Turn Back the Clock

As you look to hire sales talent still early in their career, you may be inclined to focus only on the future in your interview sessions. After all, your candidates won’t have much of a track record to point to, so it’s tempting to explore only what they think they might be able to accomplish.

But don’t forget to ask about their time in high school and college. We ask candidates to “Turn back the clock to your school or college days. Tell me about internships and summer jobs. Did you start a side business or a club?”

This phrasing is more open than a classic internship question. It allows them to brag a bit and reach deeper for a self-starter story. They have a chance to show their entrepreneurial drive and track record if it is there. In sales, we are often looking for someone who thinks like a small business owner within a larger business.

And in many cases you’ll find just that. In the competitive college admissions landscape, students have come to understand that good grades and solid SAT scores aren’t always enough. Many devote just as much, if not more, attention to extracurricular activities, and often those will include charitable and entrepreneurial ventures.

Someone who started a landscaping business in high school or founded a club in college is someone who displays great indicators of internal drive and fit for a sales career. They have heard “no” before and can overcome rejection, and they’ve already defined themselves as that “self-starter” every employer wants.