recruiting college graduates for sales roles

How to Recruit College Graduates for Sales Roles

Recruiting college graduates to fulfill SDR and other entry-level roles is critical for the health of any sales organization. Hopefully, many of these young recruits will grow within your company for years to come, becoming outstanding contributors and sales leaders.

But this doesn’t just happen on its own. To find and develop young talent, you must take proactive steps. We recommend these best practices:

1) Invest in employer branding on social media channels.

88% of people from ages 18 to 29 use social media. By leveraging platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others, you can reach recent college graduates and current students.

The point isn’t just to advertise job openings (although posting open positions to social media is always a good idea). Show young people why your company is a great place to work. Post pictures of your employees having fun at company events. Create shareable graphics about the benefits of working for your company, or videos where employees talk about what they like best about their jobs.

In your employer branding, highlight your organization’s values and commitments. 76% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental impact when deciding where to work, with 83% saying they would be more loyal to a company that contributes positively to society and the natural world.

Demonstrate what your company is doing to make a positive social impact, whether it’s volunteer work, charitable donations, or a new program to improve energy efficiency at the office. It’s also helpful to communicate how your product helps people. Young sales representatives will be selling the product, after all.

2) Attend events on local college campuses.

By building relationships with college students while they’re still at school, you can increase the number of new graduates who apply for a job at your company later. For newer companies especially, this is a great way to create name recognition.

Contact the career counseling offices at local colleges and universities. They’ll be happy to invite representatives to networking events and informational sessions. Send young, dynamic sales professionals who can act as ambassadors for your company and for the sales profession.

3) Consider implementing an internship program for college students.

Many college students—especially those who are ambitious and strategic—do internships while in college so they’ll have a leg up on the job market later. Implementing a formal internship program allows students to get to know your company and better understand what salespeople do. It can also enable you to find particularly talented students you might want to hire later.

For best results, don’t just assign grunt work to your interns. Give them opportunities to learn, network, and socialize while they’re with you.

4) Educate new graduates on the benefits of a sales career.

A lot of young people have misconceptions about sales. They might equate a career in sales with being a sleazy used car salesman. In order to recruit great candidates, you may have to educate them about the realities of B2B sales before and during the sales process.

Use social media, university events, and personal contacts as an opportunity to educate. Tell young people about what the day-to-day life of a sales professional looks like. Information about compensation is helpful, too, but go beyond that. Let them know why sales is meaningful to you.

5) During interviews, ask questions that are appropriate for recent college graduates.

When interviewing a recent college graduate, tailor questions so that they’re appropriate. These candidates don’t have a lot of formal work experience to draw upon. Questions that assume a lot of experience may make them feel awkward and unqualified.

But recent graduates can still speak bout their leadership, communication skills, and ability to work as part of a team. Invite them to draw on their experiences with college, extracurricular activities, internships, and summer jobs.

6) At the interview, give candidates the opportunity to pitch the product of their choice.

Young candidates probably don’t yet have the expertise to pitch a complex product. Put them in a position to succeed by asking them to pitch any product. This will enable you to get a sense of their potential as a salesperson. If a young person can give a great pitch for the latest iPhone, with proper training they can probably sell your product also.

7) Try alternative methods for interviews and recruitment.

To really differentiate your company, don’t just post job openings on the standard job boards and then interview applicants as your sole recruitment method. Here are a few ideas that you might want to try:

  • Recruitment open house
  • On-campus event
  • Seminar on career options
  • Sponsor an event for college seniors

In addition to drawing in more applicants, these events will give you a chance to observe candidates in a more natural environment.

8) During the recruitment process, emphasize your company’s unique perks and benefits.

They might have less work experience, but new college graduates still care about perks and benefits. Let candidates know about your healthcare package, PTO, and options for flexible work. And even though they probably aren’t thinking about having kids right away, parental leave information can still make a positive impression.

You should also consider implementing some less-conventional benefits that appeal to young people. Student loan repayment help and pet health insurance both tend to popular.

Let candidates know about your game room and beer on tap, too. But don’t expect those perks to compensate for paltry benefits.

9) Once you hire new graduates, provide very clear guidance on company mission and how they can ascend the career ladder.

Retaining young employees once you’ve recruited them can also be a challenge. Remember that for most recent graduates, working at your company is their first full-time job. Help them get invested in your company’s work by clearly explaining your mission. Show young employees how they might grow within the organization, and provide them with the resources and mentorship they need to do it.

Successfully recruiting and retaining new college graduates is an active process. But the contributions they’ll make to your organization make it work the investment.

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James Meincke

Director of Marketing @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.