How Recruiters are doing the SDR Position All Wrong – and the Recipe to Fix it

Chris Algiere
April 6, 2017

Recruiters! Everyone has a reason to love them or hate them. Recruiters are great for certain purposes, but their success relies mostly on leveraging a strong network, and seeing a potential candidate’s work experience in order to qualify them for the job.

Those tactics work when you’re looking for an experienced VP, but fail when trying to build a team of Sales Development Representatives. Let’s take a look at why it doesn't work for this position, and how to better source for SDRs.

Why recruiters are getting the SDR job wrong:

Targeting the wrong people

I’ve personally gotten messages from recruiters wondering if I would like an SDR job. Not a good fit. I’m in marketing and have been working professionally for several years. So clearly their search parameters are off, or they’re just asking as many people as possible.

The experience trap

They’re also falling back into the trap of following the experience. Current SDRs are probably the most obvious target for most recruiters looking to poach, but this is another failing strategy. The fact is that experienced SDRs are looking for the next step up, not trying to start again at square one in their career.

Hiring an experienced SDR can lead to a number of problems.

  1. They’ll likely be looking to be promoted shortly. As a manager, is that in your plan, or would you rather have someone in the seat for the full year?
  2. They’ll leave your company for an opening as an AE or team lead is available to them elsewhere.
  3. They will come in with habits, potentially bad ones, but we can almost guarantee their process will be different from what you have laid out. Do you want to retrain someone who is stuck in their ways?

They forward resumes

If you’re looking for more resumes, that’s great, but I’m sure you have enough. They real value in a recruiter is to do more research into the candidate than you can or have time to do. What you can’t get from a resume alone is a sense of a candidate’s life experience, their personality, what drives them, and other intangibles that entry-level candidates fail to express on a piece of paper. How much does culture fit matter to your organization? Forwarding a resume does nothing to answer these questions.

They lack innovation

While there’s been a ton of innovation in organizing and capturing candidates in things like applicant tracking systems, bidding platforms, social referrals, and crowdsourcing, the output has not gotten better. If the end result of the work is still just passing along a resume, how is a recruiter really helping their client? Entry-level applicants are a dime-a-dozen. There is no lack of recent graduates trying to enter the workforce. So forwarding a resume without proper context does not make a hiring manager's job any easier.

What’s missing is a lack of expertise in entry-level candidates. Let’s be honest - entry-level people are tough because they often lack direction and purpose for their careers. However, this can be solved with a lot more research into a candidate and multiple quality checks. Entry-level applicants have to be checked for different things than an experienced candidate. They may seem trivial, but things like a true desire to work in the job they applied for, a clear understanding of the role, and the maturity to be a real contributor can only be understood in multiple conversations with the person.

The Solution: An Employee-first approach

Many more people can do the SDR job than you may think. They key is to finding the right people who fit your work culture, can work with your existing team, bring new ideas to the table, and buy into your brand. So let’s talk about what makes a good employee.

(By the way, if you’re looking for some hidden gems to spot on an SDR resume, we outlined those too!)

The pillars of a successful employee

At LaunchSource we’ve seen over 50,000 entry-level applicants, have had over 8,000 conversations with recent college grads, and have placed over 250 SDRs in just over 2 years.

Throughout that time we’ve identified the attributes that make for a great employee, who can also be a fantastic SDR. Here they are:

  • Coachability - This one is especially important for young employees, but is important throughout your career. Coachable candidates don’t have to be told multiple times to do something.  They love feedback, act on it, and are always looking to improve. On the flip side, being a good coach means explaining why an idea or tactic is important, being accepting of first-time mistakes, and providing clear direction for improvement.
  • Adaptability - Strategies, tactics, personnel, environments, work spaces, tools, technologies, territories, targets, and goals: all things that change in business. A good employee embraces change and gets the job done, no excuses. If a recent college grad has navigated moving into a new apartment, graduating, interviewing with multiple companies, and holding down their part time job, they’re likely pretty adaptable. To test adaptability, ask questions about operating amidst chaos (ok maybe don’t use the word “chaos,” but poke around to see how someone juggles multiple moving parts in their life).
  • Aptitude - Defined as “a natural ability to do something,” it may seem like an obvious trait to look for. For us, it means more than the ability to do something. Does this person naturally add value to your organization? Can they quickly learn technology? Are they a self-starter? These types of people will require less teaching (just make sure you don’t confuse teaching with coaching!).
  • Work Ethic - Ok, this one is kind of simple. Does the person like to work or do they just show up. Are they the type of person who picks up extra shifts at their restaurant job? Ask what kinds of goals they’ve worked towards and what it took for them to get there. Even if their previous jobs or goals aren’t incredibly complex, look for verbal and nonverbal signs that they take pride in their work.
  • Intellectual curiosity - Curious people uncover solutions and bring ideas to the table without being asked to. They’re natural problem solvers, and they might not come across as your typical “sales person type”. To find intellectually curious people ask what kind of books they’re read, what blogs or websites they like to visit, or what projects or activities they like to do on their own time. All of the these outside experiences have potential to bring value to your organization.

The Big Gains:

The employee-first approach to hiring will save you work in the long run. Good employees are more likely to be promoted, whether that be to another sales role or somewhere in customer success, marketing, operations, or some hybrid role. They’ll be able to take on a new role with less training that an outside hire because they’ll already have a strong sense of how the company operates and the products or services you sell.

This approach essentially creates a farm team for the higher roles in your company. Speaking of creating a farm team, Jo Rego and the brilliant team over at Payfactors has taken on an “Employee-First” approach to hiring their Inside Sales Representatives. They were also kind enough to share their experience working with LaunchSource to build that team. If you like the idea of this approach, you can read about it here:



Hey, If you liked this blog, do me a favor and give us a follow on social media - or better yet, subscribe to weekly updates. One weekly email on Sales Hiring or Employee Development - that’s it, I promise not to annoy you.

Thanks for reading!