When I graduated college, I applied to hundreds of sales jobs with no luck.
You’re probably thinking I was missing qualifications, right? False. I served as a Sergeant in the Marine Corps, played D2 college baseball, worked as a personal trainer, and graduated with cum laude honors with a degree in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology with a minor in chemistry. And started a nonprofit organization to benefit veterans.
Now, I am a founder at hiresalestalent.com, a platform that makes it easier to break into your dream sales career. We have over 400 sales roles listed at top companies across multiple industries.
And I’m going to let you in on the top 5 tricks to land a promising career in sales as a recent college graduate.
How to land your first sales job: 5 steps
1. Build yourself up
If you’re like me, you probably put together a half-baked resume and hoped it would work.
I had to learn the hard way the importance of crafting a good sales resume. Here are a few tips:
Keep it clean and clear
Your resume showcases your life’s work. It needs to be clean, clear, and efficient. Highlight relevant data points and showcase your achievements!
Be your own champion
This is not the time to be modest.You’re about to ask a company for thousands of dollars when they know almost nothing about you; make sure they know all the best things.
Tailor your resume to the job
…for every job you apply for. The changes don’t need to be drastic (make sure they’re honest!), but it is important to adjust your resume to every application.
Get on LinkedIn already
I made LinkedIn for a career class in high school and then never really touched it until I was ready to start applying for jobs. This was a massive mistake.
There are 849 million users on LinkedIn. And chances are, someone from your dream company is active.
It’s time to start posting LinkedIn content, connecting with others, and sharing your experiences.
Outside of LinkedIn, other job boards can be a great way to find and bookmark opportunities. At hiresalestalent.com, we have over 400 sales roles listed. Other sites like WayUp, a job board specifically for recent college grads can be great resources too.
Bonus: Check out the Jooble job aggregator as a resource for finding sales jobs quickly and easily.
2. Don’t “job search.” JOB HUNT!
I hate the term “job search” because it feels passive and weak. Instead, I like to refer to it as “job hunting.”
So what does job hunting mean? It means taking a strategic, calculated approach to looking for career opportunities.
Break it into these 7 steps:
- Rather than spraying and praying with your applications, be intentional.
- Make a list of your top 50 companies.
- Learn about their products and services.
- Connect with their employees and hiring managers on LinkedIn.
- Research the competitors of the company.
- Understand the culture and workplace environment.
- Above all else, make sure each company is a company you’re actually interested in working for.
When you go to apply, don’t mass apply to every role you see that sort of fits your experience. Pick the top 2 opportunities at each company where your qualifications meet at least 70% of the job description.
Pro tip: The fastest way to disqualify yourself at your dream company is by applying to 3+ roles.
Finally, if the job posting asks for a cover letter, write it. It’s time consuming, but it’s worth doing right. Each cover letter should be tailored to the job posting and company, so don’t recycle the same cover letter over and over.
3. Prove you can do the job
The truth is, hiring someone is a risk, especially hiring a recent college graduate.
It’s nothing personal. Making a hire is an investment for the company. This is why you must present yourself as a good investment to your hiring manager: aka, de-risk yourself.
So what does this look like?
You need to prove that you can do the job before actually getting the job. Come prepared to your interview with a detailed outline of your first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job.
(Bonus points if you come to the interview with leads!)
Why is this important? Because you’re proving that you’re capable of doing the job to the company — meaning, you’re a low-risk investment.
Past experiences, networking, and resume clean up are important, but the most important thing you can do is show the company you’ll excel in the position.
4. Prepare for job interviews like your life depends on it!
You should prepare for every single interview that you take. It will be time-consuming; but if you think about it, your life really does depend on it. I like to write out my preparation and then read through it out loud. This helps me fully understand the company, and the position, and helps me address any potential questions they may have about me.
I use a simple who, what, why framework:
- Who is interviewing me? (Yes, you should LinkedIn-stalk them ahead of time!)
- What is the company?
- What products and services do they offer?
- Who are their competitors?
- What is the job title?
- How does this match my experiences?
- What is this company looking for?
- How can I position myself as a fit?
- Why am I interested in this role?
- Why should this company hire me?
Practice makes perfect: Be sure to verbalize your written answers, so that the interview isn’t the first time you’re discussing these things out loud.
It may sound silly, but practice in the mirror, the shower, or on a walk. Answering these questions should be second nature. Eliminate the chances of being put on the spot by over-preparing for every interview.
Pro tip: It’s worth noting that you should prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer.
Asking questions shows that you’ve done your research and that you’re genuinely interested in the company and role. Be sure to prepare your questions ahead of time too.
5. Be persistent in your job hunt
The job hunt is a game of persistence.
It can be discouraging hearing “no” from companies you’re interested in. Keep in mind, this is a numbers game and you’ll likely hear “no” more than you hear “yes.”
Keep in mind, this is a numbers game and you’ll likely hear “no” more than you hear “yes.”
The same goes for a career in sales. You’ll likely hear no more than yes, so it’s important to have thick skin, but to also take note of feedback.
Keep refining your resume, preparation, and pitch. You will constantly improve as you go through more interviews. Take note of any and all feedback you receive from interviewers and apply it to your process.
Overall, the job hunt can be tough, but you can maximize your chances at success through preparation and repetition. Clean up your resume, grow your LinkedIn, de-risk yourself to companies, practice your pitch, and stay at it. Don’t make the same mistakes I made during the application process.
Interested in more career guidance? Check out our free blog, CareerGuide. We provide daily, actionable advice for job seekers.
Edited by Kendra Fortmeyer @ Sales Hacker 2023