In this blog post, I’m going to give you some phone interview tips for hiring managers that explain exactly what you might say to door-to-door sales reps, in-home home improvement sales reps, or really any other type of high turnover commission-based salesperson that you may speak with.

If you’re looking to hire salespeople for a straight 100% commission-only position, if you’re new to hiring salespeople on straight commission, or if this isn’t something you do on a regular basis, you could probably benefit from reading these phone interview tips for employers.

Your success will depend on a number of things, including the quality of your opportunity, your geographic location, and your recruiting experience level. Like any type of sales, hiring salespeople on commission is a numbers game!

phone interview tips


It is important to realize that in this scenario the sales candidate is the prospect, and the interview is the sale. The in-person interview is important because you’ll have a much easier time bringing that potential employee on board if you are face-to-face with them, at your office.  To that end, you should always be closing for the interview. Each phone interview for a commission-only sales rep should last about two minutes and no longer than three.

The Candidate is the Prospect, and the Interview is the Sale

Be nice and polite, but also firm and confident.  Never lose your cool when talking to potential interviewees as they could one day become your customers.  Keep in mind that in addition to recruiting for you, we are advertising your business to hundreds of people. It’s a good idea to make a great first impression!


Here are some specific response examples during a phone interview:

John: “Hi, I was calling about the position.”

Response A: “Hi, is this John Smith? (You used the Caller ID to look up the identity of the caller.) Yes, I contacted you regarding some of the outside sales opportunities we have here in the Memphis area.  If that’s of interest to you, I’d like you to come in and talk about the position and see if it’s a good fit for us both.  Are you available tomorrow afternoon?”

Response B: “Yes! If you’re interested in a sales position, we could bring you in sometime later this week.  We’ll tell you more about the position and learn a little bit more about you and see if it’s a good fit for both of us.  How does either tomorrow morning or Thursday afternoon look to you?”

Response C: “Yes.  I was reaching out to you regarding a sales position. I came across your resume online and wanted to see if you’d be interested in an outside sales position.  I’m looking for someone who has the passion and motivation to learn our business and hit the ground running.  How does your schedule look like later this week?”


One effective approach is to use an assistant to handle the inquiring interviewee’s calls for you.  The assistant doesn’t know the details of the opportunity and their only task is to schedule the interview with the prospect.

Response A: “Hello, this is his assistant, Jane. Did you schedule to meet up with him yet? No? Well, I can schedule you for an interview right now if you like?”

Response B: “He’s actually occupied with another candidate right now, and he’s asked me to help you if you’re calling about the sales position.  We have a number of sales opportunities now in the Memphis area.  I can schedule a meeting with John for tomorrow if you like. “

Response C: “John is away at the moment, but I can help you.”

Mary: “What does the job pay?”

Assistant: “I don’t have access to those numbers, but John will give you the full run down when you speak with him.  Are you available tomorrow to meet with John?”

In response A, you’re simply assuming the sale and just asking for the interview.  The candidate may think they’ve really lucked out by reaching John’s assistant!

phone interview tips


Mark: “I sent you my resume, can I learn a bit more about the position before we meet?”

Response A (if you have their resume): “Mark, I see that you have experience in mortgage banking and insurance – so, some great sales experience here.  We are looking for someone with the motivation to learn our process from the ground up, with the opportunity to make six figures offering our services to homeowners in the Memphis area.  Is that something you’d be interested in?”

Response B (no current sales experience): “Mark, this is an outside sales position, however, we offer paid training for the right individual.  Are you open to a career change?”

Response C (no resume): “Mark, we offer a fantastic opportunity for the right person.  Our average reps make $35-60K a year, but we have a number of people making 6 figures.  We offer benefits after 90 days and paid training.  Does Friday work for you?”

Mark: “What exactly does the job entail?”

Response A: “You’ll be meeting with homeowners to discuss our services and help them achieve their goals.  What’s your schedule like later this week?”

Response B: “Mark, this is an outside sales opportunity, offering our services to homeowners.  It would be easier to go over everything once you’re here.  Can you come in tomorrow afternoon?”

Response C: “Mark, we have a number of opportunities available, and it would be easier to discuss if you came in.  How does late tomorrow afternoon work for you?”


Sally: “I’m currently working as a manager at Lowes and I’m not sure this is the right opportunity for me.”

Response: “Have you considered a career change? I’m sure you have to put in a lot of hours in that position.  This job may be difficult at first but once you get rolling you may find there is a lot more flexibility and the pay is better.  Can you swing by tomorrow morning to discuss it in more detail?”


Jeff: “Is this a Door-to-Door sales position?”

Response: “Essentially, yes. You’ll be meeting with homeowners to discuss our services.  We’ve got a great paid training program and will support you the entire way.  Can you come in Thursday to discuss it in more detail?”


Jack: “What is the pay?”

Response A: “We usually get into that in detail during the interview, do you have time later this week?”

Response B: “Pay is 100% commission; however, we offer a paid training program during your first month of $400 per week. After that, you’ll make a straight 20% off our services.  Average sales reps make between $700-1200 per week. If you’re good, you can make 6 figures at this opportunity.”


Maximize your success with phone interview tips by being prepared to answer questions about the open spot on your team. This will give the interviewee the best impression of both you and your company.

While there is nothing wrong with researching common phone interview questions, don’t lose sight of your real objective – getting in the same room with the potential hire for a face-to-face interview. That is the crucial next step in the hiring process, so why not make it your goal for the phone interview?

Follow key practices as you speak on the phone to create a comfortable space for yourself while you conduct phone interviews:

  • Have a glass of water handy. You want to eliminate distractions like being worried about a tickle in your throat.
  • Wear headphones connected to the telephone if you have them. This can help ensure clear audio, cut down on background noise, and leave your hands free to jot down a note or two about the job applicant. If this isn’t possible, at least have a quiet space to make your calls – free of background music and pets or other distractions.
  • Don’t chew gum or smoke during the call. These can be distracting or off-putting.
  • As the hiring manager, take time to prepare and be in the right mindset. Be friendly during the conversation. A little bit of small talk is okay but keep things professional; let it flow forward.
  • Don’t forget to have a cheat sheet – a copy of the job’s qualifications, responsibilities, and expectations. You want to be able to explain and express your company culture and vision, not be searching for specific wording.
  • Technology tips: Make a test call and record it. Play it back to make sure you have the right professional tone, and everything is ready to rock. Make sure your laptop has a full battery and your phone is fully charged if not using a landline.


All the prep in the world will only get you so far. When you are in the interview itself, there are handy phone interview tips and suggestions on how to make the conversation a success:

  • Research has shown that even when speaking on the phone where the other party cannot see you, smiling makes you sound friendly, natural, and engaging.
  • Keep an upbeat tone about the job opening. Enthusiasm is infectious.
  • Enunciate words clearly. Talk slowly if you must and use appropriate volume. The key is to be understood. Convey your message with concise, clear wording.
  • An interview is no time to multitask. Pay attention. Take notes in a notebook on the job applicant’s comments or whatever works to keep you excited about the job applicant and always acknowledge their expressions.


Find ways to have good follow-up strategies.  A quick email to their inbox thanking them for their interest will leave a good impression of your company and give you one more great opportunity to demonstrate your seriousness.

Field any return questions from the job seeker. Remember that you, as the interviewer, hold a key role in their impression of your organization and company culture.


Here are some closing thoughts for job interviewers who want to ace the applicant search process with strong phone interview tips:

  • Offer more than one position during the phone interview, such as the possibility for management. It helps if the potential commission-only sales rep thinks there may be multiple opportunities to discuss.
  • During the call, provide no more information than is necessary to complete your objective (set the appointment!)
  • Use basic sales techniques such as the Alternative Close and Assume the Sale.
  • Always close for the interview.
  • If you can pay your reps a small weekly sales base salary($300-$500), you will have a lot more success hiring a salesperson. We will be writing an article about compensation very soon.


How To Hire Commission Only Salespeople

How To Hire People  in a Group Environment

Ten Points to Consider in Your Recruiting Approach