The job-hunting landscape is fiercely competitive, especially for sales reps (and especially right now in a time of high unemployment). In order to stand out to hiring managers, you need a sales resume that grabs their attention.
The best way to do this? Give hiring managers the information and skills they care most about. In this guide, we’ll provide you with instructions on how to polish your sales resume and get interviews, complete with templates and examples.
If you’re a hiring manager or a sales manager involved in the recruiting process, we’ve got you covered. This guide includes what to look for in a resume and how to find the candidates who are the best fit for your sales culture (jobseekers, you can benefit from this section too, as it will help you understand what hiring managers are looking for).
What’s in this article:
For hiring managers: 5 things to look for in an ideal sales resume
When hiring new sales reps or managers, you should look for tell-tale signs and skills that they’ll be the right candidate for your sales organization. How well they position themselves, and what relevant information they include, act as strong indicators of whether or not they’re worth your time.
You can’t know for sure if you’ve found a top-performer for sure until the interview phase, but if the rep has a sales resume that includes the following elements, it’s likely they’ll be a great fit:
- Their results: Concrete evidence of their strengths as a sales professional.
- Their ambition: Is it clear that they are driven and motivated by challenges and goals?
- An understanding of the data: A knowledge of what makes a good sales process and salesperson.
- A hunger to learn: A desire to improve and an openness to being taught.
- Their passion: Is it clear that they love what they do?
Here are the questions you should ask yourself in more detail:
1. Do they share their results?
Unless you’re hiring for an entry-level role, finding talent with a proven track record is critical.
Great salespeople (or those with great potential) do not shy away from their successes. They’re happy to list out their accomplishments because they know it will get them noticed.
A history of getting results is more important than the field they’ve worked in. For example, if you’re hiring for an organization offering SaaS solutions, it’s well worth considering a candidate who has generated impressive results from the real estate industry.
If the numbers behind their success seem unclear, but they still seem like a strong candidate, open a dialogue during the interview process. Asking questions like “what’s the biggest accomplishment in your career so far?” will allow them to shine. The answer to this question will also provide you with an opportunity to dig deeper.
2. Do they show ambition?
Most salespeople are ambitious by nature. They set goals that stretch them beyond their capabilities and are keen to continuously learn from their experiences. While it’s difficult to gauge conscientiousness from a resume, you can look for indicators.
Do they share what they would like to gain from this role? Are they searching for a new challenge because they want to stretch themselves and develop their skills?
Their cover letter and summary should give you a glimpse into their drive and determination. If they outline what they can bring to the table, and how they can improve your processes, it’s likely you’ve found a hard-working candidate.
3. Do they understand the data?
Sharing their numbers proves results. But understanding sales data, and the metrics behind them, is critical for executing the right sales activities.
High-performing reps understand how an activity contributes to each sales process step. They also understand how metrics inform whether those activities have been successful.
You can simply look for any mentions of specific metrics and activities. For example, they may share the steps they take to move an appointment to the negotiation stage, or how they ensure objections are handled early.
Look for sales resumes that place emphasis on specific metrics. For example, do they share their average win rate or lead response times?
Even if these activities are not critical to your processes, it shows that they understand the importance of a well-optimized sales process.
4. Do they have a hunger to learn?
Having ambition is an attractive trait in potential candidates. but being open to learning is even more important—especially if a rep is shifting to a new industry or product category.
Again, it’s hard to fully understand this until the interview phase. When looking for indicators of coachability, keep an eye on the following:
- Do they demonstrate learnings from previous roles?
- Are they honest about the gaps in their current skill set?
- Do they share any credentials, favorite books or sales blogs?
Understand how open they are to learning. This will make them easier to onboard and train during your relationship.
5. Do they love what they do?
No matter how good a sales rep is at closing deals, a lack of passion can be detrimental to your culture. A negative outlook and pessimistic attitude can bring the rest of your team down and hurt morale.
As Mark Hunter puts it, passion for sales often comes from helping people:
“To me it’s not about selling a widget; it’s about helping others solve problems.”
Passion can be evident in the language they use on their sales resume. For example, if they simply provide an objective account of their experience, successes and metrics, it’s difficult to gauge their love for the craft.
However, if their cover letter and resume is filled with anecdotes, stories and experiences, then it’s likely they’re passionate about their craft. When passion is present, they’re not only more pleasant to work with, but are likely to get better results.
Keep an eye out for red flags
Beyond looking for tell-tale signs that a candidate is a good fit, look for potential problems, too. Identifying issues early on will help you save time and effort spent on evaluating an unfit candidate.
Some examples of red flags are:
- Long, unexplained work absences: Are these large gaps in employment? Without a suitable explanation (i.e. becoming a parent, traveling, going back to school), this could be an indicator that something’s amiss.
- Many short roles: Does the applicant have a track record of job-hopping? That’s not necessarily always bad, but it could imply a lack of loyalty or trainability. As training new hires is an expensive endeavor, you want to invest your time and money into a rep who will stick around.
- Disorganized and full of typos: If the resume is difficult to follow or read, that shows a lack of attention to detail and organization skills.
- Ambiguous wording: Does the resume lack detail? Is it littered with adjectives as space fillers? This could be a tactic to disguise a lack of experience.
Make sure the applicant’s resume is coherent, detailed and professionally executed. Anything less is a red flag.
How to vet candidates throughout the interview process
Once you’ve vetted each applicant based on their sales resume, and have a shortlist of those you feel would be a good fit, it’s time to invite them to an interview. The interview phase is the best opportunity to test them on the traits listed above.
To measure candidates against your criteria, ask questions like:
- Tell me about a time where you set difficult goals? This will help you understand how ambitious they are. Gauge how results-driven they are by asking them to explain what these goals were and how they achieved them.
- Why did you get into sales?/What do you love most about selling? These questions allow you to get deep into their motivations, helping to gauge their passion for sales.
- What is a concept you understand that many people don’t? This will provide insights into how they think and simplify complex ideas. This is a critical skill when working with and interpreting data.
- What is the biggest accomplishment you’ve achieved in your career? While results on their resume are important, this allows you to dig deeper into the stories behind them. It also demonstrates what they value most in their work.
- Roleplay a sales pitch and ask them what they think they could do better. Ask them to sell you something they’re familiar with. If they can be open and honest about their sticking points, it’s likely they’ll be open to learning.
If you’re hiring for seasoned reps, measure them by these traits and their track record. If the role you’re hiring for is entry-level, then these characteristics will help you predict if a candidate is likely to become a top-performing salesperson.
Read our guide on hiring sales professionals for more information on finding and vetting potential candidates.
For sales job seekers: how to stand out from the crowd
When looking for new sales opportunities, it can be tough to stand out. After all, you don’t have visibility of how others are positioning themselves and the competitive landscape at large.
Seasoned account execs and new reps alike must grab the attention of hiring managers. Luckily, no matter what industry you wish to work in, organizations always need salespeople in some capacity.
Before putting your sales resume together, clearly define the type of company you’d love to work for. Do you want to work with an enterprise company with a large sales organization, or join a startup as one of the first salespeople through the door?
What kind of culture are you looking for? Do you enjoy working in the hustle and bustle of an office, or do you prefer remote working?
Whatever your goals, get clear on what makes a role attractive to you. Here are four things to include in your sales resume that will help you stand out to the right hiring managers.
- Basic facts about your career
- Some of your most impressive metrics
- Some industry language
- Your education and experience
1. Include basic facts from your career
Let’s cover what your sales resume must include to get interviews.
Many salespeople have a habit of only providing numbers in their sales resume. But as we discussed earlier, hiring managers are looking for more than results.
Where did you first learn to sell? What do you love most about the craft? Whether you’re applying for SDR, account executive or business development roles, share why this career choice is important to you.
Other basic facts to include in your sales resume:
- The types of products and services you’ve sold in the past
- Customers you’ve sold to (including job roles and industries)
- Internal teams and executives you’ve worked with (e.g. developers, finance execs etc.)
- Deal sizes you’ve closed (including revenue, number of users etc.)
- Geographical locations and regions you’ve sold into
This will provide recruiters with a snapshot of your skills and experience. Hook them in with these facts early, and you’re likely to reel them in to investigate your resume in depth.
2. Dig deeper into the numbers
Understanding the importance of data is an attractive trait for sales managers. Once you’ve covered basic facts, go deeper into the numbers.
Even if you’re new to the sales game, there are ways to demonstrate results while showing you understand sales best practices.
Use the metrics behind your key achievements to paint a clearer picture. Include milestones from your career to date, along with the figures behind them. For example:
- 80 new sales qualified leads (SQLs) added to pipeline in Q4 2019
- $185,000 in new revenue generated during my time at Acme Inc.
- Avg. call rate of 20 prospects per day
The last example above demonstrates an attention to the activities that achieve those results. Activity-based selling prioritizes sales inputs and is part of many modern-day sales playbooks.
3. Speak the industry language
The language, buzzwords and metrics used will vary from industry to industry. It’s important you understand the ecosystem of the space you want to work in, especially if you’re entering it for the first time.
For example, if you’re moving from real estate into SaaS, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the overall business model. More importantly, you must demonstrate an understanding of the key metrics that matter to these organizations (net MRR, churn rate, CAC etc.)
Some employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter applicants. It scans your resume to identify keywords and determine your level of experience. Use the right language to overcome this hurdle.
Include applicable keywords in relation to the job you’re applying to (you can find these in the job posting), include numeric achievements in your bullet points and highlight impressive metrics. Also, make sure you upload the specific file type the job posting asks for.
4. Outline your educational background
How did you get into sales? Where and who did you learn from? Including details on where you developed your sales skills will show recruiters you’re keen to continue learning.
These are some common learning sources that sales managers value:
- Courses: Did you take an online class or in-person workshops to hone your skills?
- Books: Include any authors you admire and have learned from.
- Blogs: Which sales blogs you read.
- Mentors: Including managers at previous roles and other peers.
Sales managers look for reps who are coachable. Demonstrating an openness to learn will show them you’re easy to work with and will get up to speed with their processes quickly.
Sales resume examples & templates
Now you know what your sales resume must include, let’s look at some examples and templates. Use these samples as a framework when writing your own.
It’s important not only to focus on resume quality, but also aesthetics. That’s because recruiters spend an average of only 7.4 seconds scanning a resume.
Improving structure improves readability and focuses the attention exactly where you want it. Plus, it makes it much easier for the hiring manager to scan and entices them to keep reading.
When writing your resume, keep the following rules in mind:
- Use a simple layout: Avoid complex designs and formats. We’ve seen resumes that include three columns, making it difficult to skim and identify a candidate’s relevant experience.
- Use dedicated sections: Make your resume scannable by including sections to list your sales experience, hard skills and education.
- Tailor it for the role: Only include information that matters to the organization you’re applying to. Create a “master version” you can amend before sending.
- Watch out for mistakes: As a customer-facing executive, communication is key. Demonstrate thoroughness by ensuring your resume is free from typos and spelling mistakes.
With the foundations covered, let’s explore a proven layout and some templates you can use today.
A sales resume template
When structuring the layout of your resume, we recommend using a small column to the right-hand side, as shown in this sales resume example.
This allows hiring managers to quickly find information about your skills, contact details and other short snippets of information. The rest of the resume provides in-depth information on your experience.
Using a side column also makes your resume shorter, as it uses up empty space that would otherwise cause it to be two or three pages long.
What to include in the side column
The side column of your resume is perfect for contact information and relevant skills to the role. Here’s how to structure your contact details:
Sales Development Representative
Below this, include relevant skills. You can prioritize these based on the job description:
- Lead Generation
- Sales Qualification
- Objections Handling
- CRM Proficiency (Pipedrive)
- Client Nurturing
By including skills mentioned in the job description, it shows you’re the right person for the job. It also demonstrates a level of attention to detail.
Your summary acts as a snapshot of who you are, your experience and your career goals. Positioned at the top of your resume, it should be no more than 100 words long.
A strong summary includes the following elements:
- Years of experience
- Industries you’ve worked in/with
- Type and size of accounts you’ve closed
- Certifications and membership (e.g. NASP)
- Key achievements (e.g. hitting 99% of quota each quarter)
- Your personal, professional goals
Here’s an example you can use as a template:
Results-driven sales development representative with over 3 years of experience in SaaS and B2B, selling to senior management level roles for 300+ employee companies. Member of the National Association of Sales Professionals. Generated more than $195,000 in new business (based on LTV) in Q3 2019. Looking for a new challenge to stretch my goals and develop my skills to become an account manager.
Your sales experience
Immediately after the summary comes your work experience. This must be well-organized and written in a succinct manner. Here’s a guide to use when listing your previous roles:
- List your previous roles in reverse chronological order
- Start with your job title
- Include company name, location and the timeframe you were employed
- Include three to five bullet points to describe your responsibilities
- Add an achievement or two, with metrics to back it up
Here’s how this looks in practice:
Sales Development Representative
HR Software, New York City
March 2019 to April 2020 Responsibilities
1. Executed and developed proven lead generation techniques to fill sales pipeline for account managers.
2. Use sales qualifying criteria to ensure quality of leads
3. Improved upon activity-driven sales development processes
4. Conducted cold emailing and cold calling to fill pipeline and optimized scripts used
Generated leads that generated $185,000 in new business from March 2019 to December 2019
Add your education
The education you include on your resume will depend on your level of experience. For example, if you’re applying for a manager- or director-level position, you can simply add your college or university degree. Your sales experience will talk volumes about your general sales skills and credentials. Here’s how to structure this:
Marketing Communications Degree
Siena College, Loudonville, NY
Graduated in 2015
However, if you’re applying for an entry-level position, you must be specific. This means including relevant coursework or internships during your time there. Here’s how this looks:
Marketing Communications Degree
Siena College, Loudonville, NY
Graduated in 2018
Relevant coursework: Business Management, Consumer Behavior, Sales and Marketing Fundamentals
This allows managers to quickly see which areas of your education are most relevant to the role.
Include extra sections
Finally, you can include some sections at the bottom of your resume for the following:
- Certificates: Any additional achievements or awards relevant to your career.
Learning: Beyond official education, which blogs and books have you found most valuable?
- Hobbies: What do you like to do for fun? Let your personality shine.
- Volunteering: Any unpaid work you’ve done. Include relevant work experience or non-profit contributions.
Bringing it all together
When sending your sales resume to recruiters, make sure that you’ve tailored it to the role. This means removing any irrelevant experience, education and content that wouldn’t add value to a recruiter.
Create a “master” resume document. Add in every job you’ve had and skills you’ve accumulated throughout your career so far. Then, when applying for jobs, remove the elements that are not relevant to the role.
This will save you time when sending applications. It will also help you to stand out from the crowd, as you’re presenting only the information that recruiters care about.
The perfect sales resume communicates the right skills, an ability to get results and a strong attention to detail.
For sales job hunters, this means tailoring your resume for the role you’re applying for and sharing your numbers and achievements in order to prove you’re the right candidate for the job.
If you’re a sales manager looking for your next top-performer, use this guide as a criteria. Do they demonstrate an openness to learning and a proven track record of driving new revenue? Look for these qualities, and it’s likely you’re on to a winner.