There is an old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover!” Nothing is truer than when you are looking through resumes to find top sales performers, and I stress “Top Sales Performers.”
As much as there is logic involved in looking at sales resumes to identify top talent, it is more of an art than a science in my opinion.
The science will only take you so far and sadly can even guide you far away from finding top sales talent.
The typical recruiting process starts with creating a list of “must have” rules. Examples of “must-have” rules may include:
- Post-secondary Experience
- Industry Experience
- X years of Sales Experience
- Etc, etc., etc.,
Based on “must have” rules, those resumes without them are quickly dismissed, often within seconds. According to a study released by TheLadders, an online job-matching service, recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume.
Understanding the Art of reviewing a resume is a critical starting point. If you want to find top sales talent, you need to have two things. You need to have an intimate understanding of sales and what it takes to be a great salesperson, and you need to be able to have the ability to look at a resume and visualize the candidate’s career path and potential personality.
Being able to review a resume and visualize the candidate’s career history and possible personality type is an Art, and it takes more than a 6-second review. If you don’t have a great deal of sales experience, it’s more difficult, but with dedicated commitment can be learned.
It’s not much different than when a top salesperson meets and accurately sizes up a customer. It’s an art. It’s one of the reasons they are good at selling. They see what others don’t.
I do want to back up a bit and clarify. Some resumes only take 6-seconds to reject, those with zero sales experience for non-entry level roles is an example. The resumes I’m talking about taking the time to visualize is those with career sales experience, regardless of the duration.
When I find a resume of a career salesperson, I read it and visualize their career path before I even look at the “must have” list. What I look for first and foremost is “what type of salesperson this is and where does their history show they are best suited?”
Here’s the paradox, many of the best salespeople I’ve hired or placed have visually unimpressive looking resumes or not all the “must haves” and based on those requirements alone would be rejected within 6-seconds. But if you look beyond the “books cover” and piece the career together, that is when you are most likely to find that diamond in the rough.
I put much more weight on a candidates ability to sell than I do in their education, industry experience and resume appearance. Unless of course, the job is highly technical or there are critical reasons for the “must haves.”
My goal is to identify top sales talent — those that have excelled at every job they have had, regardless of the industry. Unless it’s highly specialized, salespeople can always learn a new industry.
The reality is it’s much more challenging to teach someone how to sell than it is to teach them the technical aspects of a new industry. My experience is top sales performers are speedy to learn as they are itching to do what they do best, sell. In fact, “quick to learn” is one of the traits of a top sales performer.
To be clear, identifying a potential high performing salesperson from a resume is only the first step in the process. It should just get them to the start line. After that it’s interviews, tests and reference checks to be sure. Also, if you are on the fence as to whether the candidate has what it takes to get to the start line, interview them.
The best part is over time, the more you visualize their career path and verify through interviews, the better you become at identifying potential top sales performers.
I can tell you from experience this approach is well worth the time and effort!
Author: Bryan Payne the Chief Talent Scout and Founding Partner at Just Sales Jobs with over 25-years experience in sales and leading high-performance sales teams. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org