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Sales Interview, CV, processes, expectations and how to get better results

From the very first moment you see a job that interests you to the moment you send your CV, your entire world could be turned upside down. But before you enter this job seeking world make sure you turn it to your advantage.

There are two kinds of job seekers, those that actually read the advert, understand what it asks of the candidate, post their CV with a covering letter explaining why they feel the job would be an excellent career move and what the candidate can offer and there are those that completely ignore everything and just post their CV.

From an employers point of view (not to mention those hard working recruiters) the latter just wastes time and energy. Yet still we find candidates applying for jobs at the rate of 10 to the dozen. For an experienced recruiter the volume of CV’s screened daily can be quite horrendous, sifting and sorting and deleting sometimes 100 a day. Even the ones without a covering letter are read through, “just in case”!

But the successful candidates don’t follow this pattern, they grab the attention of the recruiter/employer with the covering letter, pointing out briefly the reasons they applied for the job, no more than one or two sentences is required. The CV should be between 2 and 4 pages long (although styles do change from 1 page (70’s) to 7 pages (90’s). No pictures, business
logos or overly fussy font styles. The CV should represent you the way you want to be seen, focused, to the point and a high achiever.

THE CV (Curriculum Vitae)

Here is an example of a successful CV format.

Contact details
Professional Experience
Job title
Present/most recent employer
Start/leave dates
Company profile

then repeat for up to 10 years work experience:
job title
start/leave dates
company profile

If more than 10 years work experience just list briefly other industry work experience.

Accreditation (education/work related qualifications, driving licence)
Date of birth (here or under contact details at the top)
Finally interests/hobbies.

Why this format?

To be honest it’s not the only format you can use, but it works well as it is simple, direct and keeps the CV focussed.

Profile: Explained
You should be highlighting your skills in a brief format, i.e. you are “dynamic, enthusiastic, goal-orientated, strong communication skills”. You have work experience in “Media Sales, Telecoms, IT CRM database sales, property, call centre, recruitment”.

Professional Experience: Explained
You work in “your specialisation” industry generating new clients, account managing key clients, using IT skills including Powerpoint, or apple works, Internet, intranet, you achieve your targets monthly, weekly quarterly.

Job Title

Company Profile: Explained
This demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of your employers business in what it does and who to.

Responsibilities: Explained
What you do every day, every week, every month, who you report to, who reports to you (or how many).

Achievements: Explained
Sell yourself here, did you win any awards, commendations, break sales records, manage any well known clients, generate any new clients, retain and improve existing clients.

Why are you leaving is not always required on a CV, but because you achieved you want to expand your horizons is a perfectly OK way to explain yourself.

Accreditation: Explained
By now the employer/recruiter should be already interested in you so keep your education, work related qualifications to the point, no need to enhance your CV here as it becomes superfluous and unnecessary.

Interests: Explained
Some employers want team players who captained their school team others want to know you are a socialite and some look for a character fit. Don’t suggest anything other than who you really are, if it’s gardening and surfing the internet or playing football or Mountain bike riding then great, just keep it real.

The Interview

The first Interview is often with a recruitment consultant or HR (Human Resources) manager. They all have completely different styles, from a simple telephone interview to just form filling and a few questions. Some will ask for tests to measure your intelligence, such as IQ tests others rely on psychometric tests. You must find out before the interview if there will be any tests, if so, do they expect you to complete all the questions within a certain time frame or just do as many as possible. This can make a difference as to how you are being assessed. For example, they may expect you to complete 50 questions in 12 minutes, but in fact they really want just 20 correct answers, so you could skip a few and complete the easier ones then return to the others if you have time. Unfortunately we can’t help you with these tests but as for the questions, here are a few tips.

These are very typical questions on a first interview.

How would you sell me a pen?
How would you sell me a fridge (and I live in Iceland)?

These questions will follow you round like a dog with bad breath! What they are looking for is to establish if you can discover the buyer’s needs. So in the case of the pen, what weight would your ideal pen be? Does the ink need to be a certain colour, will you be performing any particular
duty using the the pen in public or at official ceremonies?

The Fridge:
Do you have a fridge already and if so is there anything about it you like?
Does the fridge have to match your kitchen units for colour ?
Does the fridge need to be a particular size to fit in to your kitchen properly ?

In either case, the pen or fridge is symbolic of establishing the needs of the client, irrelevant of whether they live in Italy or Iceland. You can always look for open ended questions but closed questions will work also if it leads you to a point of sale.

How many cold calls will you make for how long before you make a sale?

This is a very nasty question as it can be very miss-leading that said, it might very well suggest the company recognise they expect the sales staff to make a lot of telesales calls. To answer this question: simple I have made as many as 100 calls per day for 3 days without making a sale, but that was a long time ago when I was first employed in sales and since then I have learned to network/research a company and make quality calls with stronger results. You might like to run this past anyone you know in sales and gauge their reaction, not all suggestions we make are perfect, sorry.

Often the interviewer will want to know what you have achieved so here is a list of must bring to the interview (even if you were not forewarned by the employer or recruiter, take them any way).


This should contain:
Driving licence,
Passport size photograph,
Your last three months pay slips (highlighting commission earned)
Any awards or commendations (paper documentation, not the crystal vase),
Sales figures,
League tables,
Any payslips with an outstanding pay award from your past,
Industry related documentation (such as did you have your picture taken for an industry related magazine with some of your comments alongside it?).

The Second Interview

Now they are looking at you very hard indeed, there will be two main points, how do you relate to those around you and how do you relate to their business.

On a second interview even the most casual comment from an unsuspecting corner could be there to put you off your guard. You might be asked to join a member of the team to see how they do the job you are applying for, the member of the team will be reporting back exactly what they thought of you. The second interview may also include a panel interview with three or more
people firing questions or you are asked to make a presentation to the panel.


If not then this can be a simple come and see where and how we work, accompany an existing member of staff on a client visit. Meet the sales manager (or higher) to see and be seen, essentially the second visit can be a time to explore the company and find out how you would fit in. Most interviews that fail at this stage are more often than not down to the candidate not wanting to go any further or not looking like they are particularly interested. Asking questions about the company, it’s products or services is good, asking how many days holiday and where is the canteen never quite inspires a potential new employer.

The Third Interview

They like you, they think you could be a good fit, so lets just negotiate terms! No, not really. They do like you, they do think you will be a good fit but is there anything more about you they need to find out. This story was told to me many years ago about a real final interview. The
Salary offered was £37K basic with £60K ote.

Candidate has completed first and second interviews the third started in the office, agreed terms then followed by an informal drink and a bite to eat, the candidate at first behaves very well, but is offered drink after drink and informed they would be paying for a cab for him to return home and they just wanted him out for the night to let his hair down a bit and get to know his new colleagues.


The situation was clearly out of hand, he should have accepted non-alcoholic drinks after the first two beers, kept the jokes in hand and hands off anyone and everyone. The fact he was single as was the colleague is not the point, it breached their code of conduct and had he started the job
there would have been an atmosphere in the department.

This doesn’t happen on all third interviews, most are very sober affairs and office based, but it doesn’t mean you let your guard down completely neither.

Getting Better Results

Here is a tip for you about what you wear.

First Interview: Blue tie for men (women can do similar colour schemes).
Second Interview: Yellow Tie.
Third Interview: RED TIE.

Why the colours?
Blue is cool, no real connection made either way, so it’s safe.
Yellow is open, friendly and suggests you are interested in them.
Red: You want me, come and get me, favours the wearer to negotiate a better package.

The number of interviews you attend can also help secure the right job, for example if you apply to a single job only then it is more likely you will not get the job as you are focussing too much of your time and energy on a single opportunity, apply for 10 and you are too far stretched to consider each job fully, analyse the prospects and identify the potential. We recommend you apply for three at a time every weekday for 4 weeks. This should be sufficient to generate enough interviews. If not go back to your CV, double check it for spelling errors, date gaps and any anomalies that need attention, then revisit the jobs applied for, were they right for you,
did you understand the role and expectations, are you over reaching or applying for jobs below your market value? It may seem odd but employers don’t take candidates too seriously if they are applying for jobs that someone with 1/2 the talent or experience could do.

Finally, for all interviews always be on time, 5 minutes in hand is good, 20 minutes too soon is too desperate and 15 minutes too late, you’ve lost your chances. If you are delayed en route, phone as soon as you can before the interview is due to start and explain the problem calmly and clearly. Plan your route well in advance to avoid getting lost. Simple rules to follow? Yes, but mistakes are easily made.