One of the best indicators for motivation and drive within a new sales hire that we have seen is — did they pay their own way through college (or at least contribute some portion toward the bill)?
“I see you went to XYZ College. Did you help pay your own way through school?”
Many sales candidates contributed in some way towards the ever-increasing cost of their schooling. If someone paid their entire way, that’s a great leading indicator of fire and desire to succeed. We hear all the time – “I paid for my college all four years and I have the loans to show for it!”
Or, maybe they paid for only one year, or for books, or for housing. Or they took on one or more jobs while in school to help defray their living expenses. What we’re looking for here is some “skin in the game,” because people tend to appreciate less the things that are given to them versus the things they have to work for.
Even if a candidate’s parents or others paid the full bill, this question gives them a chance to show their gratitude level, something that recognizes the sacrifices made by their support system and expresses empathy. And from there, the story may turn to what they did do along the way to help the college cause. Maybe they worked summers for the family business. Or perhaps they spent long hours applying and qualifying for scholastic honors scholarships.
None of us is completely a self-made success, but if you’re looking for drive and self-motivation in a candidate this is a great avenue to explore in an interview situation. That single question will quickly open a window into your candidate’s internal motivation.