Posts belonging to Category Interviewing Tips fore Black Sales Professionals

Mastering the Telephone Interview

I share those often at job fairs and employment clinics.  It will always be true. Many companies are attempting to avoid costs and wasted time by doing preliminary employment screening with a telephone interview.  This is your first chance to shine!  Simple objective: Get a face-to-face interview!  Here is how to be successful!


You have been selected to have a preliminary or phone interview as part of the screening process for a job that you want badly.  This job has all of the trappings including the business automobile, protected territory, great compensation plan, and more.

The phone interview, if you are successful, will lead to an in-person interview in another state with the hiring manager.  The phone interview is with the human resources recruiter and you want a home run!

This scenario is not uncommon.  In the sales profession, with candidates often located good distances from the main offices, companies wisely make decisions to screening interviews on the phone before considering bringing a candidate in for an in-person interview.

There are many reasons to use the phone for this purpose; the main reason is that it is cost effective.  Travel which is very expensive now days, and companies are wise to try to avoid some of this expense.  Additionally, if candidates are closely matched in their qualifications, a decision as to who to interview might be determined by some well-directed questions.

There are some tactics that you can undertake that will prepare you and put you in the best light.

You Are the Expert on You!

You have heard me say this before, and you will undoubtedly hear it again, “You are the expert on you!” Don’t fall into the trap of waiting for questions that will show your worth, be prepared to give the interviewer the requisite information that makes you shine.

Gather the following information:

  • Your Resume – the exact copy that the interviewee has been given.  Know your accomplishments, that is what sets you apart.
  • A clear concise salary history (This is for you, not as much the hiring party).
  • A brief ‘elevator pitch’ on yourself describing why you deserve the job.  Brief means 45 seconds or less.
  • Your reasons for leaving any job that you have had in the past 10 years. Reduce it to writing and be strong at explaining it.
  • Your sales statistics (this is a big one). That should include percentages of improvement or growth (or the opposite).  Again, it is all about accomplishments
  • A clear concise picture of the organization you would like to join. What are the markets, products, accomplishments, etc.

Your objective is to have this valuable information at your fingertips, as when there is a pause on the phone, the interviewer cannot tell what you are doing.  You need to be prepared mentally, and prepared from the standpoint of reference material on your background.  The most important part is that you should be able to recite it chapter and verse without much prompting.

Any question on your background and talents should be in your realm of information.  Additionally, you should be able to put into words your strengths, weaknesses and professional objectives as these are common questions.

Phone Interview Etiquette

Just a couple of rules for the interview itself:

  • Establish what you will call the interviewer. This can be done during the introductions.  If you don’t know, then stick to “Mr. Johnson” until he tells you differently.
  • No background noise at all if possible. You don’t need Barry White begging in the background, even if it does not distract you.
  • No interruptions. Set it for a time when you will have no interruptions such as young students returning home from school.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer. Do not step on someone’s sentences, as that will annoy them.
  • Use a landline phone if at all possible. There is nothing more distracting than a dropped call when someone is trying to give you a chance at a career.
  • Block call-waiting notifications. If your service allows it, block call-waiting notifications.  Those annoying clicks when your friends are calling are extremely distracting to an interviewer, even if they do not bother you.  (Dialing *70 prior to the call usually blocks the call waiting feature)
  • Speaker or Conference correctly. If you use the conference feature on your phone, be careful with rustling paper and background noise.  No gum or candy, and no pets in the vicinity.
  • No Eating. This may sound like a no-brainer, yet people do it.  Have water nearby, and recognize swilling water does produce noise.

It is important to realize that if they are annoyed by your background noise, or the difficulty they have in understanding you, they will ‘check out’ and lean toward another candidate.  Make this a pleasant experience.

Your Objective is Simple – a Face-to-Face Interview!

Go in knowing what the prize is, but also know that your chance to make the impression is increased if you can get face-to-face.  So…your phone interview might be done in racial anonymity, especially if your resume and other correspondence was done in a race neutral format. I am compelled to explain these briefly here:

Racial anonymity – Meaning there has been no disclosure as to race on your part, and none was asked.  The interviewer has no positive verification of your race, and presumably makes the decisions on the basis of the quality of the telephone interview.

Race Neutral Format – The resume, and any supporting information gives no indication of race, fraternal or sorority involvement. The reviewer is left to make the decision on the basis of your qualifications and the telephone interview itself.

You are not concealing anything, you are answering their questions and attempting to get the position.   The more level the playing field, the less of an effect that preference can have in the initial screening process (Refer to Black Sales Journal 12/30/2010 – Preference, Perceptions, and Prejudice and Your Employer).  I know that there may be issues that don’t allow racial anonymity including which college or university you attended, and some voice intonations, yet it is worth the effort if you can sound as race neutral as possible.

Above all, recognize that you will not have a chance without getting past this initial screen.  Approach it with vigor and a plan.  Be prepared!

“What Kind of Money Do You Want?”

There is an important question that you should be prepared for that many sales professionals get surprised by: “Now that you know the opportunity, what would you need in terms of salary for this position?”

I think the best answer to this is a simple one:  ”I am open and flexible with my salary demands.  Much depends on the benefit structure and the compensation (commission or remuneration) plan.”  You want a face-to-face interview so you can show your worth.  This response is legit and fair.  Keep all of your options open.

Your comments are welcome.  You can reach me at

Want to Stand Out In an Interview? You Already Do!

The interview as your chance to tell why you are the best person for the job, but also embrace that opportunity to show how you are different!


There are few moments that are more critical in your work history than the all-important job interview.  That sixty or so minutes presents you with the opportunity to:

  • Make a lasting impression on a one-on-one basis.
  • Describe, defend, and promote your employment history
  • Showcase your verbal skills and your adeptness at responding to complex questions.
  • Prove you critical sales skills while in the process of “selling yourself.”

“Critical” is a fair word here because you only get one opportunity, maybe no more than an hour to do this and separate yourself from the crowd of applicants that are being interviewed for the position.  You must use this opportunity to “sell yourself” while you scale the mountains of questions that the interviewer or interviewers might have for you.

How to Stand Out?

So in the midst of this, your objective is to not only answer all of the interviewer’s questions, showcase your knowledge of the sales process and your product/industry acumen, but also to stand out from other applicants.  Frankly, if you are a Black sales professional, you already stand out! You have selected a career that is challenging, measurable, and rewarding.  It is not the career that is the preference of the lighthearted.  This role is normally relationship-based, requiring an investment of time and effort in the cultivation of deep enduring relationships with buyers of all backgrounds and origins.  Not everyone can do it, and most would not make it to the interview stage, but you are there. Even the buyer that considers himself/herself color-blind recognizes that you’re an anomaly in the position.  Now the good part is that you are a “good” anomaly in that role.  I am serious in saying this.  Absent prejudice, the good buyer is looking for some change or variation from the norm as well.  Here is your golden opportunity. Even some of the most mundane issues about you are new ground for a customer from a different social and racial background.  Questions will flow in search of information about the following:

  • How did you get in this business?
  • What is your background?
  • Where did you go to school?
  • Did you play sports?
  • Numerous other general interest questions

These questions only lead to more inquiry.  These questions, as banal as they may seem, happen because there is an informational divide in America.  That informational divide then serves as a “curiosity chasm” as well.  No one is going to go into your community to satisfy their curiosity as to how someone so different from them lives and thinks; yet if you come into their office, and hold conversation, everything is game.  Whether you hale from the heart of the ghetto or your state’s most affluent suburb, the curiosity is the same. You can stand out in this positive way, and there are some things that you can do to make this even better:

  • Be personable and inviting without getting too personal.
  • Know your story and its fine points.  You have license to discuss only what you want made public (because it will be public).
  • Always tell the truth (Black Sales Journal 6/30 – Always Tell the Truth). The truth, in the light of its novelty to others is quite enough.
  • Know what has made you strong and durable, and …better.

Now, when you know these well, you can begin to weave them into your story as opposed to “tell” them.  You might want to give that comment some thought.  You are the expert on you, and that cannot be denied.  Do you know how to tell your story in a factual, yet illustrative way that captivates and informs?  If you practice these points, you will gain proficiency in doing it, and will benefit from it.

The Value of the Icebreaker

In Black Sales Journal we always speak of the strength of conversation in building a successful relationship.  You are less trying to build a successful relationship during the interview than trying to construct a gateway; there is invariably a brief moment that is the “icebreaker”.  This is not a long interlude, yet a skilled interviewer will use this time to get to know something about the person that he/she is interviewing.  Here is where you get an opportunity to showcase “YOU.” During this time, most interviewers would not approach a subject that is to intrusive, yet will ask you a question like: “What made you decide to get into sales?” or “What convinced a bright looking guy/lady like you to go in to equipment sales?”  I am sure you have been asked a question like that before.  That is the icebreaker, and it is without doubt that is not the question he/she wanted to ask, yet it is the evidence that someone is curious about you, your motivations, and your background.

Remember…Be Personable…

Black sales professionals with tenure in sales have experience in relating their story. There is no doubt that regardless of whether you are male or female, they want to understand more about you.  You can move them from wanting to understand more about you to the point of fascination by disclosing some tidbits of information although never compromising personal information you want to protect. Remember bullet one above.  “Be personable and inviting without getting too personal,” serves as a good motto.  Although interview sessions can be tedious, remember that being interviewed by someone who is interviewing five others is tedious work on their part as well.  It is made more interesting by someone who has a personality, and has points of interest that would probably attract a buyer as well.

You can be that someone.

Master the relationship. Your comments are welcome. You can reach me at