Strategies for a World-Class SDR Program

A Double-Edged Sword: Hiring Sharp Sales Talent Out of College

Sales Development Interviews

The idea of a double-edged sword came to mind as I read Ed Shineman’s article on recruiting sales development talent directly out of college.

As I evaluate candidates for sales development representatives at SmartRecruiters, I know that hiring recent graduates offers a chance to shape a promising new SDR with no bad habits to break. But with no experience to go on, it’s far more difficult to assess whether a new graduate would be a good fit. It can be difficult to tell if a new graduate even wants to be an SDR at all, let alone knows what it means.

You can find great SDRs with proven track records, but there’s plenty of potential on college campuses. Here are some tips to keep in mind when considering recent grads for your sales development team.

Communication and drive

First, I agree with Ed on the idea of not putting too much focus on academics or major fields of study. After all, plenty of students change majors. What’s more important is whether or not they’ve learned the ability to communicate effectively. Some of the best SDRs I’ve hired majored in the liberal arts.

But while Ed feels that a candidate’s extracurricular activities aren’t that relevant, I disagree. Any activity that demonstrates competitiveness, such as athletics or fundraising for a fraternity or sorority, impresses me. Why? It impresses me because that kind of effort shows a natural knack and desire for sales.

More listening, less talking

What other traits should you look for in graduating students?

One of the most important traits is listening. As I explained in “10 Traits of Great Sales Development Rep Hires,” outstanding SDRs listen more than they talk. If they do talk, it’s to ask smart questions. But if a candidate interrupts you while you are talking, then that is a red flag.

Listening ties into many other qualities such as curiosity, respect, and integrity that I discussed in my post.

Ask the right questions

As you interview recent college graduates, think about what you’re looking for and look to match a profile to your existing team.

The process should start with a phone screen. For an SDR position, a simple phone call can be quite revealing as it demonstrates the candidate’s level of comfort with talking on the phone.

You should also consider conducting a brief cold call role-play as part of the phone screening process. As the role-play scenario unfolds, it is okay to guide them through it. Does the candidate seem coachable? Do you get a sense that they’re willing to adjust their process and thinking?

A post I wrote for LinkedIn, “The Most Important Interview Questions for Hiring Great SDRs” includes questions I think are most valuable.

In that article, I discuss asking candidates to explain something they recently learned in a way that allows you to understand it. You will learn if your candidate can quickly explain an unfamiliar topic at a high level without diving into the nitty-gritty.

One typical interview question that drives me absolutely nuts is the tired old, “What’s your biggest weakness?” How cliché! Instead, I ask candidates to tell me about a time they failed. That’s far more meaningful as I’m asking someone to tell me a story that should be about a lesson they learned that changed their thinking. After all, failure comes with the territory if you want to be a SDR.

The most revealing questions I ask are focused on why a candidate wants to be an SDR at SmartRecruiters. Instead of asking directly, I ask questions that reveal whether they did any prep work for the interview. Do they know what an SDR does? Do they know anything about our company? If not, that’s a show-stopper.

Closing their own deal

Finally, when evaluating candidates, whether recent grads or experienced reps, take note of their questions. If a candidate is asking what it would take for me to hire them and they’re trying to close the sale on themselves. That’s music to my ears.

Originally posted on the SmartRecruiters blog: LINK

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Chris Bryson

Chris Bryson

Chris Bryson is a sales development leader that specializes in tactical execution, developing talent, and helping startups accelerate pipeline growth. He has held roles in both sales and sales operations in addition to his focus on sales development.

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