How to Accurately Assess Soft Skills in Sales Candidates

Soft skills remain one of the most challenging skills for recruiters and hiring managers to identify. Only 41% have a formal process in place to measure them, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 trends report. Many recruiters continue to use outdated and ineffective assessment methods. 

Soft skills in sales are especially valuable, so it’s crucial medical sales recruiters and leaders understand how to assess them accurately. 

The most effective method is to ask specific interview questions that target each soft skill. This means it’s important to develop a standard set of questions for the skill set you’re seeking.

Here are 10 competencies to look for and build questions around to assess candidates’ soft skills in sales:

1. Problem-solving

This one is probably the most straightforward, as recruiters can directly ask for an example of a time when the candidate had to identify a client’s problem and come up with a solution. How did they think it through? What was the result? Listen to how methodical they are with the steps they take and how successful they were. This is the best way to see their problem-solving skills in action.

2. Research

When you ask the problem-solving question, it’s also important to listen to what steps the candidate took to arrive at the best possible solution. If they skipped over these details in their answer, ask them to elaborate on the research they did to help them solve the problem.

3. Storytelling

When it comes to soft skills in sales, candidates need to have a knack for storytelling. The best way to identify this trait? The interview. You don’t even need to ask about storytelling specifically because the entire interview is an example. As you go through each situational question, see how they bring you into the story. Pay attention to their delivery, posture, and tone that affirms what they are saying — they’ll need to convey their message just as successfully as a sales rep.

4. Confidence

Going hand in hand with storytelling, how they perform in the interview can also tell you a lot about the candidate’s confidence. If you’re unsure about their confidence based on body language alone, ask about a time they were nervous to land a sale and how they handled it.

5. Adaptability 

This is another opportunity for a situational question. Recruiters can identify a candidate’s adaptability by asking about a time their circumstances changed suddenly and how they processed it. Were they able to react to the change, adapt their process, and come out successful? These are all important steps to identify to measure adaptability. 

6. Self-motivation

To identify a self-motivated sales rep, ask them to explain how they manage their work with limited supervision. Listen to see which tasks their voice shows excitement for and which they seem to speak to begrudgingly. Alternatively, you can ask them to describe a time they had to work on a project they weren’t excited about.

7. Time management

Recruiters can home in on this skill by asking how they stay organized in a given workweek. You can also ask what they spend the most time on throughout the week. This will show you what steps they take to organize their time and what they prioritize in their current role.

8. Communication

Ask how the candidate keeps their team and clients updated throughout the lifecycle of a project. What forms of communication do they use? How frequently do they communicate? These are all crucial pieces of understanding their communication style. This is also another skill where it’s important to pay attention to their body language: Good communication means strong eye contact.

9. Collaboration

Instead of asking a candidate how well they work in a team setting, ask for an example of a project where they had to work with a team. Follow up by having them describe the result of that collaboration. You can also ask the candidate for an example of a time when they had to work with someone who was hard to get along with and how they handled it. Both of these are great ways to identify collaboration skills.

10. Perseverance 

There are a few questions that will work well to assess a candidate’s perseverance. For example, you can ask about a time when a lead fell through and what they did next. You can also ask them to describe a time when they weren’t feeling motivated and how they pressed on. 

Many of these soft skills overlap with each other, so brainstorm a set of questions that work best for your team. Look for opportunities to ask questions that encompass multiple soft skills at once. Test and adjust your set of questions until you start to see strong hires come from your new process.

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