Three questions to ask in your SDR interview

If you’re venturing into the tech sales space for the first time, make sure potential employers are positioned to offer you a great career.
April 4, 2022

Consider the position workers find themselves in today. 

We’re in The Great Resignation, a period when millions are leaving their jobs and employers — and in an effort to retain staff or attract new hires — are committing to big paychecks and great perks. A market this favorable comes around very rarely and for that reason, you should consider a few important things before making your next big career move.

For folks venturing into the tech sales space for the first time, that next big career move may be the sales development representative (SDR) role, also known as business development representative (BDR), which is a great career launchpad into tech (just ask the 30+ Fivetranners who came through our program). 

And the market for SDR candidates is more competitive than ever. Those interviewing in this crazy labor market have the upper hand — with or without the right experience, training or proven track record. But those just starting may lack the wherewithal and interview experience to know how to pick the right tech company. 

Ask yourself and new employer some tough questions

I started at Fivetran seven months ago as an enterprise BDR manager, and I can’t even begin to describe how lucky I am to have landed at such an incredible company. I didn’t always have it this good. My sales career began after I graduated college and backpacked around the world for a couple years. Once I ran out of money and somehow found my way home, an SDR role at a startup fell into my lap.

I didn’t have the experience, training or confidence to really succeed at the job, but I would have done just about anything to get out of my parents' house. I erred here and there, but what I learned early was that the job suited my personality. I’m super goal oriented, and I love having the ability to control my own destiny. The harder I work, the more successful I become. 

What I didn’t have was the good fortune of being a job seeker in this market. A battle is raging on the recruiting grounds. I’m going round for round with other tech companies, competing for a limited pool of candidates. Unfortunately, some companies will tell you just about anything to get you to sign on that dotted line.

The thing I tell all SDR candidates I speak to before accepting a job offer is to ask the hiring manager three direct questions.

1. How often do you promote SDRs to AEs and CSMs? Prove it.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies out there that make false claims about how quickly they promote SDRs. I can’t tell you how many candidates I speak to regularly who are on their journey to a second SDR stint. They were promised that if they hit their 12-month number they’d be promoted from SDR to AE. 

Typically, companies will keep you in the seat for their self-interest for 18+ months (you’re hitting quota consistently so why would they move you out) or there are zero roles open because the company’s growth is stagnant. So how do you avoid ending up at a place like that? 

Challenge them. Make them prove it by providing some real examples of reps who were promoted. Ask to speak to an AE who just recently moved up. Trust me, if the company wants you, they’ll be transparent. Fivetran has grown by 100 percent over the last six months alone, and we’ve promoted well over 10 BDRs in that timeframe. 

2. What’s the culture like? Is it a collaborative and fun workplace?

You won’t find a tech startup out there that doesn’t claim to have a “great culture.” You spend a third of your life at work, so it’s important to get this piece right. You want to make sure your next employer offers a healthy, fun and supportive workplace culture — the kind that takes the edge off of the inherent pressure and grind that comes with being in sales. 

You want an employer that shows appreciation in meaningful ways. An employer that invests dollars into company culture, office space, happy hours, team gatherings and lunches. Fivetran recently sent the entire company to Mexico on a five-day retreat. It wasn’t about sitting in conference rooms all day. It was about building new and stronger relationships with coworkers (while ripping it up on Jet skis).

3. Does the company have a “nice-to-have” or “need-to-have” product?

I can’t stress this enough. It’ll make your life as a SDR 1000x harder if you’re selling a product that nobody needs or wants. You need to know there’s verifiable demand for whatever it is you’ll be selling. An easy way to determine that is to ask:

  1. Is there inbound demand for the product? What percentage of the company’s revenue comes from inbound?
  2. Did the company hit revenue targets last quarter? Are you on track to hit this quarter? Have you hit QoQ?

If they can’t answer those questions, that’s a red flag. Do your own due diligence: go on G2 Crowd and see how it compares to the rest of the field. Do they appear in any Gartner Magic Quadrants? Search the social networks to see what kind of buzz trails the company, and ask knowledgeable friends or associates for their opinion. 

You’re doing yourself a disservice by not asking these questions. I always tell candidates you’re interviewing us as much as we’re interviewing you. Don’t forget: The next company you choose could be your career launchpad, or worst case, a dud and you’ll have to start all over six to 12 months down the road. Choose wisely. 

We’d love to hear from anyone interested in joining Fivetran. We’re hiring for dozens of positions across all departments and regions. Check out our Careers page to learn more and get in touch.

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