Our guides for employers and candidates on how to navigate the entry-level job market.

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Sales Roles

How to hire a graduate for a Sales role

Candidate profile:

A highly confident, target-driven and energetic individual with excellent communication skills and ambition. An individual working in sales must be able to effectively communicate and persuade, and so ideal candidates would be highly charismatic and charming. As roles within Sales have such a broad scope, varying from a role which can be highly technical or one based entirely on persuasion and personality, the ideal candidate may differ among businesses. Generally speaking, however, sales is largely based on personality, skills, and attitude so degree type is not important but degrees having an increased focus on communication skills may benefit.

Top skills:

  1. Rapport-building: it is important for sales representatives to find common ground with customers in order to secure the best sales
  2. Confidence: this is vital for good sales as individuals must present themselves well
  3. Ambition: a good work ethic is highly instrumental in order to achieve success in this sector
  4. Negotiation: sales representatives must be able to compromise without taking a big hit! Candidates should be able to secure the best deals for their company
  5. Communication: it is highly necessary that this skill is strong in order to sell the product well

Non-office experience:

  • Front of house or retail work will have provided good experience in building up communication skills and conversing with clients.
  • If the candidate has been a captain or member of the sports team this is likely to show that the candidate has the competitive edge required for a sales role.
  • Someone who has worked since a young age is likely to have a good work ethic and drive.

Office experience:

  • Previous experience in sales is a huge bonus! Remember that graduates are very adaptable and can be trained up quickly though so this is not essential.
  • Experience in telesales, customer service or account management are a good indicator since it shows that the candidate has experience in building rapport with clients.
  • Any experience in marketing or advertising means that the candidate has experience in selling a product.

Green flag

  • Someone who is results oriented.
  • Someone who relishes a challenge and is ambitious.
  • Someone who enjoys communicating and is happy to build a rapport and speak to others for extended hours.

Red flag

  • A candidate who lacks confidence and crumbles under pressure.
  • Someone who is particularly introverted and prefers working alone and quietly.
  • A candidate who is lethargic and lacks the energy and enthusiasm needed to drive sales.

At interview:

  • You should be looking to test the candidate’s selling ability and confidence by asking them to sell you a product in the interview – you can be as imaginative as you like here! Don’t expect their pitch to be perfect though – you’re looking to see how well candidates react under pressure and how persuasive they are naturally.
  • It’s also common to ask your candidates to give an example of a time they persuaded someone to do something they weren’t initially planning on doing.
  • Aim to ask questions that will show a candidate’s persistence and resilience (or lack of), as these are key attributes needed in order to succeed in this role. Ask them quick-fire questions and put them under pressure.

Employee expectations

Candidates will perhaps expect a lower starting salary, at around £20,000, but you should be willing to explore commission structure and payment, as well as bonuses for those who meet and exceed sales expectations and targets. Highly ambitious individuals may also expect progression within a department or company within a relatively short period of time. Within two years graduates average around £27,000 in a large number of sales roles. 

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