Woman sitting in a chair speaking with a man sitting on a couch
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

Why this matters:

Business development specialists often need to be strategists first; able to think about the long term business strategy and outward-facing sales development. They may work across several of the organization’s departments to collaborate on these strategies, so evidence of being a well-rounded team player is an asset.

What to listen for:

  • Experience collaborating with others is a good sign that the candidate is accustomed to working with teams.
  • Good answers will also highlight experiences in which the candidate took initiative and crafted a successful strategy independently.

Why this matters:

An excellent business development professional possesses sharp analytical skills, which allow them to make key decisions and plan strategies based on existing data and forecasting.

What to listen for:

  • A methodical, well-informed approach that recognizes a variety of factors at play, including budgeting, forecasting, and emerging market trends.
  • A forward-thinking attitude, with an eye for spotting opportunities by closely looking at data.

Why this matters:

It’s one thing to sell ready-made products and services; it’s quite another to find creative solutions for what customers really want and need. This question allows candidates to share how they would work to design creative solutions, if that’s part of your organization’s business model.

What to listen for:

  • Strong listening skills when learning about what customers are looking for.
  • The ability to be creative and to both evaluate and accommodate special requests.
  • The ability to turn the customer down, if necessary.

Why this matters:

Negotiating deals and reviewing proposals are a key component for any business development role, and having past experience with this in a professional setting is imperative. There are also opportunities for negotiation in many sales deals, which is another element of the job the candidate should be accustomed to.

What to listen for:

  • A demonstrated ability to get deals done fast—and well. You want to hire someone who will be an advocate for your organization and make things happen, rather than getting tied up in back-and-forths.
  • Watch out for answers that feel too one-sided or competitive.

Why this matters:

This gives you the opportunity to see the candidate in action, and determine if their business skills align with what you are looking for. It also affords you the opportunity to get a sense of their demeanor and enthusiasm for the partnerships they create.

What to listen for:

  • Strong answers will be able to partner mundane objects with passion, gusto, and reason.
  • Pay close attention to how the candidate approaches the needs of each item, and what steps they take to ensure a symbiotic partnership.

Why this matters:

Business development professionals handle a range of paperwork throughout the day, whether they are internal strategic documents or sales documents for customers. They need to have an eye for accuracy, and realize that one wrong number can skew an entire metric.

What to listen for:

  • Diligent attention to detail and a drive to complete tasks thoughtfully and correctly.
  • Awareness of the repercussions of mistakes.
  • Strong answers may also mention specific techniques the candidate has learned through past experience.

Why this matters:

The ideal candidate will be dedicated to making connections that ultimately improve businesses, so this question allows them to share what drew them to the industry, what skills they have gained thus far, and where they hope to be in the future.

What to listen for:

  • A keen sense of problem-solving skills and a drive to make businesses stronger through well-matched partnerships.
  • A good answer may also touch upon the spark that drew them to sales and business development, such as an early career experience.

Why this matters:

Having loyal partnerships shows that people are interested in doing repeat business with the candidate, and could indicate the extent of their professional network, which is imperative in sales. It is also important that the candidate realize the potential of new business leads and connections.

What to listen for:

  • Good judgement, interpersonal, and communication skills.
  • Answers that show that the candidate realizes the importance of not only selling a product or partnership, but also ensuring a positive experience for all people involved from beginning to end. This should result in a history of repeat or continued business, showing the candidate is desirable to work with.

Why this matters:

Sometimes—despite all efforts—things won’t go as planned. You need to make sure that the person you hire will still be able to successfully complete sales, even when they aren’t in their ideal work environment.

What to listen for:

  • A keen ability to adapt to a variety of situations, regardless of the budget or other restrictions.
  • Resourcefulness and reliance on their own skills and experience, rather than a dependence on external factors to do a good job.