Selling yourself for your first sales job

interview.jpg

BY SHEILA CASSIDY

We all know the infamous saying: you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. As such, the idea of drafting a resume as a student is a daunting and seemingly impossible task.

I’ve reviewed resumes professionally in two capacities: one as a Student Career Leader at Western University and one as a B2B Sales Recruiter at Sales Talent Agency. When I was a student leader I was trained to help students show off the transferable skills they have gained; when I was a sales recruiter I coached new grads to highlight not just what they did but what they accomplished. Sales is a very metrics oriented profession and that should be taken into consideration when drafting a sales resume regardless of your career level.

The 5 tips below are designed to help you craft your first resume out of school to help leverage you for your first sales position.

1. Make it as easy for prospective employers to contact you

If you’re hoping for someone to contact you, make it as easy as possible for the person reviewing your resume to do so. The basic contact information you want to highlight should include your address, phone number (remember to set up voicemail!) and email address.

2. Be conscious about the location you are choosing

What address do you choose? Trust me, I’ve been there - I was studying in London, my hometown was Burlington and I wanted to work in Toronto. When you are selecting the address to put on your resume choose the one that is most aligned to where you will be located when you graduate. If you are open to relocating be sure to include that as well.

3. Don’t underestimate the experience you already have

Before you start putting pen to paper, complete this simple exercise: for each role you’ve had, both paid and unpaid, write down what you did, what transferable skills you developed and what you accomplished. When you go in for a sales interview, your hiring manager will be interested in your activity, but will also want to ensure that your activity delivered results. So how can this be applied for your experience that isn’t a direct sales role?

  • Restaurant experience:
    • Did your restaurant ever push items to upsell? If so, how did you perform?

    • Were you ever recognized for having the highest sales?

  • Did you receive accolades for outstanding customer service and/or sales?

  • Volunteer Experience

    • Fundraising experience is very applicable to sales. Did your team have a goal? Did you meet or exceed it?

    • Did you have to get sponsors? If so, how many calls did you make and what was the result?

    • How did you measure success? Did your team do a great job?

  • Awards

    • What was the criteria? How did you win? How competitive was it?

  • Extracurriculars and Sports

    • Did you win an election? Win a championship? Take charge on a team? One of the first things that hiring managers will evaluate is the level of someone’s drive and a competitive go-getter spirit is a sure fire way to relay that you have a lot of it.

4. Be concise with your descriptions and clear on your accomplishments

I’ve heard a lot of rules on campus on the number of pages and bullets per section of a resume. The general rule should be that every line on your resume should be relevant and everything should be something you can confidently speak to. The other thing to consider is that everyone has different styles and that is very okay. Here are some examples that I put together based on my own experience, but use this only as a guideline -- be yourself!

Western University - Career Leader September 2010 - April 2011

  • As a team, assisted 802 students with resume, job searches and interview skills in one-on-one drop in times

  • Co-facilitated informative workshops about how to prepare a resume and cover letter for existing university students, with notable attention to our international student body

Richardson GMP - Intern July 2010 - September 2010

  • Worked with a team in transferring over 40,000 client files into an electronic database
  • Remained flexible and reliable in order to complete the project on time and on budget

National University of Rwanda, Africa - Intern May 2010 - July 2010

  • Actively participated in the development and grand opening of Butare’s first ice-cream shop “Inzozi Nziza” where a team of interns took on projects related to accounting, operational booklets and computer manuals

Western University - Residence Don August 2008 - April 2010

  • Promoted from the position of Residence Advisor to Residence Don in my second year on Residence Staff

  • Planned and executed regular floor meetings for new students to discuss any events, opportunities for advancement, and to strengthen the floor dynamics and was also recognized for having the best floor meetings across campus

5. Do not invent experience you do not have

You should be excited and prepared to speak to the experience you put on your resume and trust me - the hiring manager you are sitting across from will know if you are overemphasizing your previous job responsibilities.

When hiring managers are hiring at an entry level they are not looking for experience; they are looking for strong drive, great nature and potential to develop business acumen.

Your resume (and interview) should highlight that you are eager to learn, that you’ve developed some great transferable skills and have had some exposure to the workplace that has given you glimpses into your strengths and opportunities for improvement. Embrace it and don’t mask it with experience you can’t yet back up.

 

For students eager to learn more about sales and landing a sales job please be sure to submit a pitch for the Great Canadian Sales Competition this fall!