular responses to your questions that indicate the person may be trying to hide something.

Are there things on the resume that look “wrong” and make you question why they are applying to your job ad?

Is the candidate’s experience level a mismatch with the role? If they appear to be overqualified – don’t automatically disqualify them, but do follow up on their reasons for their interest in the position.

Also, it’s ok to ask direct questions about their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, we highly recommend it! Use the resume as a starting point to create targeted, open-ended questions that reveal what your candidate brings to the table.

Ask questions that will uncover the best possible fit for the organization.

Use the resume to create interview questions that dig deeper into skills, personality traits, values, motivations, experiences, and personal goals. 

Again, open-ended questions give your candidate a chance to showcase their thought process and sales techniques. It also gives you the chance to see how they solve problems, overcome objections, and communicate under pressure….all things you want to know before you bring someone onto your sales team.

Ask yourself if their style of communication is a good fit for the type of selling environment they’re likely to find themselves in…both with your customers and as a member of your sales team.

What makes a good sales resume?

It depends entirely on what your unique organization is looking for and needs!

An effective sales resume should list the relevant information about your candidate’s background and qualifications. Again, as we review and prioritize the resumes, you’re only looking to formulate questions that will move your candidates through to the next stage of the hiring process.

Many sales hiring managers know a good sales resume is one that contains a mix of both hard skills and soft skills…

  • Hard skills include specific experience with specific tasks that would make someone useful for a certain role. 
  • Soft skills are the interpersonal and communication skills that make someone a good fit for a particular job. They include things like confidence, honesty, humility, assertiveness, adaptability, leadership, and the ability to listen and understand what others are saying.

What is their relevant sales experience? 

Sales experience is the ability to successfully close a deal. Within the confines of the sales selection process, you have the unique opportunity to use the resume and  interview process itself to help verify your candidates’ abilities to sell.

You mustn’t discount people who lack the exact skillset you think you need. Identify your non-negotiable skills (especially if you’re hiring for a sales leadership position), but if someone’s resume sparks your interest, and they may not have the relevant sales experience you’re looking for, it’s ok to get on a quick 15-minute phone call and ask them about it!

Questions such as these will help you determine whether your candidate’s previous experiences are relevant to the position you are hiring for…

  • How many sales did you close? 
  • What was your close rate?
  • How many deals did you close with no prior experience? 
  • How many deals did you close without a pre-qualified buyer? 

In conclusion…

A resume is usually a short document meant to convey a summary of the job applicant’s qualifications. It can be as simple as a page or two of bullet points or as detailed as a multi-page PDF. Regardless of how thorough a resume is, you need to ask the right questions to understand a candidate’s strengths, weaknesses, and level of expertise. 

Use the resume to get to the truth faster in the interview process. The resume is the best and quickest way to create questions that help you determine who your ideal candidate is. But you must know how to ask the next right questions…
If your business needs support creating a resume review process that gets results as part of a repeatable, sales hiring process that works, check out our live, one-day Sales Selection Training Program or our self-paced option, Successful Sales Hiring: The Course. They’re the key to finding the type of top-tier sales talent you need to sell for your unique business, the first time.

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