When it comes to sales development hiring, managers tend to have one fatal flaw. They place too much weight on past experience and not enough on talent and aptitude. Hiring managers should conduct behavioral interviews to truly find the best candidates for the job. An impressive resume can be a decent predictor of future success, but hiring for talent provides a more stable foundation to develop on.
In my opinion, interviewing is by far the most important part of the hiring process. Many hiring managers get wooed by smooth-talking candidates, but don’t understand how to dig deeper to separate quantifiable experience from the candidates who just know how to spin a good story.
At HubSpot, we conduct a series of behavioral interviews with every sales development rep candidate. Here are the six key attributes we’re looking for, with example questions we ask to support each attribute.
18 Tried-And-True Sales Development Rep Interview Questions
1) Track Record of Achievement
What we ask: What is your greatest achievement? What puts that above the others? What did you learn from that experience?
Why we ask it: We’re looking for candidates who have something remarkable to hang their hats on. They don’t necessarily need to have sales-related wins in their past, but they must prove they have the talent and “it” factor to go above and beyond.
2) Results and Goal-Oriented
What we ask: What goals have you set for yourself this year? What have you done to hit them? How did you go about setting these goals?
Why we ask it: Ultimately, I’m looking for an answer that demonstrates the candidate dedicated a lot of time and effort to achieving a goal -- and understands how to even set a goal in the first place. Goal-setting tests resilience and determination, two qualities essential to sales success. All sales professionals are set quotas, but to overachieve one has to set and achieve personal goals.
We’re also looking to hire people who want to have high velocity toward promotion and career development (more on that later), and to do that successfully they can’t just rely on their managers to set goals for them -- they have to do so independently.
3) Sales Desire
What we ask: Why is sales a career you’re interested in pursuing? If you get this position, where do you want to take your career? What are two strengths you have that will lead you to success? What do you feel will be most enjoyable about the position? What do you feel will be most challenging?
Why we ask it: Your sales development team should be a feeder into quota-carrying sales positions. Hiring internally from your SDRs is lower-risk because they’ve already been in your organization for at least 12 months and have proven their ability to develop skills and perform. In fact, HubSpot SDRs who have been promoted outperform external hires by nearly 40% in their first year as a sales representative.
With that in mind, it’s important to hire people who will stick it out and want to be part of your organization for a long time.
Asking about what they will enjoy helps me understand what motivates them. Their answer should align with what motivates your current top performers. Asking about challenges is also a useful way to weed out bad fits. For example, 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 -- you simply cannot be in sales and be afraid of the phone.
What we ask: Who’s the best coach you’ve ever had in your life and why? What did they teach you? How can you apply those lessons to your job?
Why we ask it: We’re looking for people who can be taught something and develop a skill quite quickly. We also hire quite a lot of our SDRs straight out of college, and so we don’t expect them to know how to sell -- we just need to know that we can teach them how to do so quickly.
5) Commitment to Learning
What we ask: What is the last thing you taught yourself? Why did you decide to learn it? How would you apply this skill to your position?
Why we ask it: Have you ever interviewed a candidate who really struggled to identify one thing they’ve learned or want to learn? That’s a bad sign. The ideal candidate needs to be hungry to learn -- they don’t know much about sales, and there’s so much they need to pick up. If they’re not committed to taking initiative on learning something new, it doesn’t bode well for their ability to learn your sales playbook, messaging, sales process, and common objections.
This is also a great way to test intellectual curiosity. I’ve found that the best SDRs who are personally committed to learning carry that trait over to their prospects. Showing a genuine passion to learn helps prospects open up about their priorities and leads to more impactful conversations.
What we ask: Tell me about a time you failed or something didn’t quite go your way.
Why we ask it: This question is the flip side of a track record of achievement. Not everyone will have had a formative career failure -- in fact, given the youth of many sales development candidates, most won’t have one. But you need to test for resilience and grit. The sales development role can undoubtedly be a grind, and candidates need to demonstrate they’ll be able to tough out the bad days.
These six attributes define the ideal HubSpot SDR candidate persona and are the most important to our sales managers, but your ideal candidate profile will vary based on your own persona that best fits your sales organization’s needs.
Examine your best salespeople or sales development reps and define commonalities in their strengths, creating a “persona” for your ideal SDRs. To build a set of behavioral interview questions like the ones we use at HubSpot, identify the ideal answers which align with the attributes you’ve defined, so you can design questions that’ll uncover exactly the information you want to extract.
What questions do you use to interview sales development reps? Let us know in the comments below.
Originally published Mar 16, 2016 12:00:00 PM, updated October 01 2019