How to Hire a Top-Performing SDR: Questions to Ask on the Interview

When the pandemic hit back in 2019, every industry faced a challenge. Yet, businesses globally are fighting to be successful, get new customers, and grow their sales funnels. That’s why sales development representatives (SDRs) are still being hired every day.

An SDR is a person who communicates with potential clients with a goal in mind to set an appointment. SDRs are the ones who are responsible for boosting sales even in times of trouble.

These people have to be resilient, enthusiastic, and adaptable. They have to be interested in sales, ready to overcome challenges, and keep working through mistakes. How can you make sure your sales team has the right people?

To recruit a perfect candidate, you have to ask all the right SDR interview questions and look for a well written CV. Some of them may be generic, some of them may be very sales-specific, yet you do need to know as much as possible about candidates before you hire them.

The majority of CIENCE employees are SDRs, so we practice SDR recruiting every day. We’ll walk you through SDR recruiting questions and what you can expect from their answers. 


20 SDR Interview Questions and the Answers You Want

We’ve selected these twenty questions as the most useful so you can find the perfect SDR candidate during the interview:

1. Tell me about yourself in a few minutes.

This is the most general question you can ask your future SDR. However, it serves an apparent goal—the time limit is meant to highlight what your candidate thinks is their most important qualities. Plus, it’s an excellent way to start a conversation and get to know a person in front of you. 

2. What do you know about our company?

It’s a basic rule of job-seeking etiquette. Before a candidate walks through your door, you expect them to know at least your company’s name and a general understanding of the services you provide. If they know more, then it gives them some extra points for curiosity. 

“You'd be surprised how often people don’t even bother to visit the web page of the company they are applying to. We need to see that the candidates are invested as much as we are,” says Rade Kemalova, Head of Sales Development at CIENCE. “You don’t need to know every single detail, but you need to be invested enough to explain the concepts we're working with, in your own words.”

3. What do you know about the SDR role?

It may seem like an unnecessary interview question, yet an SDR or BDR position is a great role to start your career in sales. If a candidate has no experience, they may not have the right idea, so you’ll need to do some educating. Nonetheless, it means a great deal if a candidate studied the job description and researched the Internet. 

“If the candidates spend at least five to ten minutes to get the basics of the job, the chances are high that they’ll be interested enough to complete the training and learn the various value propositions in-depth. That shows commitment,” says Rade Kemalova.

4. Why are you interested in sales?

Whether they have no experience or years in sales, it’s essential to understand why a person pursues a career in this industry. It can be challenging, and it requires a certain mindset, so what makes people do it? Financial motivation is important, but perhaps they also crave a challenge? Love the competition? You want your future SDR not only to be good at what they do but also enjoy what they’re doing. 

5. Why did you leave your last workplace?

The reason for leaving the previous company can indicate what your candidate is seeking from the new employer. Did they hit a glass ceiling? Did they lack corporate benefits? Or were they in a conflict with their team? Answers given by your candidate here can lead you to the next SDR interview question.


6. What’s your ideal workplace?

Just as with personal relationships, you want your work experience to be healthy and long-lasting. To ensure worker retention, a company needs to have a strong and positive corporate culture. According to Lensa's Workplace Demands 2022 research, remote work has become the most popular desire among employees in the United States. For instance, CIENCE is all about transparency, data-driven decision-making, respect, growth, and fun. If a candidate highlights even one of these values for the perfect workplace, then it’s a match!


7. What do you do when something doesn’t go as planned?

Every customer or lead is unique, so it only makes sense that sales don’t always go as planned: A cold call can drift off from the direction of a calling script, an appointment can be rescheduled at the last minute, or there can be a mistake in the email sending sequence. A good SDR knows how to cope with unpredictable circumstances and adapt to get the best possible outcome.

8. What non-sales skills would you like to evolve during your work at our company?

Your workers will spend some time at your company (the longer, the better, of course), and they will become more and more proficient in sales. Yet, what else do they want to master? To get better at accepting critique or hone time management skills? This BDR interview question is great to see if a candidate is curious to learn something new

“Curiosity is fundamental for an SDR candidate. As an SDR, you need to learn how to read people, and you need the drive to understand where they are coming from. Curiosity is the trait that will lead you to learn more. About anything,” says Rade Kemalova. 

9. Draw an example of how you recently overcame a challenge.

Challenges happen to us all the time, yet the word itself seems so unpleasant. You may note that the candidate doesn’t have to get too personal to describe this situation; just a general overview will show you what a challenge is to this individual and what actions are taken to overcome it. 

10. What are the last few books you’ve read?

Of course, it’s nice if you read something on the topic of sales to show your professional development, but an interviewer also wants to know what kind of a person you are. And to find that out, we talk about movies, hobbies, and books. For instance, we have an internal book club at CIENCE where we share thoughts on various genres of literature.

If you are looking for a book to read before becoming an SDR, here is a recommendation from our CMO, Eric Quanstrom:

“If you want to understand sales well, this is a foundational place to start would be The Challenger Customer by Brent Adamson, et al. This book is a deep dive into how people buy in the B2B world.”

11. What do you think will be the most common objections you’ll hear during a call? How would you handle them?

Objections are a part of the sales job. A good salesperson knows how to differentiate the objection from the rejection, and most importantly, knows how to overturn it. It's one of the first SDR interview questions to determine how candidates will act if the objection is presented to them.

12. If you had to teach a beginner an advanced concept, how would you approach the task?

SDRs work in every industry globally, and sometimes the services they present to potential clients may sound complicated. To avoid misunderstandings, a salesperson has to know how to explain a concept straightforwardly, use simpler words and analogies, and start from the beginning. If your candidates have the same take on this question, they will have no trouble communicating with prospects.

13. Do you consider yourself a team player?

This question is traditional for any job role, not only BDRs. And though being a sales rep involves a lot of individual effort, you still have to be intact with your team members and other groups. Being open to making social connections at work is already the first sign of a great team player. 

14. What is your method for organizing your day?

A day in the life of an SDR includes lots of activities: double-checking leads, preparing personalization, getting contacts ready for send-out, answering emails that come back from prospects, calling them up, filling up the reports, and repeating the process. The principle here is to do everything at the right time. How would your candidate prioritize those tasks in their schedule? 

15. Do you enjoy talking to people?

It’s simply a part of the job. You’ll communicate with your teammates, clients, and potential customers, so being a bit of a chatterbox is a great bonus. 

“Communications skills go without saying! As an SDR, you talk to people, all day every day. Whether it's on the phone, email, or chat—you need to be able to find a path to each prospect, get them talking and lead the conversation," says Rade Kemalova.


16. Let’s role-play a conversation.

It’s a crucial task to see your candidate in action. You can choose any of the channels for your role-play: phone, email, or voicemail. The situation you present to your candidate can be a mundane scene from a daily SDR workflow or be a tricky situation that needs to be handled delicately. Either way, it helps to see if a potential employee can handle different scenarios.

17. I’ve gotten some feedback. Could you try again, but change X, Y, and Z?

After the role-play, you have a great opportunity to test your candidate’s ability to learn and accept critique. If the response to this interview question is calm and collected, with assured confidence to try again to do better—you may see the perfect SDR student in action.

18. What do you do when you have a bad sales day?

Every job has its ups and downs, and bad sales days happen. The important thing about those days is how we reboot and learn to overcome barriers. An SDR has to remember that tomorrow may be the day that tops existing records. How do they maintain a healthy balance? Do they take breaks doing something they love, laugh a bit, listen to some music, or reach out to colleagues?

19. What do you think makes us most excited about you as a candidate?

This is an interesting take on the “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” question, except it focuses on their strengths and lets potential team members know that you are excited to talk to them.

Rade Kemalova shares her thoughts on the perfect SDR candidate:

“Everyone wants to find a perfect candidate with years of relevant experience, and of course, we look at the background of each candidate. But at the same time, I think sales development is a great place to jump-start your career in sales, and the SDR role is where you start. So we welcome any background, recent graduates who are looking to start their careers, and people with years of experience in other industries who can share the wisdom—the SDR profile gets rather diverse!”

20. Do you have any questions for us?

After you’ve finished your part of SDR recruiting, you have to let a candidate ask some questions. It can be on details of the job or some organizational moments; either way, it’s good if a person has questions. It shows that they are interested in the position you may offer them. Talk to them about their aspirations and how they want to grow, this is fundamental since only 32% of workers say they have been offered opportunities for promotion.

Find the Right SDR for Your Business

A search for a good teammate is complicated and has a high responsibility level: A candidate has to have what it takes to be a great SDR, be interested in the company, and be ready to learn and work hard. It takes a lot of time, but if you put in all the effort and follow our tips, you can build a great team of SDRs.

Find Your Perfect SDR at CIENCE