It’s job search season once again, and the pressure is kicking in. While many students are feeling unsure and discouraged about their future, it is important to remember that this process can be just as grueling for recruiters. Recruiters should understand that their company’s interview model may not entirely reflect a candidate’s personality and ability to perform in sales. To avoid the many challenges and risks to the hiring process, recruiters should explore different definitions and metrics to assess the ideal sales candidate.
What Are the Challenges of Recruiting for Entry Level Sales
The hiring process inevitably requires an investment of time and resources, and recruiters’ jobs are to make sure that it pays off. When we hire a person unfit for a sales team, we take the risk of losing the investment. This prompts turnover and attrition, which then prompts another investment in re-hiring and ongoing stresses.
The root of the problem is that sales recruiters have difficulty assessing accountable, empathetic, and driven individuals during the interview process. It usually takes 3 to 9 months after onboarding to see if someone’s fit for a sales role, and with the median turnover of SDRs 34% (The Bridge Group), by that time an individual is ramped up, the financial and time losses are significant. In addition, less than 40 percent of sales organizations surveyed feel they consistently hire top sales talent and 50 percent say their sales candidate screening process allows underperforming talent to slip through (The Brooks Group).
To overcome the challenges of the hiring process and the turnover of SDRs, what are the best qualities to evaluate and methods to use when hiring an SDR (sales development representative) out of college?
Tips for Hiring Recent College Graduates for Your Sales Team
Communication Skills: The handy tool about sales hiring is that recruiters can assess how well a candidate will perform based on how well they sell themselves. The journey starts with the interview. How well can this candidate hold a steady conversation and execute a clear and concise message during the interview? The whole conversation will give recruiters a general idea, but they can also ask behavioral questions to assess communication skills. They could ask about how a candidate would hypothetically simplify complex information to explain to a colleague who knows nothing about the topic.
Accountability: Punctuality, time management, and productive work habits all fall under the umbrella of accountability. The bulk of sales work is individual, but team-work and accountability is necessary to streamline operations. Sometimes recruiters can assess accountability by how early or late they show up to the interview. During the interview, however, assessing accountability can be complicated. You could ask the candidate about an experience when they had to work in a fast-paced environment and how they reacted to it. Given the speedy nature of sales, their answer will most likely predict how they will perform.
Empathy: Sales recruiters should seek college students who have a strong sense of empathy. SDRs must practice empathy when calling each individual prospect. Developing relationships with prospects helps them to understand pain points and how to communicate the solution that best fits each prospect’s needs. To assess empathy in an interview, you could ask the applicant about an experience in which when they dealt with a difficult colleague. How did they handle the situation? You want a candidate who takes the time to understand diverse perspectives in a situation. If a candidate can relate and build relationships well, the sky’s the limit in an SDR role.
Motivation to Learn and Grow: Most college students have an eagerness to learn and develop new skills when applying for an entry-level sales job, but it is still very important to confirm in an interview. The sales process steps are all about growth, whether it’s company revenue streams, sales strategies, a relationship with a prospect, or overall professional development. To assess this in an interview, you could ask the candidate about a time when they received criticism. If a candidate did not express a willingness to grow through feedback, that’s a red flag. The know-it-all attitude is not attractive nor will it contribute to the growth of your sales team.
Ability to Think Critically: In the sales process steps, a lot of nuanced issues arise, and the solutions can be uncertain. The ideal sales candidate should be able to exercise sound reasoning to analyze problems. This requires the ability to obtain, interpret, and use the information to find solutions and use sales strategies. You should ask behavioral questions to assess critical thinking. The candidate can walk you through how they would deal with a hypothetical situation that requires problem-solving and thinking outside of the box.
Grit: Sales recruiters typically seek out SDRs with alpha personalities, because they are usually the ones who can win you over. They will study the sales process steps over the long term until they master them. To evaluate a candidates’ grit in an interview, you could ask about a time when they had to motivate others, possibly in a leadership position. You could also ask a behavioral question that assesses how they would motivate others in a hypothetical situation. Based on their answers, look for DISC: dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientiousness.
These six areas in this specific highlight their importance. Without communication skills and accountability, the rest of the qualities barely matter! And while grit is a huge plus, it is not the only quality that can make a candidate a well-performing SDR. Recruiters should dive deep in the interview process to better predict the candidate’s likeliness of success in a sales role and to reduce the turnover of SDRs. If the first five qualities line up, sometimes students just need to be given the opportunity to prove themselves and learn more about sales strategies. They just need someone to say “I believe in you!” to transition into a successful sales development representative role.