How To Nail A Competency Based Sales Interview

While some IT sales candidates get intimidated by the competency-based interview, this style of interview plays to a salesperson’s strengths.  

A competency based interview is based on the idea that ‘the best indicator of future behaviour is past behaviour.’ Therefore, it’s all about proving your past results—something you should be familiar with as a salesperson. 

Once you know how a competency based interview works, you’ll realise it’s much easier to prepare for this kind of interview than for any other. 


Decoding the competency-based sales interview 

The great thing about true competency-based interviews is that there will be clues of the employer’s priorities littered through the job description. 

Your job is simple: identify those key skills and qualities as outlined in the job description, then prepare clear and powerful examples of times you’ve displayed those skills and qualities.  


Some examples of proving your sales based competencies 

For example, if the job spec talks about leading business growth, you would provide an example of when you increased your software’s market share in your territory by 15% in a year. Concisely explain both the result and how you went about achieving it. 

If the job spec mentions customer service skills, you should be ready with specific examples of times you’ve dealt with dissatisfied prospects or clients and turned the situation into a sale.  

If a job spec mentions a quality like resilience, be ready with an example of a time when you failed to meet targets, but then increased your cold-call rate to hit the top of the sales league, or when you were assigned a poorly performing sector and turned it around. 



Other key competencies in sales include negotiation skills, persuasiveness, adaptability, and presentation skills. Notice which keywords appear in the job spec, and you’ll get a sense of the priorities of the company. 

Be ready with at least two examples of each competency. It can take a bit of thinking about to come up with the examples that show you at your best, so sit down with your CV and start a file of your past successes, adding to it over your career.  


Proving your worth  

In a competency based interview, you’ll need to talk specifics such as percentage gains and conversion rates. It’s also effective to use strong action words such as ‘delivered,’ ‘converted’ and ‘influenced.’  

Even better if you can take along the proof: sales league tables, bonus awards, and references. 

Also take your contact book along, as this will prove attractive to a hiring manager, particularly if you have strong software clients already or have a good network in the corporate world.

However, be aware of any confidentiality issues if any information is sensitive to your last employer, or if the terms of your contract don’t allow you to take your contact book elsewhere.  

As you would a look at a sales lead, you should do thorough background research on the company and its competitors, as well as into the product you’ll be selling.  

You should also be aware of current IT trends and any economic or local news that might make for sales opportunities – for example, new company tax rebates on software, or a new business centre opening locally.  

Through this process, come up with ideas on how you would sell the products, identify needs or gaps the company might need filling, or exciting opportunities they may not have tapped.  

When you go into the interview, you should be ready with ideas for a sales strategy you would utilise to deliver results.  

You should also have some questions of your own prepared that show you’re keen for success and can accept feedback. Questions like ‘How will my performance be monitored?’ ‘What training will I receive’? ‘How might my career look in the long term with the company’? ‘What’s the team culture? 

Like good salespeople do when pitching clients, you’ll need to approach this interview as a conversation where both sides have a need they want to fill. Your approach needs to be to identify what they want and tailor your offering accordingly.  

Don’t get caught up talking about irrelevant achievements or dominating the conversation. Remember, they’ll be listening to you talk during the interview and wondering how their clients will respond to your pitch.  

If they enjoy talking with you, chances are, so will their clients.  


Remember to show off your team spirit 

Good sales teams are vibrant, energetic, and competitive. A hiring manager is looking for someone who works well in teams and has a sociable yet competitive attitude. Membership of sports teams or successful fundraising charities are a great way to show your team spirit.  



Offer references from clients as well as past employers 

References from employers are good, but they can easily be manipulated: perhaps they’re written by a manager who’s a good friend, or even given as a sweetener when someone is managed out. (‘If you resign, we’ll give you a reference.’ It’s a terrible practice, but as recruiters, we’ve seen this happen a lot) 

As such, employer references can be viewed as not entirely reliable, so it’s ideal to get key clients to act as referees as well, as this communicates to the hiring manager that your service as a salesperson is not only good enough to sell the product, but to retain the customer’s loyalty over time.  


Don’t forget to close 

Every salesperson knows the importance of a strong close. Recap on your keenness for the role and your willingness to get stuck in and deliver results.  

Best regards 



About LivRecruit 

LivRecruit specialise in Inside Sales, Senior Sales and Technology Recruitment. The LivRecruit team is based in Greater Manchester and have over 17 years’ experience providing recruitment solutions for technology companies across the UK.  

If you are looking for the right new hire for your technology team or want to take your career to the next level call us on 0161 883 2856 or email us here.