Interview tips from our recent hiring process

August 19th by Nora Cottrill

We just made two new hires! Woohoo! The roles we filled were in sales development and we thought we’d share a bit of our hiring process with you, including our interview questions.

The steps you take beyond screening applicants are crucial for finding someone who will be a great fit for the role you’re offering. More and more employers are realizing that the hiring process is also a reflection of your company’s culture and brand. It’s important to have processes in place that reflect your mission, vision, and values – even for the candidates who don’t end up being hired.

Sales Development Representatives (SDR) roles require someone who is comfortable both in direct communication with potential customers, and in doing a significant amount of thorough online lead research.  For us, this means finding someone who enjoys both quiet, individual work, as well as engaging conversations with great first impressions of themselves and (of course) our product.

The key criteria we look for in our selection process are:

  • Creativity/thinking on your feet – How will they respond to various scenarios that may come up in sales communication?
  • Motivation, growth potential, coach-ability – Are they willing to grow in their role and really invest in selling our product? Are they good at listening? Can they be coached?
  • Ability to deal with rejection – Will they be able to handle and bounce back from difficult situations when doing cold calls/emails?
  • Naturally friendly, affable, outgoing –  Are they capable of creating meaningful relationships with future and current customers (and enjoy doing so)?
  • Culture-fit, alignment with company values –  Would they fit in with our existing team?  What would they add to the group?
  • Technical skills & writing abilities – Are they proficient in basic computer skills (Excel, researching on the internet)? Do they have experience with LinkedIn or using a CRM tool? Can they write professional emails? Can they adapt their written voice?

We wanted to further verify these criteria during the interview process.  At Qimple, we do group interviews with three or four members of our team so that we can get more of a consensus on team fit and dynamic.  Here are some of the questions we compiled for these interviews:

Introductory questions – who are they, what do they know about us, and how do they envision the role they’ve applied for?

  • Tell us about you!
  • What do you know about Qimple?
  • Why did you apply to join our team? How does joining Qimple align with where you are and where you want to go?
  • Describe this position to us as you understand it. For example, what activities do you see yourself doing on a day-to-day basis?

More About Them – We asked a few questions to determine their motivations, transferable skills, and how they would deal with certain aspects of the role.

  • How does your past work and/or volunteer experience transfer to the skills you’d need in this role?
  • Have you ever been in a customer service/sales role? What were your favourite and least favourite parts?
  • What motivates you?
  • Sell us this whiteboard. For this one, we wanted to see how they reacted to a spontaneous request to pitch a product. We were looking for creativity, quick-thinking, confidence and knowledge of sales theory.  We drew our inspiration from Wolf of Wall Street for this one. 😉
  • Do you feel comfortable making cold-calls?
  • Have you ever been on a losing streak? How did you turn it around?
  • How would you respond to someone who says ‘no thanks’ because they’re already using a competitor?

Skills and Industry Knowledge – We asked basic questions about their familiarity with our industry and various programs/software/social platforms we use. Most of this was bonus, but we were hoping to find someone active on various social media channels. Also, we were hoping to find someone who had experience writing professional emails and using a contact management software (CRM).

  • Do you know anybody in HR?
  • What do you think makes them tick? This is really a bonus question- we’re curious of how they’d describe someone in the industry we target.
  • Do you use Linkedin and Twitter? Facebook? How often?
  • Have you used any type of contact management software before?
  • Tell us about your experience corresponding with other professionals through email?

Personal Questions / Company Fit / Values – We ended the interview with some more personal questions. We like to get to know our candidate better and get a sense of how well they’d fit in with our current team, specifically in terms of personality, values and alignment to our goals. These questions really allow people to open up, relax, and share with us more about who they are.

  • What’s the last thing you learned that you thought was really interesting?
  • What’s something that you taught yourself to do?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years? This question helps us to hone in on how well their professional goals align with our company goals and room for growth in their role.
  • What’s something you did recently where you put yourself out of your comfort zone? We especially like this one for sales as it points to their creativity, motivation, and desire to learn and grow.  It can also reflect their comfort level with meeting and talking to new people.
  • If you could be in movie, which one would it be and why?
  • Who inspires you? Who are your heroes?
  • What are you most proud of?

Post-Interview Questions – Most interviewees have questions to ask too – as they should. Asking questions – good questions – shows their instinct to be proactive, a self-starter, their ability to do research, their inclination to be conversational about the process and their overall confidence and perspective of how well-suited they are for this position.

We also like to ask applicants we see potential in, to do one or more mini assignments. This gives us a preview of their work and work-style and a sneak-peek at how motivated they are.

  • Assignment 1 – Phone us and leave a voicemail. Leave us a follow-up message based on the whiteboard you tried to sell us earlier in the interview. We wanted them to do this to see their phone etiquette and what they are able to add to the conversation with a bit more time to think about how they could sell us a whiteboard.
  • Assignment 2 – Compile a spreadsheet of ten companies (in a disclosed location) that would be good prospects for us. We gave them some specifics to look for, but otherwise left it up to them to make the call on how well these companies would fit. We also wanted them to provide their reasoning. This assignment shows us their research skills, their analytical abilities, and attention to detail.  Lead research and understanding customer fit are major aspects of the SDR role, so we wanted to make sure they had these skills before we offered them a job.

These were the questions that we asked in this last round of hiring. Overall we were quite happy with the how well these questions performed. Like everything else though, it’s an evolution. Questions that didn’t really work we will cut. We as a company also change so our a review of the questions will need to be done the next time around to ensure our questions align with our company and the position.


Nora Cottrill is the Community Manager for Qimple. She has a Double Major in Psychology and Sociology, and a Human Resources Management Diploma. She believes that every interaction is an opportunity to encourage and empower.


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