Sales management carries a long list of tasks. One of the more challenging is recruiting and hiring future stars. You would think that company rightsizings over the past months would have flooded the market with great candidates. You would be correct. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in a large number of mediocre resumes. The tough part is knowing when a mediocre resume reflects a great sales candidate and when a bad first impression is an accurate reflection of the candidate.
My friend and fellow Rainmaker Tim Dugger owns Career Cafe, is highly qualified and successful in helping peope get employed, and sees way more resumes than I do. However, I had the opportunity to review a large number of resumes in the past few weeks for multiple sales positions, and I was helping another manager with an accounting position and I found the same rules and suggestions apply. Based on these suggestions below, we rejected roughly 80% of the resumes before we initiated a contact so first impressions were more than critical.
What creates a bad first impression? From my sales management perspective, here are some of suggestions (a.k.a. pet peeves) to help you get past the first reject pile. Note: some identifying aspects have been changed to protect identities of resume submitters and most of these tips apply to all resumes, not just sales.
1. Use a professional email. As your sales manager, I don’t want to know that you are a “purpleloverkara” or a “gegedancer.” There are several places to get free emails that include your name in the address and if you have high speed Internet at your house, you probably have an email with your name from that provider. Use it on your resume and when emailing it. An unprofessional email address makes me question your professionalism, and you go to the reject stack.
2. Check your capitalization. Hint: software programs are proper nouns so word, excel, and quickbooks are not correct; Word, Excel, and QuickBooks are correct.
3. Grammar and sentence structure may be granted some leeway in some forums, such as in this article. However, it is highly inadvisable to use colloquial language or casual sentence structure when trying to land a job. As a professional writer and Examiner editor, it’s a pretty good guess that I know proper grammar and elect not to use it sometimes for style and impact. If your cover letter says, “Please check out resume!” I am not so sure of your writing ability and you go to the reject stack.
4. Spelling requires its own bullet point. If you are applying to a job that lists “Database Assistant” it might not be a good idea if your cover letter says, “Databaa” in the first sentence. If you spell your previous employer’s name wrong, I tend to doubt that you worked there. One spelling mistake might not be fatal but two spelling mistakes sends you to the reject pile.
5. I know some of you are just getting out of college and have few responsibilities. I get that, and I remember those days, but I don’t want to hear about it in your cover letter. It’s good to know that you “work harder than the Energizer Bunny” but not so good to know that you “can be as fun as your favorite party.” If you mention your party skills, you go to the reject pile.
6. Your objective and my job should match. It seems strange to see, “My objective is to becomes a law enforcement officer for the Federal Bureau of Investigations” when you are applying for sales. I guess selling with a gun would be easier, and I know it’s common to have more than one resume when job hunting, and the FBI is probably the top tier in law enforcement so I appreciate your lofty goals. But if you are too careless to change your objective to match my job, am I likely to trust that you will correctly change the names of prospects and dollar amounts on contracts? I’m not willing to take that risk, and you go to the reject pile.
7. Along with multiple resumes and first time job hunters, your educational background may not help you. If your education seems out of line to the job to which you are applying, find a way to minimize it. I would guess that being a digital photography major is interesting, but I cannot see its connection to sales so instead of that being at the top of your sales resume, I’d bury it at the bottom unless you want to be on the top of the reject pile.
8. Professionalism, and I save the best for last. My favorite of this last round, in a very bad way, was the cover letter that started out, “HEY YOU!” I checked my glasses and yes, in all caps with an exclamation, the greeting was, “HEY YOU!” I only read the rest of the letter to see what other faux pas were included, as I moved the resume to the reject pile.
Sales management carries a lot of risk. We are held responsible for the performance of our team so we need the best team possible. Just like a prospect does to a poorly skilled cold-calling sales person, a sales manager is going to send to the reject pile resumes with bad first impressions. Unless you have an English degree—and even if you do it’s not a bad idea—have someone qualified edit several versions of your cover letter. If you want to have a chance to be on a top team, don’t give me any reason to put you in the reject pile.
Jeff Bowe is Principal and Chief Sales Strategist for ACTUM Group, a sales consultancy providing outsourced sales management to business owners and teams that need tactics, strategies, and processes for success...and who need to like each other again.