You’re ready to add a business development representative (BDR) to your team. What interview questions should you ask a potential BDR to make sure they’re the right fit for your organization?
BDRs need to have strong interpersonal communication skills, a resilient mindset, and a strategic approach to their work that drives results. The questions you ask need to assess these qualities, but you also need to assess the (often poorly defined) “culture fit” with your team. Our list has a bit of both.
Top Interview Questions to Ask a BDR
It’s your first time talking to a new, qualified lead. How would you begin the conversation? What would be your goal for that interaction?
Their answer here will give you some insight into their sales approach, and the process they follow. If you have a longer sales cycle, they’re probably not qualifying the lead on the first call, but a BDR will still want some kind of measurable goal (such as booking a follow-up call) to determine the call’s success.
What do you know about [insert your company name]?
This might seem basic, but an interview is essentially a sales pitch, and you want to know that the candidate knows how to research their prospect (in this case, you) before contacting them. This requires more than showing they’ve poked around your website and About page, but demonstrating an understanding of your company and industry, and ideally targeting how they can add value to your organization.
How would you sell a rotten apple?
To assess persuasive skills, you might ask something like “how would you sell a [insert undesirable item].” This might seem a little absurd, but it can reveal a lot about how they think, and their ability to generate demand. Of course, you can revise the question to be more relevant to your organization, such as swapping out “rotten apple” for an undesirable service.
The point isn’t that your own product or service is undesirable, but seeing how well they can anticipate objections and frame their pitch. Regardless of the question you choose, make sure each candidate gets the same question, so it’s easier to make side-by-side comparisons.
Who do you owe your success to?
This question helps you assess someone’s humility. Humility correlates highly with learning ability, intelligence, and leadership skills (Jeff Bezos cites humility as the number one sign of intelligence). Pay attention to the candidates who don’t try to impress you with name dropping.
What KPIs do you use to gauge your performance?
A BDR needs to have a way to gauge their performance, and that requires more than just the number of qualified leads they pass off to an account executive. Having a good set of personal KPIs indicates they have a measurable way to assess (and improve) their performance.
How did you add value to your last organization?
Despite being a “story” type of question (which tends to favor smooth talking candidates), this question also gives the candidate an opportunity to show how they helped their organization beyond the scope of their role. This kind of initiative and leadership skill can show higher potential for growth on your team.
How do you maintain organization during the work day?
A BDR’s day can be chaotic, and so good candidates will have a system for managing and prioritizing tasks. Even if their current system isn’t fully compatible with your organization, having a strong system in place is a good sign.
What is your experience with each of the following: CRM software, outreach tools, prospecting software, or any other sales software or tools?
While soft skills are essential in a BDR role, you will have a much easier time onboarding a new hire if they already have experience with your tech stack (or at very least, they’re familiar with similar tools that have transferable skills)
How would you improve our interview process?
If your BDR role requires creative approaches to prospecting (such as figuring out the best way to enter new market territory), you’ll want to screen for originality. Save questions like this for the end of the interview process, to give you a better idea of how they think and approach open-ended problems.
A Quick Note on Behavioral Questions
You may have noticed that our list doesn’t have any behavioral questions (“tell me about a time when…”). While these can give you a good sense for someone’s communication skills, motivations, and mindset, they aren’t always a great predictor of job performance.
Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant finds those questions can give an unfair advantage to candidates with the richest experience, which doesn’t always translate to being the best value-add.
Behavioral questions aren’t a great predictor of job performance.
For instance, when you ask about a time they handled a conflict with a colleague, you will tend to get the best answer from the person who encountered the biggest conflict. It also puts them in a “memory-retrieval” mode, rather than a “problem-solving” mode, and problem-solving skills will give you a better indication of their competency.
Instead, try asking situational or hypothetical questions like the ones from our list above. These are especially good for forecasting a candidate’s best performance, leadership skills, and interpersonal skills.
Asking Culture Fit Questions to a BDR Candidate
Culture fit questions are tricky, because unfortunately it becomes less about “how well would this person add value to the team” and more about “how much would this interviewer want to grab a beer with this candidate,” which doesn’t necessarily correlate to better job performance (even if it can have some positive effects on morale).
Concepts like Cialdini’s principle of “Liking” can work against you here, where a candidate gets preference due to superficial commonalities with the interviewer, like growing up in the same city or loving the same sports team.
Culture fit questions aren’t particularly challenging, but they can give you a better understanding of the person you’re talking to. Bear in mind it’s often more important to make sure your hiring process involves multiple team members meeting the candidate, and some kind of objective scoring system to filter out the “personable yet under-qualified” candidates.
It’s usually helpful to start with these types of questions to make the interview more of a conversation than an interrogation, since sometimes the best candidates don’t actually perform well in interviews due to nervousness and other factors (and confidence doesn’t actually predict good performance).
Bonus: Culture Fit Questions to Consider
Now that you understand the shortcomings of culture fit questions and behavioral questions (and what better questions look like), you can incorporate them more mindfully into your interview process.
These first two sections are examples of effective culture fit questions but remember: don’t weigh them as heavily as the questions from the list above. These are simply to get a more well-rounded sense of how the person will work with your team.
Questions to Assess How They Handle Setbacks
Adversity and setbacks are part of the job as a BDR, so you want someone who is resilient and able to approach mistakes and setbacks effectively, rather than someone who is easily discouraged. This might include questions like:
- Imagine a project doesn’t go as planned. [Give an example situation they might deal with]. How would you handle it?
- Imagine you make a mistake, such as [example mistake they might make in their role]. How would you handle it?
Questions to Understand Motivations, Values, and Teamwork
These interview questions help you assess whether a potential BDR will fit in your team’s culture. Does your organization praise status and competition, or growth and collaboration? How does your team handle conflict? Pay attention to the way the candidate answers, as it will reveal how well their values align with yours.
- What’s your ideal role?
- How might you cover for a coworker who overlooked a key task?
- Imagine a coworker took credit for something you accomplished. How would you handle it?
- Tell me 3 positive things your boss or supervisor would say about you.
When to Skip Interviews Altogether
It’s hard to predict whether a BDR candidate will perform well or not based on an interview alone. Even for a great new employee, it might take a year or more until the BDR is up to speed and can deliver strong results at your company.
If you need tangible results quickly or have a short runway in which to generate revenue, outsourcing may be a better fit. This way, you can avoid the time and costs of vetting and training new BDRs and drive revenue quickly. If his approach sounds like something you’d like to explore, check out our guide to partnering for outsourced sales development.
Considering Outsourced Sales Development?
Don't make your decision until you read our guide to creating a successful partnership for growth.