The BBC provides a look into a “stress interview” which is an interview approach that places an inordinate amount of stress on the candidate.  The goal is to learn how the candidate handles the pressure in an unexpected environment.  This approach should sound like a sales call.  It does to us and that is why we use some of these techniques in our structured interview process.

From the BBC article(emphasis mine):

“There are certainly different kinds of stress associated with many positions – achieving results, meeting deadlines, dealing with difficult clients, for example,” says Neal Hartman, senior lecturer in managerial communication at MIT. “The stress interview can create conditions to see how an applicant would handle those challenges.”

There is clearly a fine line in this approach and the article provides a great example of a hiring manager who did cross that line.  That is a mistake in that you have to remember that you are representing your company and its reputation.  However, sales is a stressful position no matter what industry you are in, what level you have achieved, what revenue number you have to hit, etc.  The ability to handle this stress can be determined through a structured interview and aptitudes assessment.

Please excuse me if this comes off as insensitive, but you must push some stress towards sales candidates to see, first-hand, how they handle it.  Interviews are stressful to begin with so a small amount of manufactured stress will be amplified in that setting.  But you need to know how that salesperson will perform in a stressful sales call.

Stress can be added in simple ways:

  • multiple people involved in the interview
  • quick interruptions during the candidate’s responses
  • drill down on their responses
  • change topics quickly like you are bored
  • question their responses, ask them to provide proof

You get the idea.  None of these approaches are overwhelmingly stressful, but the manner in which you use them will be.  The key is to match your sale’s typical pressure.  If your typical sale is transactional, quick and somewhat impersonal, your approach in the interview should match that level.  Consider yourself as the prospect and the sales candidate as your company’s salesperson.  Conversely, if your typical sale involves a longer sales cycle and more of a relationship approach, your pressure in the interview should be dialed do that lesser level.

The sum of this approach is that there is nothing wrong with placing an appropriate amount of stress on the sales candidate during the initial face-to-face interview.  You will see the salesperson’s sales skills in action in a scenario that will match the pressure they will encounter selling for your company.  Do not miss the opportunity to incorporate this approach to your sales hiring process.

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