Should you suit up for an interview? What time do you need to show up? And what should you do if there’s an accident or major train delay on the day of your interview? Chris Mann has years of experience hiring inside and outside salespeople. He is now a Certified Business Performance Advisor at Insperity. To learn more about Chris, check out his profile on LinkedIn.
Tell me a little bit about your experience reviewing applications for sales positions.
I’m currently a certified business performance advisor, but in the past, I’ve reviewed applications for both outside and inside sales positions at companies like Verio.
What are some things that college students can do to make their applications stand out?
The most important thing is making sure they have people skills since you can teach them the sales side of things. You should draw attention to anything that focuses on people skills, like sports backgrounds, being a member of a fraternity or sorority, being class president or otherwise involved in the student body, or any other previous customer-facing jobs.
Which majors tend to be most successful in sales positions?
It’s all over the board. Personally, I came from communications. Business majors are great. Anything where they can tie their background into something that’s customer facing.
What are some things you look for in résumés and cover letters?
It always helps if you’ve done some research to show that you understand the company and the position. If I get the feeling that the résumé and cover letter are canned, that wouldn’t impress me. Be sure to show some creativity.
What steps would you recommend a student take to best prepare for a career in this field?
Talk to some people who are currently in sales and figure out if you’re interested. It’s a pretty tough profession, so you want to be sure it’s a good fit. Set up your résumé and cover letter so it doesn’t look like you’re using sales as a stepping stone to something else. Spend time researching the company and see if it’s something you would be passionate about selling. If you’re not having fun doing it, it’s an awfully tough way to make a living.
What is the biggest mistake you see candidates make when interviewing for sales positions? What do the best candidates do to stand out in an interview for sales positions?
The ones that don’t do well haven’t prepared for the interview and don’t know what the company sells. Appearance is very important. You should wear a suit. Dress for the position you want.
Proper preparation goes a very long way. Understand what the company does, try to close the employer as you would in a sales meeting.
Make sure you’re on time. Oftentimes interviewers will have interviews scheduled back to back, so I expect you to be ready to go exactly at the time of your appointment. You can tell the people who ran through the lobby as opposed to the people who planned everything and got there with time to spare. I always tell people, be there, checked in with the receptionist at least ten minutes before the meeting. And if something really out of the ordinary happens, like a big accident, just call and let them know. Nothing is worse than no-showing.
Homework time! Chris mentions the importance of showcasing your people skills. If you’re still in school, which activities or projects can you get involved with to develop your people skills? If you’re currently looking for a job, how can you improve your résumé or cover letter to reflect these skills?