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How to Land a Startup Interview: Do the Job to Get the Interview - Sales Development Representative (SDR)

Landing an interview at a high-growth startup often feels like a monumental task. Traditional job application methods might not always cut innovation in a startup landscape where innovation is key. A unique approach is often necessary to stand out.

Instead of submitting an application to your dream startup and praying for a response, consider the power of “doing the job to get the interview.”

In this post, we’ll explore a strategy called "do the job to get the interview" for showcasing your skills and passion for a Sales Development Representative (SDR) role at a startup.

Employing these strategies will take more time than submitting an application alone, but they will help you stand out and ultimately increase your chances of landing an SDR interview at your dream startup.

Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) are extremely important to every growing startup since they are responsible for finding valuable leads and initiating conversations with potential customers. Startups want SDRs that will hustle and think outside the box, so you must demonstrate these abilities in your outreach.

Here's a strategy to "do the job to get the interview" as an SDR ... 

Understand the startup's needs

Before you get started, you’ll want to thoroughly understand the startup’s mission, values, and current needs. You’ll want to ask yourself what pain points the startup is facing and think about how you can use your skillset to address those challenges.

Take your time to think through this and only move forward if you feel confident that you’re well-suited to help the startup move toward its goals.

Generate leads 

Research potential leads within the startup’s niche and build a database of qualified prospects. Get creative and focus on adding leads that the startup’s SDR team won't already be targeting. 

Build out the lead list as you would if you already had the job. Include company names, key contacts, and relevant details. Do your best to find a unique angle on each lead and include it in the database.

Bonus points for building your database with the same tool the startup uses. 

Create outreach materials 

Create mock scripts for outbound calls, emails, social interactions, and other ways you'd reach out to prospective leads. Demonstrate how you’d use personalized messaging to reach out to prospects from the list you’ve created.

Organize these scripts nicely in folders. You can even create a short Loom video that walks through how you’d sequence the outreach to various targets from your leads list.

Conduct mock cold calls

Ask a friend to join you on a mock cold call to a prospect from your lead list. Start the call by walking through a ~60-second elevator pitch that articulates your understanding of the startup’s value proposition.

Have your friend respond with common rebuttals and demonstrate your ability to emphasize the startup’s unique solutions and initiate meaningful conversations.

Show how you'd follow up

Create sample follow-up strategies just like you did when creating your outreach materials. Put a plan together that demonstrates your persistence and adaptability.

Again, you can create a short Loom video that shows how you’d vary your follow-up sequence to different leads. The more creative you are, the better. 

The goal here is to demonstrate your ability to move prospects through the sales funnel and ultimately set up calls with an Account Executive. 

Package your work up nicely (important step)

Before doing any outreach, make sure that your deliverables are nicely packaged and easy to navigate. Put everything into organized and properly named folders.

Everything should be easy to navigate and understand quickly. Create a 30-60-second Loom video where you provide an overview of what you've sent. 

You want to make sure that the recipient can understand the purpose and impact of your work, since they're likely to only have a few minutes (or less) to look through what you've sent.

You will have spent a lot of time putting everything together, so you want to capture their attention quickly to increase the odds they block off some time to look through everything. 

Nail your introduction

Now that you've created an awesome deliverable and packaged it up nicely, you'll want to make sure that the right person within the startup sees it. 

Create a well-crafted introduction that clearly articulates how your work addresses the startup's specific needs and explains why you're uniquely positioned to contribute to their success. 

You want to be firm enough to ensure your work gets seen, but you don't want to be too pushy or come off as entitled or desperate. 

One of the best strategies is to leverage your network and ask your contacts to connect you with current or former employees to see if someone in your network is able to provide you with a warm introduction. This can go a long way and drastically increase your odds of success. 

Nail your follow-up 

If you don't hear back right away, make sure you're strategic with your follow-up. If you originally reached out through LinkedIn and didn't get a response, try shooting your target contact an email. If you still haven't heard back, shoot them a DM on Twitter. 

If you don't hear back from the first person you reached out to, try contacting another person on the sales team. If it's a smaller company, try reaching out to one of the founders or the CEO. 

Continuing to follow up until you're sure your deliverables have been seen is a great display of the persistence you'll need as an SDR. 

In conclusion

"Doing the job to get the interview" is one of the highest-leverage strategies you can employ on your journey toward landing your Dream Startup Job. 

There are currently hundreds of open SDR roles on Dream Startup, so choose one or two companies that you'd love to work for and give this strategy a shot! 

We want to hear what you think about this strategy, so shoot us a DM on X.