Account executive is responsible for retaining existing accounts, for providing excellent customer service to delegates from the client company. The second main responsibility of this important person in sales, marketing, IT, and finance business, (which can turn into a primary role, especially if we talk about account executives working for brokerage firms, or for marketing agencies), is acquisition of new clients. Are you ready to convince the hiring managers of having both skills, and guts, to take care of your duties?
Bordering sales and customer service
Having to do something with both customer service and sales, account executive is a great position, and you can earn a lot, and learn a lot while having the job. But you have to be good at it, you need courage, and first and foremost, you need to get it in an interview. So, how to succeed? What will the interviewers inquire about? How will they test you?
The interviewers will use mostly behavioral and situational questions, trying assess how you would act in various work related situations. They will ask some personal questions as well, just to understand your motivation, attitude to the job, and basically who you are, as a person, if you fit to their place and working environment. Last but not least, you may be asked to demonstrate your customer service and sales skills in a role play – mocking a call to a client. Let’s have a look at the questions right now!
Why do you apply for a job of an account executive?
The most important thing is to show a realistic idea of the job. This is no easy work, but you can make a killing if you excel in it. You will hardly find any other job, at least one you can get without having a degree, that offers such earning possibilities. And you are aware of it, and since money motivates you, you didn’t think twice when deciding about your next career move.
You can also point to your excellent communication skills (or sales skills), and say that you have the right predispositions to generate decent sales volume each month for your employer. You simply believe to have what it takes to become a great salesman. In such circumstances, why should you apply for any other job?
Interviewers should hear some enthusiasm in your voice. They should get the feeling that you really want the job, that you are certain about your choice.
How do you imagine a typical day in this job?
This really depends on your place of work. Because sometimes you’ll spend a lot of time with market research, finding new leads, while in other companies someone else will generate the leads, or even warm them up for you.
And while in some high-ticket sales you’ll spend days in meetings (or eventually playing golf with the prospects), in other sectors you’ll spend 6 hours a day on the call. Or 12 hours. Read the job description carefully, but with a grain of salt. Companies will always advertise only half of the truth, trying to attract more job applicants.
So if you see making calls or cold calling anywhere on the job description (even on the very end of list of duties) you can bet it will form your daily bread in the job. One way or another, you should show proactive approach to work. You won’t spoil anything while saying that you imagine spending your days on the phone, or in the meetings, trying to identify new business opportunities and turn them into deals.
Describe a situation when you were under pressure in work. How did you handle the situation?
You should show them (ideally on an example from the past) that you can handle the pressure, that it does not affect you negatively in your job. The more details you include in your answer, the more trustworthy you will sound.
You can even make up something, or talk about a situation from school, if this is your first job application. Remember that your attitude matters, not the particular situation you’ll talk about.
The truth is that this job is stressful–like most other sales jobs. You will have targets to meet, and you will spend a lot of time on a call, which is not easy for anyone. However, if you do it well, if you handle your tasks, and the pressure, the reward can be very sweet…
Imagine that a client calls you. They say that they have found a new supplier, and do not want to cooperate with us anymore. What will you do?
You can definitely expect at least some questions that deal with real problems and situations from the job. We call them situational, or behavioral questions. In this case, you should ensure the interviewers that you will do your best to retain the client. You can suggest making a better offer, or at least matching the offer of their new supplier.
And if nothing worked, you would at least try to understand why they looked for a new supplier (or decided for them, if the supplier approached them), and take action to ensure it would not happen with other clients.
Special Tip: To know how to answer a question, and to come up with a great and unique answer on a big day, are two different things. Very different things. If you want to streamline your interview preparation, and have an excellent answers ready for each question you may face in your account executive interview, have a look at an eBook I wrote for you, the Account Executive Interview Guide. Multiple premium answers to 25 most common interview questions for account executives (including the dreaded role play) will help you stand out in this competitive interview. Thank you for checking it out!
Describe a time you managed to reach an objective when odds were against you
Your attitude matters more than the particular situation you narrate. Perhaps you ran in a race and won, or your soccer team was a heavy underdog in a local tournament, and you still managed to made the final—because you tried hard, you left your heart on the pitch, and the team spirit in your squad made the difference.
Or you were facing a difficult exam at school. You had little time to prepare for the exam, and struggled heavily with the subject. But somehow you managed to log some extra hours and sleepless nights, and eventually you passed—with flying colors.
Obviously an example from sales is your best choice, such as when you managed to reach a difficult sales target despite a slow start. However, you can demonstrate the never-say-die attitude on any situation from your life…
Role play in the interview
Role play has become very popular recently, especially in the United States. The interviewers will play a client, and you will play an account executive. Your task will be to either sell them something, or to deal with their complaint, or the request they have.
The exercise helps us to understand your readiness for the job. It is the best possible way of assessing your customer service, communication, and sales skills.
How to do well in this particular role play?
It is not that easy. You should definitely ask “the client” a lot of question, try to explain them the benefits they will gain from working with the company, and somehow build a relationship with them on the call. However, the interviewers do not expect to hear a flawless sales pitch from you. If they hire you for the job, they will provide an excellent training, and help you to start well right from the get-go.
But they must see that you at least understand the basic nuances of professional selling, that you are not afraid of the task, and can lead a meaningful and relevant talk with someone on the phone (or in person).
Some other questions you may get in your account executive job interview
- How do you decide whether a deal is profitable for the company?
- Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.
- Do you prefer to get a fixed salary, or to be compensated for you work on a commission basis?
- What are your expectations on people from the marketing department, or on the account manager/director?
- What do you consider pivotal for success in sales, in this particular business/industry?
- Imagine that you haven’t sold anything for three weeks. The end of month is approaching, and you will miss your targets. What will you do?
- Try to sell me this notepad (or pen, or any other object in the room).
Conclusion, great answers to all questions
Interview for a job of an Account Executive belongs to difficult job interviews. You will typically compete with many other people (it is a fancy job title that attracts applications), and you will face some tricky situational and behavioral questions.
What’s more, they may do the role play with you (sell me this pen, or notepad, sell me your car)–a part of an interview most job seekers hate, and fail to pass.
If you aren’t sure how to deal with the questions and role play, or experience anxiety before the start of your interview, have a look at an eBook I wrote for you, the Account Executive Interview Guide. Multiple great answers to all tough questions you may get (including the role play) will help you relax, stand out in your interview, and get this great job at the end.
Thank you for checking it out, and good luck in your interview!
Matthew Chulaw, your personal interview coach
* You can also download the list of questions in a one page long .PDF document, print it, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:
- Sales interview questions – Account Executive is primarily a sales job. Learn how to answer some common interview questions for any position in sales.
- How to answer interview questions – It is not only about what you say, but also how you say it in an interview. And interesting insight on your interview presence, and a way of making a good impression.
- Salary negotiation tips – If everything goes well in your interview, you will talk about money at the end of it. Learn how to negotiate the best possible deal for yourself.