If your sales team has grown large enough to warrant role specialization, you'll not only need to shake up the organization's structure -- you must also revamp the hiring process. Prospecting and closing are two distinct tasks, so it doesn't make sense to ask the same interview questions to both sales rep and business development candidates.
Different jobs require different skills which necessitate different interviews.
Whether you're hiring your very first sales development rep, or have a well-established SDR program, these questions can help you identify the very best prospectors.
SDR Interview Questions
"How do you deal with rejection?"
"Give me your life story in 90 seconds."
"Pretend I'm a prospect. Describe our product or service to me."
"Why do you want to sell this product or service?"
"What's the last thing you learned that you thought was really interesting?
"What are some questions you'd ask prospects to evaluate if they're qualified or not?"
"Have you ever been in a customer service role? What were your favorite and least favorite parts?"
"Are you a team player?"
"If you had to teach a beginner an advanced concept, how would you approach the task?"
"Tell me about a time you faced a challenge. How did you deal with it, and what motivated you to keep going?"
"Leave me a voicemail."
"Could I give you some feedback? I would change X, Y, and Z. Now could you try again?"
"Do you have any questions for me?"
"What are some words or phrases you think would resonate with our target customer?"
"What separates the best SDRs from average SDRs?"
"Tell me about a time you had to get really good at a skill. What did you do to achieve that goal?"
"Where would your research a prospect before you reach out?"
"What do you think will be the most common objections you'll hear during a call? How would you handle them?"
"Do you enjoy being on the phone?"
"How would you talk about our biggest competitor?"
1. "How do you deal with rejection?"
As the people primarily responsible for cold calling and emailing, SDRs deal with an awful lot of rejection. If the candidate admits they get flustered or frustrated after an extended period of rejection, they're probably not cut out for the job. "Fall down seven times, stand up eight" is the mantra of the best SDRs.
2. "Give me your life story in 90 seconds."
As Mark Twain once said, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." Brevity is a talent, and it's one that prospects appreciate. This question reveals the candidate's ability to hit the critical points of a story in a short amount of time.
3. "Pretend I'm a prospect. Describe our product or service to me."
This question will not only reveal the amount of research the candidate did before the interview (which bodes well for their prospect researching skills), it also gives the hiring manager a chance to evaluate their ability to speak clearly and persuasively.
4. "Why do you want to sell this product or service?"
As Daniel Pink argued in his book Drive, internal motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose often trump external motivators like money or prestige. If the candidate has a personal reason for wanting to sell your product or service in particular, they'll likely approach their job with more passion and care.
5. "What's the last thing you learned that you thought was really interesting?"
A sense of curiosity is necessary in sales development. SDRs have to ask insightful questions to get to the heart of prospects' problems, and investigate their current environments. People with natural curiosity won't have a problem enthusiastically sharing something they learned with you. But if the candidate struggles to come up with an example, it might be a red flag.
6. "What are some questions you'd ask prospects to evaluate if they're qualified or not?"
Questions are key to an effective sales process. Listen for inquiries that go beyond BANT and indicate a deep understanding of your target buyer's problems and your company's solution.
7. "Have you ever been in a customer service role? What were your favorite and least favorite parts?"
People who have worked in customer service, retail, or the restaurant industry have undoubtedly dealt with complaints. If the candidate was able to keep their cool under pressure, they're likely well-equipped to field objections and handle rejection as an SDR. In addition, listen for a passion for helping others. They don't have to believe that the customer is always right, but they should maintain that the customer always deserves to be heard and supported.
8. "Are you a team player?"
Depending on your sales team structure, an SDR might support one sales rep in particular, or a number of reps. Ensure your candidate works well with others and takes pride in setting their colleagues up for success.
9. "If you had to teach a beginner an advanced concept, how would you approach the task?"
After countless hours of product training, salespeople are intimately familiar with their wares. Prospects, on the other hand, have a comparatively cursory understanding of your product -- no matter how much independent research they've done. For this reason, it's important that SDRs are able to explain potentially tricky or confusing topics in clear and simple terms.
10. "Tell me about a time you faced a challenge. How did you deal with it, and what motivated you to keep going?"
Prospecting is tough. An SDR might make 10, 20, or 50 calls in a row with no answer. Where will they draw their inspiration to keep dialing? This question will expose the candidate's primary motivators.
11. "Leave me a voicemail."
Short, personalized voicemails are the ideal. But if your candidate rambles on or stumbles a bit, no problem. Simply follow up with the next question.
12. "Could I give you some feedback? I would change X, Y, and Z. Now could you try again?"
Coachability is critical for sales development reps. Observe how well the candidate incorporates your feedback into their second attempt. This will indicate their level of coachability, as well as demonstrate their listening skills.
13. "Do you have any questions for me?"
To keep a prospect's attention, an SDR needs to model their conversational style after a game of tennis. Every time the prospect lobs the ball their way, they should send it right back with a question or interesting insight. If the candidate poses thought-provoking questions instead of the standard interview queries, chances are, they'll pepper their sales conversations with compelling questions.
14. "What are some words or phrases you think would resonate with our target customer?"
Sales is all about word choice and phrasing. Whether your organization uses a sales script or not, it's good to check if a candidate naturally gravitates to emotionally-charged words that will strike a chord with buyers.
15. "What separates the best SDRs from average SDRs?"
More activity doesn't always translate to better results. While solid performers work hard, the best SDRs work smart.
16. "Tell me about a time you had to to get really good at a skill. What did you do to achieve that goal?"
That being said, an SDR's day-to-day involves a lot of repetitive tasks in pursuit of a higher objective. Make sure they're up for it. HubSpot's Global Director of Business Development Justin Hiatt asks this question to make sure candidates understand goal-setting and are willing to put in the time to perfect their skills.
17. "Where would you research a prospect before you reach out?"
Even if a candidate isn't well acquainted with your industry, they should still understand the power of social networks and search to familiarize themselves with the prospect's background. "What do you mean, research?" is probably an interview-ending answer.
18. "What do you think will be the most common objections you'll hear during a call? How would you handle them?"
Anticipating and preparing for objections is the key to neutralizing them. If the candidate has already thought about the objections they'd field as an SDR before the interview, you can rest assured that they understand and live this rule.
19. "Do you enjoy being on the phone?"
Phone prospecting is a huge part of any SDR's day.
"I’ve had candidates tell me they’re hesitant to be on the phone all the time, which is a huge red flag for me," Hiatt writes. "You simply cannot be in sales and be afraid of the phone."
Make sure your candidates are comfortable being on the phones for long stretches of time -- it's a crucial part of their job.
20. "How would you talk about our biggest competitor?"
When SDRs reach out to a new prospect for the first time, the prospect might have comparison questions between your product and that of your competitors. It's important that SDRs are equipped with the right talking points to compare the products and qualify the prospect while being respectful.
Listen for answers that suggest the candidate has done research about your industry, your product, and its competitors. But if they haven't, make sure their response is measured, objective, and not disparaging. You don't want your employees to be known for bad-mouthing the competition, which will devalue your legitimacy and make your team appear to be untrustworthy.