In a previous post, Tony Rodoni, SVP at Salesforce.com made the compelling case for why companies should be investing heavily in SDR teams. This thought process and the organizational change it drives is well underway at many innovative companies that Compile works with including Google, Pure Storage, MobileIron, IBM, FireEye and so many more.

Once a company has committed to this strategy, thoughts inevitably turn to staffing and running these lead qualification ninja groups.

Hiring for SDRs is a unique process when executed effectively. In many cases, companies look to the new college graduate ranks to fill these positions making the screening process that much tougher as there is typically very little career trajectory to review.

What to look for:

  • Tenacity / work ethic
  • Strong communication skills
  • Mental agility
  • Competitive DNA, “will to win”
  • Impromptu skills
  • Curiosity
  • Sales experience

What the resume hides

You will not find many of these items directly on a resume. Sure, you can determine if someone has succeeded this far in their journey, achieved certain grades or hit certain objectives, but well-constructed CVs only tell you cherry-picked facts about a person’s career passport. What’s worse, they can mask and obscure the blind spots and weaknesses that might just be Achilles heels for the role you are hiring for. This is why the “active interview” is so important.

Role playing for effective hiring

When hiring for the SDR function, I believe it’s imperative to role play and simulate the job, and create small experiments to probe for the attributes you’d like to see as results in those experiments, such as the ones suggested above. In fact, the first interview should not be in person!

This may seem counter-intuitive, but SDRs are not meeting clients face to face, they are engaging them in phone and email discussions. What is the candidate’s bedside manner in setting up the interview on email? Grammar and spelling? How adept are they at navigating the calendar dance? In the interview itself, how comfortable do they seem on the phone? How natural is the flow of the discussion? How well do they articulate their thoughts and communicate their interests? Do they ask probing questions about the role?

Even further, asking the candidate to simulate a cold call situation, perhaps with some context, perhaps with very little or none, can be very enlightening.

The SDR role requires many characteristics including a thick skin. Even the best and most experienced SDRs will inevitably be hung up on, told “no” up to 50 times on a bad day. Does the candidate get rattled by a tough curveball? Or do they rather impress you with their ability to curve it back on you? If they were told they are not likely to get the job they were interviewing for, would they dejectedly give up and walk out or calmly tell you you’re making a mistake and explain why?

Out of the box thinking

Yes, many will suggest that you should look for sports achievement which can be a solid marker for positive attributes for this role. I would place equal emphasis on background and context of their situation. Did this person have everything handed to them, or did they have to work hard to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps? Pay their way through college? Work crappy part time jobs during high school to make ends meet? Start a successful lawn mowing or dog walking company in their neighborhood? Tell me more!!

It’s my belief that the underlying facts of this “active interview” are far more important than the resume when hiring for the SDR role, and I would take positive results in these “experiments” over Ivy League pedigree any day of the week.