If you want your sales team – and your business – to succeed, you need to hire the best.
So, how can you make sure you’re only hiring the best candidates?
I’ve got you covered.
In this guide, we’ll cover the interview process – and the best sales interview questions to ask your SDR candidates.
Table of Contents
- The Best SDR Sales Interview Questions to Ask
- 1. Why do you want to work here?
- 2. Why are you leaving (did you leave) your previous job?
- 3. How would you sell me this ____?
- 4. What was a time when you felt defeated, and how did you handle it?
- 5. What interests you about our products/services?
- 6. Who is our target customer?
- 7. How do you handle critical feedback?
- 8. How do you handle stress?
- 9. When was the last time you learned a new skill?
- 10. What’s your approach to lead qualification?
- 11. What’s your proudest accomplishment?
- 12. What kind of work environment is ideal for you?
- 13. What’s your biggest weakness?
- 14. What would you do if faced with a dry spell?
- 15. How do you handle objections?
- 16. You call me, but I’m not available. What do you say on the voicemail?
- 17. Can you change ____ and try again?
- 18. What motivates you?
- 19. Why should we hire you instead of someone else?
- 20. What makes a SDR exceptional?
- 21. Do you have any questions for me?
- The 8 Traits of an Ideal SDR
- What to Observe During the Sales Interview
The Best SDR Sales Interview Questions to Ask
Let’s start by taking a look at the best SDR sales interview questions.
1. Why do you want to work here?
It’s a simple question, but an important one. Is this person genuinely interested in your industry and brand? Or is this just one of 100 applications they filled out in the desperate attempt to secure a paycheck?
You can’t blame people for being motivated by money, but ideally, they’ll want something more…
2. Why are you leaving (did you leave) your previous job?
This question is revealing in multiple ways. First, you’ll get a sense for what inspired the person to leave; are they searching for better learning opportunities or was there an… unfortunate incident?
It’s also a great way to see how they talk about others. Do they trash their former boss? Or are they positive about their prior experiences?
3. How would you sell me this ____?
“Sell me this pen!” One of my favorite sales interview questions. It’s a great way to test your candidate’s sales skills on the fly. Pick up a nearby object and ask your candidate to pitch it to you.
How do they describe it? How persuasive do they seem? Are they creative? Or are they just floundering under pressure?
4. What was a time when you felt defeated, and how did you handle it?
Let’s be real. Sales is a tough field. Most of your SDRs will, at some point, feel discouraged and defeated (even if your company is awesome).
So give them a test. Figure out how they respond to feeling defeated.
5. What interests you about our products/services?
You sell the world’s best vacuum cleaner. What does your candidate think about it? This is an important question for several reasons.
First, it will show you whether or not this candidate has researched your company before the interview. It’s also a great way to see how they would frame the unique advantages of your product to a client.
And if they seem completely apathetic, it could be a sign they’re not a good fit.
6. Who is our target customer?
Again, this is a great test of preparedness. They don’t need to have the “right” answer, but they should show that they’ve given it some critical thought.
Who would like this product? Who would benefit from working with this company? And why?
7. How do you handle critical feedback?
Everyone has room for improvement. But some people… well, they just suck at taking criticism.
They either don’t listen or they take your feedback personally and act offended or wronged. It’s important to find a candidate who not only takes criticism in stride – but also looks forward to opportunities to improve.
8. How do you handle stress?
Sales can be stressful, especially when there’s a lot on the line.
A good manager can take steps to reduce that stress, but it’s still going to be important for your SDRs to manage their own stress.
9. When was the last time you learned a new skill?
It could be a sales skill, a skill for a different type of job, or just a generic life skill. It will tell you about this person’s personality and interests – and possibly reveal how much they value personal improvement.
10. What’s your approach to lead qualification?
Qualifying leads is a big part of most sales gigs, so you need to know this candidate is competent in it.
There are many viable strategies here – what’s important isn’t that they have the “right” answer, but that they have some kind of thought-out approach.
11. What’s your proudest accomplishment?
The accomplishment is interesting, but so is the attitude. With this question, you’ll learn about this person’s historical achievements, but also how they feel about their past efforts.
12. What kind of work environment is ideal for you?
This is mostly a work culture question. It’s a chance to get a feel for this candidate’s personal perspectives and attitudes toward work – so you can see if they’ll fit with the team.
13. What’s your biggest weakness?
Yeah, okay, it’s a stereotypical, cliché interview question. But for good reason! It’s not about tricking someone into revealing a great weakness or trying to get them to sell a weakness as a strength.
It’s a test to see if they’re humble and self-aware enough to understand their own weaknesses. Because guess what? Everybody has them.
14. What would you do if faced with a dry spell?
It’s been weeks since you made a sale. What do you do? It’s a vague question for a reason.
Your candidate should tell you not only how they would cope with the stress of the dry spell, but also how they would try to break it.
15. How do you handle objections?
I’ve written about sales objections before. Suffice it to say, I think the traditional “overcoming objections” approach is misguided, at best.
But like it or not, objections are a reality of any sales environment. And you need to figure out how this candidate is going to handle them.
16. You call me, but I’m not available. What do you say on the voicemail?
Pretend you’re a prospect and your candidate is calling you about your company’s product. What’s the voicemail like?
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They’ll have to improvise, which is a good test of their confidence and versatility.
17. Can you change ____ and try again?
Provide some critical feedback about that voicemail. Give your candidate direction on how to change it – and make them try again.
It’s a good test to see if this person is capable of receiving feedback well and adapting to your requested changes.
18. What motivates you?
We’re all motivated by different things. For some people, bonuses and monetary rewards are the greatest motivation. For others, personal improvement is everything.
Figure out what makes this person tick – so you can properly motivate them if you proceed with hiring them.
19. Why should we hire you instead of someone else?
I’m going to assume you have several candidates to choose from. Even if you don’t, pretend you do.
Ask this person what makes them different from other candidates – what are their unique traits and skills? Get it from them in their own words.
This is another of my favorite sales interview questions because it gets them to sell themselves to you. A true test!
20. What makes a SDR exceptional?
There are a lot of average SDRs. And a lot of below average SDRs. So what makes an SDR exceptional? Tons of sales, right?
Yes, of course. But what leads a person to land those sales? Is it charm? Superior product knowledge? Better relationship management? A sweet company car?
You’ll learn a lot about this person’s values and perspectives on sales.
21. Do you have any questions for me?
Job interviews should be two-sided. By the end, you’ll have asked all the questions you think are important – but your candidate may also have some questions for you!
Asking questions of you is a demonstration of interest (and usually an indication that they’ve done their homework).
The 8 Traits of an Ideal SDR
We all have different ideals and expectations for our sales reps. What works for one business may not work for another.
But in most environments, and for most brands, these qualities are the most important:
Successful salespeople tend to be confident. That confidence will inspire confidence in prospects and clients – and will help them recover from objections and rejections.
A person with 10 years of sales experience will probably outperform someone with no sales experience whatsoever. That said, experience isn’t everything. Someone relatively new to the sales game might add value because they’re young, energetic, motivated, and eager to prove themselves. Consider experience only as one factor in your hiring.
3. Organization and preparedness.
Is this the type of person who spends hours researching a topic before they go into a meeting? Or do they wake up 10 minutes before they have to leave and plan to “wing it?” Organization and preparedness count.
4. Communication skills.
From basic business etiquette to drafting a sales agreement, communication skills are an absolute must.
Sales is all about persuasion.
6. Culture fit.
An employee who fits with your culture is going to be more engaged, in a better mood, and more likely to practice teamwork – no matter what you culture is.
A sales rep with an appealing personality is always going to outperform a boring one, all other things being equal.
Does this person seem like a Negative Nancy who will constantly bring the team down? Or are they a Positive Polly who inspires optimism?
Our sales interview questions are designed to examine these qualities – and bring them to the surface.
What to Observe During the Sales Interview
Throughout the interview, it’s important to observe several things:
- The response. You’re asking the questions. Your candidates are providing answers. Those answers matter.
- Poise. Delivery and poise are part of the equation as well. When you asked that tough question, did the candidate stammer and fidget or did they remain calm and provide a confident response?
- Habits and mannerisms. Does this person interrupt you when you’re talking? Do they swear? Do they pick their nose? Most interview candidates will be on their best behavior, so if you notice egregiously off-putting habits, consider it a strike. After all, this person could be representing your business in client meetings soon.
In addition to these sales interview questions, don’t be afraid to ask some questions specific to your candidate. For example, you can ask them about their time with a specific company or prompt them to explain a recent gap in employment.
Oftentimes, these can tell you a lot more about your prospect than generic questions.
So what happens when you find (and hire) the perfect SDR?
Do they immediately start crushing sales and transforming your team?
The answer’s probably no. There’s an adjustment period – and nobody’s a perfect sales superstar anyway.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.