6 Red Flags to Look Out for When Screening Sales Reps

Published on May 10, 2021

Screening sales reps isn’t easy, and 74% of SaaS companies have said they’ve made a wrong hire at some point. While there’s no magic bullet that ensures you’ll pick the right sales rep every single time, there are some concrete steps you can take to get close. 

One of those is simply knowing which red flags to look out for when screening reps. Here are six of the biggest according to experts. 

1. They Blank When You Ask Company Research-Related Questions

Let’s start from the top. Any candidate worth your attention will take the time to thoroughly research your company. And I’m not talking about the basics on your homepage or LinkedIn profile. A quality salesperson will make the effort to learn about your:

  • Industry
  • Company history
  • Products
  • UVP
  • Mission
  • Philosophy

If they blank when you ask questions relating to company research or can only spout off a few superficial points, it’s a major red flag as this shows that A) they’re just looking for any job they can land, B) they’re lazy, or C) both. 

That’s why I recommend asking a question like, “What can you tell me about my company?,” to gauge their response. 

2. They Have a History of Job Hopping

Job hopping, which is defined as “a pattern of changing companies every year or two on one’s own volition,” is on the rise. While it shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate completely, most sales hiring experts suggest avoiding these reps for the simple fact that they pose a turnover risk. 

To quantify what’s considered a normal amount of time to spend at one job, recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found the average tenure of US employees is 4.3 years as a whole and 2.3 years for younger workers aged 25-34. If a candidate’s resume clearly shows they’re rapidly bouncing from one job to another, they’re probably not someone you want to bring on board.

3. They Don’t Listen

Sales has evolved a lot in recent years, with one of the biggest changes being the way reps go about interacting with leads. In the past, those that were most successful often engaged in aggressive, “salesly” tactics that pushed products on leads. But now, those that thrive tend to assume the role of a trusted advisor. In fact, 88% of leads are only willing to buy when they consider the salesperson to be a trusted advisor — not merely a rep. 

And one of the main ways a salesperson assumes this role is by listening. In fact, there’s a really interesting study by Gong that found the ideal talk-to-listen ratio is 43% to 57%

So, if you’re interviewing a candidate who’s constantly budding in and it physically pains them to listen, it’s probably going to create problems if they’re hired. 

4. They Bash Their Ex-Employers

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest red flags for two main reasons. First, it shows an inherent lack of professionalism and is a poor reflection of character. Even if a candidate suffered some grave injustice at the hands of a previous employer in the past, it’s not something that should be discussed in detail during an interview with another company. 

Second, it can potentially put your brand reputation in peril if you hire a “loose cannon” type of personality. If they’re a person that’s quick to badmouth others, they’re practically guaranteed to create friction at some point down the line. 

So, if you ask something along the lines of “What did you dislike about a previous sales job?,” and a candidate launches into a smear campaign, they’re likely someone to avoid. 

5. They’re Low Energy

Every salesperson has their own style, with some naturally being more outgoing than others. And while being introverted as opposed to extroverted hasn’t been found to lower a rep’s potential (some research actually suggests introverts make better reps), having low energy can definitely be an issue. 

This, after all, can translate into less passion and a general lethargy that can reduce their performance. Just think of a rep who seems perpetually bored trying to convince a lead why they should buy your SaaS product or explain how it will positively impact their business. It’s going to create a roadblock for sure.  

This isn’t to say that a candidate needs to be bouncing off the walls with excitement to succeed. But if they’re obviously low energy, they’re probably not going to be an asset to your sales team. 

6. They Don’t Ask You Any Questions

I recently wrote a blog post that talked about how top performing sales reps ask more questions than their underperforming counterparts. To be exact, top performers ask 11-14 questions per call, while underperformers only ask 1-6. 

Given that asking questions is such an integral part of building rapport with leads and matching them with the right SaaS products, most sales recruiting experts consider a candidate not asking you any questions to be a major red flag. It’s not so much the specific questions they ask. It’s more of simply demonstrating an innate curiosity, which suggests they’ll go further when interacting with leads and close more deals. 

Ensuring You Find the Best of the Best Sales Reps

Sometimes it’s just as important to know what not to look for in a sales candidate as it is to know what to look for. The six points I’ve mentioned here are some of the biggest red flags according to sales recruiting experts and can go a long way in improving the overall quality of your talent pool. 

Find out how HireDNA can help you eliminate 96% of hiring mistakes using the #1 sales candidate assessment.  92% of candidates recommended through HireDNA reach the top of the sales force within one year, and companies that use it lower their turnover by an average of 33%. 

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