Learn How to Screen Candidates

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe the importance of properly sequencing your candidate activities.
  • Explain what to look for in a phone screen.
  • Identify themes across a candidate's experiences.
  • Explain why the presentation is so important to the interview process.


Now that you’ve identified the skills that your future salespeople need, you have to get through the interview process—that’s a lot of sussing out candidates. How can you be sure you’re optimizing your time with every candidate who makes it to the interview process?

You can make the most of your time by creating a candidate qualification and review process to use with every single candidate. By incorporating the right pieces, you ensure you’re learning key information about each candidate’s skills, history, and potential. Using the same process for everyone helps you eliminate bias and ensure you can evaluate everyone on the same scale. Keep reading to learn new interview tactics from the experts at Salesforce.

Optimize Your Interviews Like an Expert

In the Quotable article How to Successfully Hire 1,000 Account Executives, sales executive Mike Wolff shares his approach to hiring. Mike has hired over 1,000 salespeople, many of whom went on to become Salesforce’s sales leadership team. Hiring that many people is daunting, but as Mike says, it can be done by outlining a process, and more importantly, following every step with each job candidate.

Here are some ideas to use in creating your own hiring process:

Initial Screen

There's just no way you can bring in every applicant for an interview, which is exactly why you start with a phone screen. This is the perfect opportunity to get the candidate excited about the job and make sure they qualify enough to make it to the next stage of the interview process.

No matter how old-fashioned a phone call might seem, it’s crucial to the interview process in sales; it's extremely difficult for a salesperson to conduct business if they can’t communicate well regardless of the medium. Plus, nothing comes closer to a cold call than a phone screen. This is where you really get the feel of the candidate’s communication style—and their approach to pitching someone on the phone.

“You just want insight into the candidate’s motivations, key successes, lessons learned, how he or she deals with adversity, and their motivation for pursuing the opportunity. You should also aim to educate the candidate on your company, goals, and personal experiences with both.”

—Mike Wolff, SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce


Now that you’ve determined the candidate is worth speaking with, it’s time for the traditional interview, which is usually done in person. There are many ways to approach running an interview, and Mike has found a chronological approach works best. Walking through the candidate’s relevant work experience helps you not only verify the accuracy of the resume, it helps you identify themes—where they’ve historically succeeded, whether their career is on a clear path or has drifted, and how long they typically stay with a company.

“After you complete the interview, you should be able to clearly see a number of themes across the candidate’s experiences.”

—Mike Wolff, SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce


Understanding the themes in a candidate’s work experience gives you a much better picture of who they are, but it still doesn’t tell you if they can sell. This is where the sales presentation is extremely valuable: Ask the candidate to run a 30-minute presentation where he or she “sells” themselves. Mike recommends having candidates present on five key areas: candidate background; customer/opportunity story; operational excellence; 90-day plan; and the close.

“If a candidate can’t sell him or herself, how can you expect them to sell your product or service?”

—Mike Wolff, SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce

Reference Check

It’s usually safe to assume that when someone gives you a reference to contact, that person will say positive things. There are ways to make this step more valuable. Observing how the references handle the process: Do they respond quickly? Do they have valuable feedback about how your candidate can improve? You can even use this time to ask for another, more impartial reference at the company.

“When you do call a reference, leverage the information gained from the chronological interview and ask the reference to shed light on the candidate’s learning style, areas of strength, and areas of development. Lastly, a fair question is whether the reference would want to work with or hire the account executive again.”

—Mike Wolff, SVP, Commercial Sales, Salesforce

What’s Next

We’ve figured out a structure for the hiring process. But sitting across from each candidate and interviewing can feel overwhelming. Without the right questions to ask, you may not learn what you want to know about each candidate. Up next, we talk about specific questions you can ask to get a well-rounded picture of each candidate.


Keep learning for
Sign up for an account to continue.
What’s in it for you?
  • Get personalized recommendations for your career goals
  • Practice your skills with hands-on challenges and quizzes
  • Track and share your progress with employers
  • Connect to mentorship and career opportunities