Recent Grads: How to Nail an Interview in Sales

By Rylie Carpenter and Nora Swidler

So, we hear you’re looking for your first job in sales. Congratulations! You are entering the hottest job market in U.S. history.

We know how hard you are working to find the right fit. You’re reading Crain’s articles, you’re checking LinkedIn, you’re googling most commonly asked interview questions.

Sales, pardon my colloquialism, is where it’s at. There’s a base salary, and then there’s commission. Commission is key because it is an opportunity. Every day that you show up to work, you are striving for the possibility of cash that is just within your grasp.

According to Business Insider, sales managers land at #26 on the list of the Top 30 highest paying jobs in the U.S. (18 of the top 30 jobs are in the medical profession). Why? Commission. You have chosen an excellent field.

Now, you begin to talk yourself up. You are a college grad, or you’re about to be. You’ve put your blood, sweat, and liver on the line. You are ready to conquer the professional world. You look in the mirror and see a champion!

You are not a champion. You have not done anything to prove to me, a hiring manager, why you are worthy of the opportunity I’m offering you. You just graduated from college, or you are about to. You are not special. There are 20 million 21-22 year olds just like you.

However, fret not! We are here to provide you with the tools you need to crush an interview and prove that you are the very special person that they’ve been looking for.

The basics:

  1. Treat this interview like a date. Dress properly, comb your hair, and make sure you popped a breath mint. If you want a second date, you will cater your answers to the person who is sitting across the table from you. You have done your research, you looked them up on LinkedIn, you have talking topics ready.
  2. Do NOT discuss compensation or hours.
  3. Always send a thank you note, and be specific. Was the hiring manager wearing an exotic sweater? Did you two discuss the future of the NFL? Did the interviewer tell you what their favorite dish is? Mention it in the thank you note.
  4. Be coachable. This bears repeating. Be coachable. This is the #1 quality that sales managers are looking for in their reps. You are able to take feedback and apply it.

Setting yourself apart:

  1. Ask the right questions: What does a successful employee here look like? How will my performance be judged my first year? Why is this position open? Do you have any hesitations or questions about me/my profile that I can clear up?
  2. Be prepared to give a pitch on the company. Know who they are, who their buyers are, and sell it to them.
  3. Be nice to every single person you meet: the receptionist, the janitor, any employee you meet in the bathroom.
  4. Do not just tell the hiring manager that you will work hard. Demonstrate that you are a great candidate by being prepared to speak about a time when you persevered or overcame a challenge. Trust us, sales is a tough job, so the time you worked overtime at Dairy Queen because your manager called in sick is hardly comparable.
    1. Talk about how you worked 20+ hours a week while finishing your degree, which allowed you to graduate debt-free.
    2. Reference the time you helped your fraternity or sorority raise $20,000 for a charity because of an innovative solution you brought to the table.
    3. It’s okay if you haven’t been through hell and back only to tell about it, few have. If that is the case, make sure you look your interviewer in the eye, and convince them that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor….etc” (you get it…) will keep you from getting the job done.
  5. Keep the mentality that sales is tough and you will get your butt kicked. However, the reward at the end is so worth it!


Rylie Carpenter

Rylie is an Associate Recruiter on the sales recruitment team. Looking for a new role in sales? Reach out to Rylie! 

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Nora Swidler

Nora is a Business Development Account Executive at Russell Tobin in NYC. Looking to hire some rock star sales candidates? Reach out to Nora! 

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