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Want to Work as a Sales Development Representative? Here’s How.

One of these people is a Sales Development Representative.

The Leads

If you want to break into startups, sales is a great place to start. But what does it take to succeed if you don’t know a cold call from a hot lead?

In a guest post from our friends at Greenhouse, we’re going to tell you just what it takes to become a successful Sales Development Representative.


The roles and responsibilities of SDRs can vary from company to company, but generally SDRs spend time prospecting (looking for potential contacts and customers) and doing a lot of outreach (emails and cold calls).

It’s a fast-paced environment where compensation is often tied to performance. But working in sales typically doesn’t require specific qualifications – it’s more about your aptitude and ability to meet goals.

Katie DiCioccio, Associate Recruiter at Greenhouse, gave us the lowdown on what she looks for in a Sales Development Representative.

What is your role in the recruiting process at Greenhouse?
I help support logistics throughout the recruiting process for our Ops and Tech jobs. I also run the hiring for our entry-level sales position, Sales Development Representative.

After a current SDR does an initial phone screen with the candidate, I’ll conduct a second phone interview. Then, if a candidate makes it to the on-site interview, I’m the first and last person to meet with them during their time in the office, and if we make an offer I’ll be the one to walk them through all the details.

Do you get a lot of applications for the role?
We’ve had over 500 candidates apply for the SDR role so far this year, and it’ll probably be 1,000 by the end of the year.

How would you describe the SDR role?
The SDR role is one that you have to grind to be successful in, but with it comes the opportunity to directly impact the bottom line of a growing startup. The Sales team drives the growth of our company, and the SDRs are the engine within that department.

What are some of the main characteristics of a good SDR?
Two qualities that we particularly test for in interviews are hunger and coachability.

“Hunger” refers to the excitement and motivation a candidate demonstrates for this job specifically. We really want candidates to have a compelling reason why they want to join Greenhouse in particular and why they want a career in sales.

A Sales Development Representative

When we talk about “coachability”, we’re really looking to see how well someone can hear feedback, absorb it, and deliver on it. And we definitely give them the opportunity to demonstrate this during the interview.

Do you only look for candidates who come from a sales background?
Not at all! We’ve hired SDRs from all sorts of backgrounds that have gone on to be successful. New grads, people from non-profits, fashion, recruiting, marketing – you name it. The bottom line is if the candidate can show that they’ve proven themselves in previously challenging scenarios and can bring a hard-working ambitious attitude to the role!

When you’re reviewing resumes for Sales Development Representative, what are you looking for? Any deal-breakers? Anything that really impresses you?
Deal-breakers are mainly detail-oriented things like typos or addressing other companies instead of Greenhouse.

Impressive points are where they pitch transferable skills or dive into the passion they have for our company’s mission, product, or culture.

How can someone demonstrate to you that their skills are transferable?
I look for things that show how well a candidate understands what the work environment would be like and that they have the ability to work under pressure. Some examples would be, if someone has worked with a quota or has made cold calls to alumni as a college student, they probably already thrive under pressure or feel comfortable on the phone.

What do you think about unconventional applications? Would you be more inclined to consider a candidate who approached you in a different way?
Absolutely! It always shows great initiative when a candidate either reaches out to me or a hiring manager directly on LinkedIn or especially via email because they would’ve had to do some digging to get our contact info. It shows they’re hungry and know how to prospect, which is an essential skill for the SDR role.

What are you looking for during interviews? Any deal-breakers or anything that really impresses you?
I’m looking for candidates who show they really want a career in sales, and that they’re able to hold a conversation well over the phone. People who stand out can speak succinctly, answer the question, and stay on topic. I’m also really impressed when people draw on varied experiences in their answers instead of only talking about one job or situation.

people in a meeting

It’s also a good sign when a candidate is aware of the person who’s interviewing them (e.g. recruiter vs. fellow SDR) and tailors their questions accordingly. I’m probably not going to be the best person to answer questions about day-to-day work on the sales team, so I appreciate when candidates realize that and save those questions for the portion of their interview when they’re speaking with other SDRs. I think this is especially important when interviewing for an SDR role because they’ll spend a lot of time speaking to different people and will need to easily adapt their messaging to a very specific audience.

If someone was considering an Sales Development Representative role at a few different companies, how should they determine the place that’s the best fit for them?
I’d look at a couple of things. There can be big differences between career advancement opportunities at startups vs. enterprise-level companies. Pay close attention to the leadership when interviewing at a company. Do you vibe well with the team and the person who would be your manager? I would also recommend checking out how the sales team fits within the org. And probably most importantly, make sure you feel comfortable in the environment, passionate about what company does, and can envision yourself going to work there every day.

Want to learn more about working at Greenhouse? Check out all their open roles here.

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