High-Growth Startups: 4 Questions To Ask Your Sales Candidates Before Hiring Them

There’s a tremendous difference between hiring for a Fortune brand and hiring for a startup. First and foremost, roles are generally less defined in the startup world. With limited resources, each and every role, including members of your sales staff, must be willing to lend a helping hand when needed.

While great for developing a deep sense of community in the workplace, your unique environment makes bringing in new talent a bit more of a difficult task. So, with this in mind, next time you sit down for an interview with a new salesperson, keep the following four questions at the ready. Not only will they help you land the right sales talent for your team, but they’ll ensure that you find the right fit for your ever-expanding startup.

1) In Detail, How Would You Describe Your Sales Process?

Every salesperson has a way of doing things. From tools and approach to planning, prospecting and even closing tactics, it’s key that you do some digging to find out how your candidate plans to go about finding you new business.

Yes, procedural adaptations can be made, but this question allows you to determine whether or not a prospect’s techniques align nicely with the image your startup hopes to project as its growth continues. Additionally, it will help you understand if they’re a pure hunter, farmer or combination of both which can make or break your business.

2) How Have You Proven Success Within a Startup Environment?

I can’t stress enough how important past startup success can be when it comes time to hiring a new sales performer. Obviously, it’s important that a candidate is talented, but more than anything, what you’re looking for is a prospect who’spassionate about startups and understands how they work.

Larger companies can afford to have employees who can run on “autopilot”. Startups, however, don’t have that luxury. With few people around to pick up the slack where others are failing, a passion for entrepreneurial growth is of the utmost importance. The best indicator? Past startup success.

Note: If a sales candidate hasn’t worked for a startup before, alter your question, asking something along the lines of, “What interests you most about working for a startup?” From there, use your best judgement to see if they understand what he or she is getting into at your startup.

3) How do You Plan to Provide Our Prospects With an Outstanding Experience?

As part of a startup, there’s no hiding behind titles or departments — everybody knows each other and works together on a routine basis, oftentimes in the same room. As such, your sales staff won’t be hiding from other team members, and they certainly won’t be exempt from working hard to deliver superior products/services to both current customers and potential clients.

Because of this, a salesperson must feel comfortable providing others with an outstanding experience on a regular basis. If he or she hasn’t done this before or is coming onboard to simply make a sale with a lack of concern for the customers experience, not bought into the mission of your startup, watching the clock for the next break or coasting along without much gumption, the role won’t be a good fit. The success of a startup requires that “fire in the belly” can-do approach along with an emotional IQ to truly exude warmth and a personal touch to delight your customers. Your sales staff must reflect this mentality.

4) Given your understanding of the job, how would you approach your first 90 days?

This question is always a bit of a pressure cooker because, more often than not, an applicant’s “understanding” of the sales position isn’t all that comprehensive. Still, this question is huge in that it hones in on one of a startup’s biggest, most valuable assets — initiative.

Think about it — initiative is what first took your idea from a mere concept to a legitimate business. Seeing as how your sales staff will be the lifeblood of your startup’s growth, it’s imperative that an incoming sales person have the same mentality. Though by no means a perfect indicator of innate initiative, this question helps you determine if a candidate is capable of providing your company with amazing value.


As a startup, the business problems you face are unlike any other. Because of this, to ensure that your startup continues on its high-growth trajectory, you need sales performers who are willing to not only bring in a constant stream of top-tier clients, but go out of their way to help others succeed too.

Needless to say, this kind of responsibility requires a special kind of sales talent. No worries — by using the above questions as a screening process of sorts, you increase your likelihood of making the right sales hire the first time around.

Now it’s your turn to wrap things up — what do you think of the interview questions I’ve presented? More than likely, if you’ve worked with your fair share of startups, you’ve got a few of your own. If so, feel free to share some of them in the comments section below. Together, the more interview tips we can compile, the more effective our sales teams will become. As always, thanks so much for reading!

  • Image Credit: Featured Image, Pexels
  • Note: This post was originally published on Linkedin

I help startups hire sales leaders without the cringe • Founder/CEO • 2X Entrepreneur • Personally closed $100MM+ in revenue (and counting) • LinkedIn Top Sales

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