If you’ve been applying for sales positions this year, take another look at your resume before you click “send” on that application.
Great sales jobs are highly competitive, so you want to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward. Here are 11 tips for crafting a sales resume that will maximize your chances of landing an interview:
1. Offer statistical evidence for your competence as a sales representative.
Sales is ultimately about results. Quantitative information about your performance track record is more powerful than use of adverbs and adjectives. Make sure that recruiters understand who you sold to and how much you sold. Provide context for that performance by including quota targets (performance expectations set by your employer) and rank within your sales team. For managerial positions, include data points like team revenue attainment relative to goals, increases in average contract value, decreases in sales cycle, etc. Even if your previous position wasn’t in professional sales, it can help to include relevant previous achievements like how many cold calls you made in a customer service role, leadership roles on a collegiate sports team, and Fortune 500 clients you may have been worked with.
When including information about your track record, make sure that you’re not in violation of a confidentiality agreement you signed with a previous employer. It is acceptable, however, to include information that is available to the general public, such as data from a company’s website or annual report.
2. Tailor your resume to the company.
Sales jobs differ significantly between companies, so don’t use the same resume for every job you apply for. Take a few minutes to customize your resume for different positions you apply for.
Consider the size of the company, industry, and culture when tailoring your resume. A large established company will have different expectations than a new startup. Make sure to read the job requirements and responsibilities so you can highlight your most relevant qualifications. Remove the extraneous achievements in your prior roles that are irrelevant for the role you are applying for. Hiring managers may only spend 6 seconds scanning your resume so less is more.
3. Replace generic language with more specific example of your skills.
Everyone who applies for a job in sales is an “outstanding communicator” who “has strong relationships with clients.” Remove the “Key Skills” section from your resume and use specific examples of projects or clients you may have worked with to add credibility to your prior roles. Anyone can include a table of buzz words so it has very little value today:
4. Include appropriate keywords in the resume that demonstrate your understanding of the job and industry.
Every industry has its own lingo. Failure to use the right terms, or using terms that are outdated, can result in your elimination. Study the language used in the job ad and make sure it is reflected in your resume.
5. Optimize your LinkedIn profile.
LinkedIn is becoming increasingly important in B2B sales. While you’re searching for a job, make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to par. Solicit recommendations and endorsements from past and current workers, aiming for feedback that speaks specifically to your selling and communication abilities. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume to show that you understand social media practices.
6. Contact your references to let them know what you’re up to.
Don’t forget about your references when crafting a resume. Get in touch with them to make sure that you have contact information that’s up to date. Let them know that you’re looking for a new job and fill them in on new accomplishments. When a recruiter gives them a call, they’ll be prepared to give a glowing recommendation!
7. Highlight any skills and experiences that make you unique.
Think of your resume as a sales pitch; you’ll need to leverage a Unique Selling Proposition to stand out and demonstrate value. Take some time to really consider what makes you different from all of the other candidates applying for the job. If you’re coming from a non-traditional sales background, this is especially important! How does your background as an accountant or marketer make you uniquely qualified?
Even if you do have sales experience, you’ll want to differentiate yourself. Consider technical skills, experiences with particular markets, or unique training that you’ve received. Look through the job advertisement and company website to identify traits that may be particularly attractive to this company.
8. Organize the resume so that your top accomplishments are listed first.
Although there are different schools of thought about the “correct” way to format a resume, you’ll want to go with a method that best highlights your own accomplishments. You don’t need to begin the resume with the education section, especially if it’s been a while since you were in school. Instead, select your most impressive accomplishments and lead off with them. Burying your most impressive achievements within the middle of a resume may mean that no one reads them.
9. Describe your achievements accurately, without being overly modest.
Your resume is not a place to be modest. Before sitting down to write, compile a list of all your relevant achievements. This may include honors and awards, promotions, accounts landed that were particularly major or difficult to accomplish, participation on committees and boards, initiatives that you established, speeches at industry conferences, etc.
While you won’t be able to fit everything on a resume, you’ll be surprised at how much you think of once you devote time to brainstorming. Prioritize achievements that demonstrate leadership, willingness to take initiative, communication skills, and general selling abilities.
10. Include a summary, not an objective.
Traditionally, job seekers place an objective at the top of the resume. The problem with objectives is that they’re all about what you want from a prospective employer, rather than what you can offer them. Write a summary instead. Again, think of it like a sales pitch: you want to focus on what you can provide the prospect, not how a purchase can benefit you. Don’t make the summary too long, though. Some employers even recommend eliminating this section entirely.
11. Keep the resume clean and free of errors.
Make sure that your resume uses a font that’s easy to read, has breaks between sections, and uses bold text for section headings. Avoid trying to cram too much text within a single section. Paragraphs should be short—three or four lines at most—so that readers can easily skim the resume. Use standard margins, and check for typos.
Resume writing is a difficult and sometimes frustrating task. But when you get a call offering you a job, the extra effort you put into your resume will pay off!