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CVs and applications for graduate sales jobs: four top tips

Your CV and online application for sales roles will need to demonstrate certain fundamental qualities. Discover how to prove that you have them.

On your CV or application, state the aim or target you had and, after explaining how you achieved it, quantify the results with numbers.

A strong sales CV and/or online application not only tells, but shows, recruiters your potential in the industry. You’re effectively promoting your experience and skills, just as you might promote a product and its benefits. Follow these top tips to ensure you do this in the most persuasive way.

Tip one: show attention to detail

Attention to detail is important for a role in sales – whether it's to help you know your products/services inside out or to effectively deal with contracts, payments and legislation around selling. So, you should ensure you demonstrate this ability in your very first interactions with an employer.

In an application, carefully reading each question and making sure you directly answer it can help to indicate good attention to detail. For example, if a question is asking multiple things, make sure you address each point.

Your CV should also demonstrate your attention to detail – primarily by ensuring that you have covered all of the required bases. Our big guide to CV writing lets you in on exactly what these are, so it’s a good place to start. Some advice points that are particularly relevant for sales roles and that will help you demonstrate attention to detail are:

  • Use headings that specify type of experience. If you have undertaken a number of sales-specific work experience opportunities, it’s a good idea to add these under a ‘Sales experience’ heading (or something similar). Particularly if your degree is not directly related to sales, drawing attention to industry-specific experience can highlight your enthusiasm for working in sales.
  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date if it’s on your CV (or, for that matter, if it isn’t). LinkedIn is an important channel for salespeople and some sales roles ask candidates to use their LinkedIn profiles to complete online application forms. It’s even more likely that a recruiter will look at your LinkedIn if it’s mentioned on your CV, so your experience should be up to date and your desire to work in sales should be stated in your bio.
  • Avoid catch-all skills, particularly ‘communication’. As our article on the skills needed to be successful in sales demonstrates, there are (at least) four important elements to the skill of communication when it comes to sales: listening, writing, knowing the channels and persuading. If the job description lists ‘communication’ as an important aptitude, do reference it, but follow it up with the elements of communication that you used (eg ‘I demonstrated my aptitude for communication through this experience by listening actively, understanding the customer’s needs and persuading them of the benefits that the services could bring to them’).

    And, finally, a CV or application that is littered with spelling and grammar mistakes is a clear indication that you don’t have strong attention to detail. Read your CV and application, get someone else to read it (a spelling-savvy friend or careers adviser, perhaps) and then read it through again.

    Tip two: consider all sources of transferable skills

    While creating a section on ‘Sales experience’ on your CV could be a good idea, remember that most work experience opportunities help you to develop and demonstrate transferable skills related to sales.

    Sophie Draper, talent acquisition specialist at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, offered some sources of transferable skills when she spoke to TARGETjobs: ‘Particularly during a pandemic and recession, we know that paid work experience isn’t always easy to gain. However, participating in free online courses, taking on roles within university societies or making the most of opportunities offered by employers and careers services can all provide useful examples to draw on.’

    Consider mentioning the experiences that best emphasise the skills listed in our article and on the job description for the role you’re applying to.

    Tip three: show interest in the products or services you’ll be selling

    Sales recruiters will want graduates who come across as genuinely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their products/services, so they can pass this on to their clients. Furthermore, recruiters will know that being genuinely interested is the best preparation for gaining knowledge, just as being genuinely enthusiastic is the best preparation for coming across as such.

    So, reveal your interest in your CV and application. You might be asked a question directly about your interests or your involvement with the sector you’ll be selling in on an application form. Different sections of your CV could offer opportunities to mention this, too. For example, if the CV is going to an alcoholic beverage company such as Diageo, you might write in the ‘Education’ section about a university module in which you researched the positive and negative social impacts of drinking alcohol.

    Tip four: quantify your achievements

    Sales is a target-driven industry. Graduate recruiters therefore look for candidates who take targets seriously, and who are motivated to achieve or exceed them. Aside from this, achievements often appear more significant once a value is given to them.

    Where you can on your CV or application, state the aim or target you had, explain how you achieved it and quantify the results with numbers. For example, you might write something like: ‘When raising money as part of the sponsored run I undertook for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, I had a target of £250. I used multiple channels to spread awareness of the condition and the sponsored run I was doing, including Instagram, Facebook and presenting to members of my hockey team. By doing this, I reached a total of £325.’

    Don’t over-exaggerate though: the sales department will be able to spot a ‘dodgy’ salesperson who is stretching the truth – they may well have worked with one at some point in their career!

    Bonus tip: get your facts straight for your interview

    Remember that whatever you mention on your CV or application form could be brought up at interview. A salesperson should be able to sell themselves and their achievements, as this shows potential to sell products/services and their benefits. So, in order to speak confidently about experiences and achievements you have previously mentioned, you should keep a copy of your application and CV. You can then read over them before an interview to remind yourself of the details – including any figures. As hinted at in tip four, you should come across as successful, but also as trustworthy; if your numbers don’t match up, this might not be the case.

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