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Six Seconds to Hired: How to Maximize Your Sales Resume to Get the Job

032713-national-money-computer-business-businessman.jpgIt takes a mere 6 seconds for a recruiter to decide if you are qualified for a job or not. This article explains the top six ways you can get your sales resume to the “yes” pile.
It includes how to properly exhibit your sales numbers; how to make accolades an asset; the importance of getting specific about your skill set; how to leverage previous job titles; the necessity of highlighting past companies; and eliminating entry-level skills and ‘fluff’.

It’s no secret that Hiring Managers want standout salespeople. Because they are seeking the best of the best, their ideal candidates are usually gainfully employed and passive – not actively exploring the job market. If you are an active job seeker, you need to position yourself as someone potential employers need to connect with. While sales related occupations are projected to grow at a rate of approximately 5 percent between 2014-2018, sales jobs remain one of the most competitive and difficult positions to fill. This article will break down the latest research on what makes a sales resume stand out and reveal exactly what you need to do to position yourself as a top performer in your job search.

On average, there are over 250 resumes received for every job posted in corporate America.

As we explain in Sales Recruiting 2.0, Hiring Managers have gotten smarter and more methodical at screening resumes. This is because on average there are over 250 resumes received for every job posted in corporate America (although this varies based on company and industry). The result is that your sales resume is one among hundreds for review—not necessarily a formula for success.

Recruiters and Hiring Managers look for specific things when screening your resume, so pay attention to how you present information. Primarily, resume reviewers will look at the these 5 data points:


Your sales resume will end up in a “fit/no fit” pile after being viewed for an average of six seconds, so it’s exceedingly important to be strategic in how you present your work history. This is explained by research led by The Ladders, who conducted a study that relied on “gaze tracking,” a perception tool used to track where eyes hover the longest and most frequently when viewing resumes. The study explains that recruiters spend 80% of their time looking at these six data points:

  • Name
  • Current title and company
  • Previous title and company
  • Current position start date
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Education

With this in mind, here are 6 things you should think carefully about when writing your sales resume so that it stands out among the crowd:

1. Highlight Your Sales Numbers

The best salespeople understand that their job is ultimately about numbers from lead generation ratios and closing averages to quota achievement success rates, numbers govern how salespeople will be judged by prospective employers. With this in mind, showcase your accomplishments with precise figures and quantifiable results. Recruiters and Hiring Managers want to see these numbers quickly and clearly, so make your resume visually simple and this information easy to spot.

As an example, stating “reached stretch quotas for over a year” is less impactful than “reached 110% of $50,000 quarterly quotas over five consecutive quarters.” The second statement gives a clearer picture of your selling capacity and showcases your scope of deal size. The more quantifiable information you can provide that supports why you are an exceptional salesperson, the more likely you are to get a response.   

Adding additional details to any number you provide also makes your resume standout: stating you met your monthly target doesn’t contextualize how big each deal size was, what the average numbers were amongst your peers, or how many team members you were compared against.

Today’s selling market is more competitive than it has ever been, so you need to position yourself as a top performer who has consistently excelled in unique selling environments. The experience that matters to prospective employers is what your selling approach is, how you sell, and what makes people buy from you, and how your drive to be the best has positively impacted your ability to drive profitable revenue. Be specific.

2. Make Sales Accolades Your Asset

Highlighting accolades on your sales resume is the easiest way to demonstrate exceptional sales experience. This is because Hiring Managers know that one of the best ways to predict future productivity in employees is to look at their past productivity.

Prominently display any awards and accolades you have received for work done in the past, such as President’s Club, Winner’s Circle, Top Revenue Generator Award, and Rookie of the Year. This positions you as a candidate who is committed to excellence which will pique the interest of potential employers. Additionally, you can tell stories with your sales experience that allow you to explain not only the “how” but the “why” of your work history, adding additional impact to the presentation of your skills and experience.

For example, if you have an exceptional story about how you attained a now longstanding client that consistently generates recurring business for you, tell this story on your resume. Be concise and unexpected, and you will captivate the recruiter’s attention with your ability to engage them, while showcasing your prospecting, presentation, and closing abilities.  

3. Rely on Specificity Over Generalizations

It is important to be specific about the industries and types of organizations you’ve worked for in the past—and even more important to get specific about past job titles. Hiring Managers can read through resume ‘fluff’ (the inflated, cushy version of what selling activities you’re actually doing) so when you explain that you “make cold calls on a daily basis” this does nothing to impress potential employers. Why? Because performing this task is a basic function of your job. Instead, if you have an exceptionally high cold-call-to-lead ratio, explain this as well as the strategies used to gain this ratio in your resume.

4. Leverage Previous Job Titles

It’s crucial to state job titles clearly, with an explanation if necessary. This is especially true given the increasingly obtuse way salespeople’s job titles have come to be labelled in the workforce. Business developers, customer success agents, and account representatives each may or may not serve the same functions. Job titles alone no longer provide much context in terms of actual level of responsibility. Be specific about your accountabilities and who you directly report to or manage in order to accurately portray your position with past organizations.

Some common job titles we see on sales resumes include:

  • Account Manager
  • Account Executive
  • Client Relationship Manager
  • Business Development Associate
  • Consultant
  • Sales Associate
  • Territory Manager
  • Client Advisor

This is far from an exhaustive list, but it serves to demonstrates how difficult it can be to determine what the responsibilities are in your sales title for recruiters and hiring managers.

5. Your Past Company Matters

The importance of your job title is underscored by the fact that the company you previously worked for matters to employers. For example, if you served as a sales representative who consistently beat their stretch targets, but did so at IBM, future employers will question whether it’s your selling capabilities or IBM’s well known brand that’s influencing the purchasing decision. You need to be proactive and articulate exactly how you’ve succeeded in leveraging a well known brand you’ve represented to generate net new business.

6. Eliminate “Foundational Skills”

As important as it is to get the right information onto your resume, it’s equally important to keep irrelevant or redundant information out. Known as “foundational skills,” these bullet points are common basic skillsets of any employee in a sales position. They don’t add anything to make you exceptional for a role. In fact, listing such abilities as “top skills” may create the impression that you are a subpar candidate and do not have the aptitude of a top performer. It can work against you to list foundational skills.  

There is an anatomy of a terrible sales resume, and it will work in your best interest to be just as strategic about what you leave out as you are about what you put in. Be honest and specific, because 53% of resumes contain false information. Hiring Managers are adept at getting to the core of the information you provide; it’s unprofessional and an unnecessary risk to falsify information about your past employment.

Companies spend 41 days trying to fill technical sales jobs, while the national average for all jobs is 33 days (Wall Street Journal, 2015).

There is a challenge across all industries in filling sales roles quickly and effectively. The resume is  your very first point of contact with a potential employer, so setting yourself up as a stand out candidate is the number one thing you can do to get noticed—and get hired.


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Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting

Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless. Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner. He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.