Sales Rep Hiring: 10 Red Flags
Sales Management : 9 min read

Sales Rep Hiring: 10 Red Flags

As a sales leader, you need to be hiring smart people you can trust to bring the right customers into your funnel.

But, how do you make sure you’re hiring a sales rep that’s the right fit?

Mess it up, recruit a bad sales rep, and it can cost you money. A lot of money.

poor recruiting can end up costing sales managers even more money

There’s a number of red flags you should look out for during the hiring process. Just because a rep has good qualifications or some impressive sales figures from their last job doesn’t mean you should hand over a contract right away.

If you notice any of these red flags, you should think twice about whether the sales rep is going to be a good fit for your team.

1. They haven’t done their research into your company.

This is kindergarten stuff, but still, so many sales reps come into an interview with no knowledge of a company.

This is a massive red flag. Because they’re not looking to work for your company… they’re just looking for any job they can land.

And don’t fall for a list of details that are available on your homepage, either. If a potential hire doesn’t know anything beyond the absolute basics of your company, chances are they were checking your website while they were waiting to be called into your office.

If they haven’t bothered to spend a bit of time preparing for your interview, what kind of effort do you think they’ll put into landing you quality clients?

2. They’re obsessed with their paycheck.

And it’s one of the first things they ask about in the interview.

Okay, at the end of the day a job is about making enough money to live. But in the sales world, you need to be looking out for sales reps who are just looking to get rich. If they are, there’s a massive chance that they’re all about quantity, not quality, when it comes to bringing clients on board.

This can lead to an increase in customer churn because the client just isn’t the right fit for your company.

And because the sales rep is obsessed with their paycheck and bonus, they’re probably going to toe the line of being persistent and pushy when talking to prospects.

Discuss salary at the start of the interview. If the rep fits into the bracket you’re offering, then move onto the next step. Don’t bring up salary again—and if they keep bringing it up, they’re waving the red flag themselves.

3. They don’t fit into your team.

Look, not every member of your sales team has to go out for drinks together and be in each other’s wedding parties.

But what they need to do is gel together enough to make sure your customer’s end-to-end experience is fulfilled.

That’s why you need to be aware that 89% of new hires fail—purely because they were a bad cultural fit with a company.

Not because their salary wasn’t high enough. Not because their benefits package wasn’t up to scratch. They fail because their vision and personality didn’t fit in with your business.

And that’s okay. But you need to figure out if their core beliefs, attitude and overall behavior match up to your company and sales team. And you need to do it before you invest too much money into them.

A couple of simple culture screening questions can do the trick here.

Ask them questions like “What work environment are you the most productive in?” If they love working by themselves, you shouldn’t expect them to thrive in an open sales office environment.

Or a simple “What motivates you in your working life?” can give you an insight into whether they’re going to be a good fit. A motivated sales rep will come out with unique examples of what pushes them to reach their quota, whereas a less motivated rep will rest their answer on company success, or some other cliche reason.

4. You ask them for questions… And they have none.

Everybody who’s ever been on a job interview knows the very last part is where the interviewer becomes the interviewee.

It’s question time.

So if you’ve had a good interview and your sales rep looks promising… but then they’ve got nothing to ask you at the end of the interview, it’s a major red flag.

Why? Well, as a sales rep, they should be naturally curious. Something should’ve made them curious enough throughout the interview, or their research process, to want to ask you some questions.

If they’re not curious about you and your business, they’re not going to be curious about your prospect’s business, either.

Interview Pro-tip: if they’re just asking generic questions (and not questions they actually want the answer to), this isn’t any better than asking nothing at all. A good sales rep will always be curious and ask interesting questions.

5. They’ve had 309 jobs already.

Okay, not everyone has the same career for 50 years anymore. But having a new job every couple of months isn’t great, either.

If a sales rep has had only short stints at other companies, then you should casually talk to them about it and ask why. But if it’s a recurring theme, then you should be mindful of the reasons behind it.

Because if the sales rep is a top recruit, chances are a company will do anything in their power to keep them on their team.

So, while one or two short-term stints at a company is absolutely normal, if all of your rep’s previous work assignments have been on the short side… it’s a major red flag.

6. They bag their old company.

This is one of the biggest red flags of them all.

If you ask a potential sales hire about their old positions and they start bad-mouthing them, it should be a massive turn off for you.

Firstly, it shows a lack of professional integrity. If they’re slamming their old company, they’re probably going to do it to yours when they leave.

Not to mention what it could do to your brand’s image if they start acting with the same unprofessionalism when they’re repping your company.

But talking smack about an old company isn’t always this easy to notice. Sometimes, reps will talk about how their old job ‘limited’ them, or their boss ‘hated’ them, so they weren’t able to progress.

No. Nope. Not buying it.

These are true signs of a sales rep who’s all about themselves. They’ve covered up their lack of motivation to progress in their job role by blaming something or someone else.

A good sales rep won’t let anything stand in their way of learning and achieving more.

Interview Pro-tip: If a sales rep starts blurting out company secrets from their old workplace, then they’re out. Because it’s likely one day those company secrets being shared will be yours.

7. They don’t like getting feedback.

This is one of the easier red flags to pick up in an interview.

If a sales rep can’t accept constructive feedback in an interview, how do you think they’re going to work when they’re part of a team?

It goes deeper than working as a part of a team, though. Listening to feedback and having the ability to be coached is key for any sales rep.

When your team pivots or you change up your sales tactics, if your sales rep isn’t coachable, they won’t be able to keep up—and they’ll become dead weight.

Here's how to test how receptive your candidate is to coaching:

how to test a sales candidate's coachability

8. Their references suck.

If a potential sales hire hands you a CV that only has one reference listed, but they’ve had six sales jobs, this is a red flag.

Because if they’ve had a few different gigs and only listed one as a reference, it probably means they didn’t do a very good job at the rest of them, or they left on bad terms.

But if they’ve put down 10 different references and none of them relate to the role they’re applying for, that’s not any better. If the sales rep hasn’t bothered to put some proper thought into their reference list, then it shows a lack of care in their preparation.

Or even worse, they didn’t tell their references they were putting them on their list. Nothing screams unprofessional like an employer calling up a reference and hearing “Who’s that?”

9. They’re just… too much.

Reps sometimes toe the line of what demeanor they should use to close a sale.

But if your potential sales rep doesn’t know the difference between being confident and being aggressive, this is a bad sign.

A confident sales rep will be able to talk about your product with ease and weave it into conversations about your client’s pain point.

An aggressive sales rep won’t even know when they’re getting up in someone’s grill. Nobody likes being pressured to buy something from an egotistical rep who’s got something to prove.

From a company point of view, having an aggressive sales rep on your team can have a damaging effect on your workplace culture. They become that person in the office who’s just too much.

Might be one to avoid.

10. They don’t pass the BS test.

If your candidate is talking the talk, find out if they can walk the walk.

Any sales rep worth their salt should be able to answer basic questions about funnels and lead generation.

So get them to take a sales BS test while you’re interviewing them.

Get them to think of an example when they were excelling in a sales role.

Then ask them something like…

  • What were the traits you were looking out for to validate a prospect?
    What were some of the tactics you were using to increase conversions in a sales funnel?
  • How could you have made that sales funnel more efficient?

If you’re happy with their answers, you can move them onto the next round of interviews.

Just because someone's worked in sales doesn’t mean they’re a good fit.

There are thousands of sales reps out there, but only some of them are worth hiring.

Some of them are egotistical. Some of them only care about their paycheck. And some of them just won’t fit into the culture of your company.

This is why you need to be vigilant when hiring a sales rep and if you’re seeing red flags, you need to keep searching for the ideal rep. A bad sales rep can cost you thousands of dollars, but they can also cost you customer relationships, too.

Don’t just hire anybody who’s worked in sales—hire the person who fits in with your company.