2.6 / 5
added 22 October 2013
I applied for a job for a 'client' of Pareto Law, which described itself as a Management Scheme, with no reference to sales.
The first stage after that was a telephone interview with a recruiter from Pareto. He was very friendly but his question, 'So why sales?' threw me as there was no mention of sales in the job description. Nevertheless I thought I may as well go for it.
The recruiter had a chat and told me to research the company a bit more and that we would have an official telephone interview the following morning.
The next morning the recruiter asked questions such as 'Why do I want a career in sales', and some competency questions on attributes such as leadership, customer service, persuasiveness, and other attributes that you would associate with B2B sales.
The recruiter then went to speak to his supervisor who had been listening, and then said that I was invited to the assessment centre. This was the next day! So be prepared to have to fork out a lot of money to get yourself to London at short notice.
At this point the recruiter is your 'friend', and will do lots to help you from there. They help you to prepare for a presentation and other aspects of the day.
Most difficult question
I wouldn't say there were any particularly difficult questions. You just need to sound convincing that you want a career in sales, and that you're cut out for it.
At the assessment centre when we made our introductions to the group, we were asked to describe our best achievement to date, that is not academic. This did throw me as most of my achievements have been!
Be outgoing and convincing. Make an impression from the very beginning - go on Pareto's website as soon as you can because you're invited to register for something and I think that it is so they can monitor how much you research the company.
Don't be afraid to get in touch with all the team beforehand. One candidate in particular stood out because she seemed to know who everyone was. Talk to your recruiter lots.
Research the Pareto Law rule well, because they ask about this (search Wikipedia) and you'll stand out if you have the answer when they ask about it. Not the application of the Law, but the actual law itself.
Research as much as you can in the short time you have.
Experiences at the assessment centre
When I arrived, the staff that greeted me were very friendly. They are assessing you from the minute you see them, so pretend to be as confident as possible. They pick up on nerves and it doesn't seem to go down well.
You arrive and they take your picture and hand you some information, and then they lead you to the holding room. There were about 20-30 people there. You're not in competition with them, as if everyone's good enough, they can all go through.
The recruiters will wander in while they wait for others to arrive. I would imagine that they want to see how you interact with the others, so be friendly and perhaps move around to speak to everyone.
Once everyone arrives, you have to stand up and introduce yourself with your star sign, your degree subject, a few other little bits of information and your 'best achievement'. Be energetic and try to say something memorable.
After this is a brief psychometric test about your personality.
Eventually you're split into groups of about 6 or 7, to do a group exercise. One of the briefs is verbal, and deliberately misleading. Be very careful to listen to it. On this day, we presumed we were in competition with the other group, but it turned out we should have collaborated. Everyone failed.
We then did another group exercise which involved decision making. This brief was written so you can't get it wrong really.
In these two exercises, be as vocal as you can. I was not successful in the end, and I noticed that the shouty, aggressive people who physically elbowed others out of the way were not in the unsuccessful group. It would appear that being unpleasant may not hinder you, as they are after ruthless people in sales.
Some crisps and fruit was provided, and water. Bring food as it is a long day.
After the group work, we sat for a very long time while everybody was taken out one-to-one to either have an 'informal interview', or to do their presentation.
The 'informal' interview was to state your preference of location, right to work in the uk, salary expectations, availability for further interviews, nothing too complicated. They did ask 'why sales?' again. I would not call this part 'informal'.
The presentation was a presentation about yourself and why Pareto should pick you. Your recruiter will help you with the structure. At this point it is rather obvious if you are successful or not, as the successful people all had their interviews with very senior staff. I did not feel as if the interviewer was listening to me particularly well, as if he already knew there was no point.
Time it well and practise it. Be energetic and persuasive.
This was in July, when temperatures were around 30 degrees C. The air conditioning was broken in the main holding room, yet we were not moved to another room where the air con actually worked. Men were told to keep their ties and jackets on. It was sweltering. We were kept for a very long time indeed, beyond what felt acceptable and many candidates expressed their feelings that they did not care any more, they just wanted to go home. Think 'cattle'.
At about 7pm, the recruiters and senior staff came in and read out names. You were split into three groups. It felt very much like X factor. The groups were taken into different rooms. One group was successful, one group was 'not right for Pareto' but were of interest to other clients who had attended the sessions, and the last group was not successful. It was implied that you would never be right for sales, but after this day I don't think you would take that as an insult.
Dress - I was told to be very smart and wear little jewellery. The men all looked the same in suits. All of the women wore rather short skirts and were not in what I would call 'professional' dress. And lots of the girls got through so this did not go against them, apparently.
If you're a gregarious, resilient, persuasive extrovert determined to get on, then this is great for you. You will be in work very quickly, and with the right attitude, you will be making a lot of money very quickly.
Group / Panel
Assessment centre ✔
Group excercise ✔
Competency based questions
Rating the interview
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