GetApp Lab

Recruiting millennials: How to hire Generation Y for sales jobs

Millennials are lazy, entitled, want instant gratification, are shallow, and spend their life checking out what celebrities do on Instagram. These snowflakes think they (or should I say we) are special because their parents constantly told them they were. At least the likes of Martha Stewart, the Daily Mail, Bill Maher, and various other parts of the media seem to think so.

They’re also apparently a nightmare in the world of work. One leadership consultant had this to say about their attitude in the workplace: “(They were) thrust into the real world and in an instant, they find out they’re not special, their mums can’t get them a promotion.”

Kevin Robson, managing director at Capable Consultants, had this to say about millennials: “(They) grew up in a “non competitive” age where even failures got a diploma or certificate for trying, even if they didn’t try… they exaggerate their angst on forums and save each other from suicide or are saved by their millennial peers from suicide.”

However, Robson said that not all millennials were bad for hiring because “there are some decent/unspoilt ones amongst them.”

However, if you don’t believe these stereotypes and want to hire the cream of the crop from Generation Y to be salespeople in your company, then there are some tips you can follow to increase your chances of success of recruiting millennials.

1. Dispel the myths of the sales industry

The first hurdle to get over when recruiting millennials for sales jobs is the image problem that the industry has among this generation.

“Recruiting millennials to sales jobs can be challenging,” said Taylor Dumouchel, marketing specialist at B2B sales recruiters Peak Sales Recruiting. “In fact, only 62 percent of millennials say they would consider a career in B2B sales. Jobs in the sales industry don’t typically offer millennials what they truly value in a job: good work/life balance, clear promotional opportunities, and job security. In order to remove the negative stigma, sales organizations need to take a different approach.”

Another common belief regarding sales jobs is that they are solely focused on earning as much money as possible, even if it’s at the expense of more meaningful achievements.

Travis Claeys, director of marketing for fleet management software mobi, explains:

“The traditional motivators for salespeople has, I suppose, always been money and independence. This may still be true for millennials looking to get their start, but it’s rarely what’s stated on their resumes or what gets them excited during interviews so avoid making that a real point of interest when recruiting.”

Action item: Craft job descriptions that emphasize the other aspects that these roles encompass – how being a salesperson is about helping solve customers’ problems and finding the best product or service for them at an affordable price.

2. Sell the job AND the company

The traditional recruiting model where companies expect candidates to sell themselves to companies to win favor and a job is on its way out, which is especially the case for millennials and sales jobs.

However, the company (and its culture) are as important as the job to millennials.

“Recruitment branding and the candidate experience are both critical components of the recruitment process, especially for millennials in sales roles,” said Sabrina N. Balmick, marketing manager at recruitment firm ACA Talent. “Selling the job is almost secondary to selling the company and its culture. A candidate hearing from a recruiter about yet another door-to-door commission-only sales job may not want to listen further; however, if the recruiter leads with the company’s reputation, growth, and benefits (for example, tuition reimbursement), that candidate might be more likely to listen.”

Claeys believes that recruiters should appeal to a millennial candidate’s desire to learn about a particular industry, pick up essential knowledge about today’s fast moving business world, or the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a game changing/world redefining service. He says:

“The company should be positioned as offering a service, no matter what. The millennial worldview has been formed by the social media experience, where everything is important…to someone. One has to always be recognizing the legitimacy of another’s personal values. When one “likes” a post, they have performed a service. They have done their part to make someone’s experience through life easier, richer, more enjoyable, and yes, they expect the same emotional compensation in return.”

Action item: Get clear on what your company culture actually is so you can present it to candidates and help them understand why they should choose your company.

3. Create a fair hiring process

A transparent hiring process isn’t something that only applies to recruiting millennials; if you’re following the previous paragraph’s point and trying to sell the company’s culture, you can run the risk of overselling or omitting negative information that is crucial to the role or office culture.

“Millennials value transparency and honesty, and will often see right through any job description that is misleading or interview that doesn’t correctly represent the company culture,” said Bryan Koontz, CEO of online outdoor adventure community Guidefitter. “Avoid trying to tailor descriptions that only target millennials, be open and honest with responsibilities and expectations, and the right candidate will surface.”

Action item: Be honest, even when it comes to the negatives of the job. If it involves long hours, then state that in the description. If your office is old and rundown, then don’t pretend that you’ve got a ping pong table and Nespresso machine just to attract certain candidates.

4. Emphasize personal development

One statistic we keep coming back to is this: 95 percent of American millennials are willing to pay for training themselves. Learning and development is a priority for millennials, but due to the image problem of the sales industry, the perception is that there’s a lack of growth and development opportunities in this career path.

“Millennials are hungry for feedback and personal development,” said John Crowley, head of Content at cloud-based HR system People HR. “Talk about how you will train them to be a better salesperson, and how you will invest in their career.

This development doesn’t just have to be limited to formal education and courses; instead use the expertise you already have in house to provide learning opportunities for millennials. Dumouchefl says:

“Present senior employees as mentors, not bosses: This generation does better with mentors than with disciplinarians. If you want to attract and recruit millennials, present the position as a learning opportunity – where instead of working for someone, they are learning from someone.”

Action item: Make sure you have both the budget and the resources for formal and informal training. Consider investing in a learning management system, which can help provide more innovative ways of delivering training.

5. Choose the right communication channel

Brian Rhonemus, CEO at executive talent acquisition firm Sanford Rose Associates – Rhonemus Group, believes that to recruit the top Generation Y talent for sales roles, it’s important to communicate with them via channels they favor.

“The best tip to recruit them is to be where they are,” Rhonemus said. “Simply put, engage them where they live, work and play. A robust social media program should be leverage to touch these people where they spend most of their digital life. For a prior generation that could be Facebook, the millennials in some cases do not even have a FB account. Consider Snapchat, and Instagram, as well as YouTube. Break free from the traditional HR methods of expecting this generation to visit your web page to “apply”, it needs to be a mobile platform and it needs to be super easy.”

Action item: Work with the marketing department to understand which channels you should use to communicate with your particular audience, and what message you should send to maximize engagement. See your potential employees as customers, not candidates.

6. Look beyond the resume

The issue of relying on a CV to recruit candidates came up when we investigated bias in the hiring process, but it is just as applicable to millennials that are taking their first step down a career path in sales.

“As applicants, they may not have a well defined skill-set; they can seem scattered,” Claeys said. “But the right entries in their job histories can indicate a sense of adventurousness, a passion for different experiences, and even their emotional depth. A smattering of certifications that relate to previous work and/or interests can indicate they take what they do (did) seriously, and have a passion for learning. Volunteering can speak to their interests in people, the world, and a willingness to engage. All these are essential qualities in sales people. Filtering for these entries with recruiting software makes light work when looking for the right people.”

Action item: Invest in recruitment software that can help you better screen candidates and decrease your reliance on resumes.

How recruitment software can help

As Claeys mentioned, recruitment software can allow you to filter candidates’ profiles according to keywords that are relevant to what you are looking for — this could be skills and qualities, as opposed to education and job roles.

It can also help you better target certain groups (e.g. millennials interested in sales careers) with relevant ads and content to help increase engagement and boost your company profile, especially if you linking it up with your marketing software.

“Recruitment software with keywords, or tags is a great way to stay in touch with millennials with a drip marketing campaign to keep them engaged with your company on Snapchat, and Instagram,” Rhonemus said.

Balmick added: “With a robust ATS, recruiters can enter candidates they’ve directly sourced, setup feeds to job boards, post opportunities on social media, view their candidate pipelines at all stages of the hiring cycle, and run reports so they can see how their metrics are tracking and whether the process is working efficiently.”

Recruitment and applicant tracking software also often include features that can help with your strategy of recruiting millennials for your sales jobs:

Get help with recruiting millennials for sales jobs

If you want more information and guidance on how you can better recruit a millennial for a sales role, we can help. Here are some useful resources:


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Karen McCandless :Karen is a writer for the GetApp lab, as well as editor for the blog. Before working at GetApp, she spent a lot of time reviewing photo and productivity apps for Android and iOS, as well as covering all things B2B, primarily for retail and manufacturing. When not writing about B2B apps, she enjoys trips to the theater, playing badminton, and working out ways to travel more.