Some employers expect graduates to have specific technical know-how, while others seek those with a passion for selling and a willingness to be trained; discover how to go about securing your first sales job

For many sales roles, your personality and aptitude for the profession may be viewed as more important than particular qualifications. In the majority of graduate-level positions, employers will consider candidates with any degree subject, although some will require a minimum of a 2:1.

However, with some specialised vacancies, such as those involving the sale of engineering, IT or medical equipment, it's expected that you hold a related technical degree. If you're starting out in IT sales, a business or computer science degree may be preferred, otherwise you will usually have to demonstrate your commercial awareness and interest in IT.

For entry requirements for various sales roles, see job profiles.

What skills do employers want?

Recruiters in this industry typically look for candidates with:

  • effective communication skills;
  • excellent time management;
  • honed presentation skills;
  • confidence, resilience and persistence;
  • good customer service skills;
  • ambition and drive (to meet targets);
  • networking and relationship-building abilities;
  • initiative to work independently, as well as being part of a team.

You can also read our top 3 tips for a successful career in sales to find out what leading graduate recruiters are looking for in their candidates.

Where can I get work experience?

Any work experience that allows you to develop your customer service skills and ability to communicate will be valued by employers taking on sales staff. Jobs in retail, hospitality or telesales are usually readily available on a part-time basis - for example, you might find work as a retail sales assistant.

Some larger companies, such as Microsoft, Nestlé, Nissan and Unilever, offer summer placements or one-year industrial internships in sales or customer management. Other recruiters offer sales, marketing or general management internships that can provide a fast-track to graduate sales positions for successful applicants.

To find work placements and internships in sales, search for work experience.

How do I find a graduate job in sales?

More than a quarter of employers are looking for graduates to work in sales, according to High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2016. The review has also reported that 32% of recruiters' entry-level roles are expected to be taken up by graduates with previous experience of working for their companies, either through industrial placements, paid internships or vacation work. This would suggest that gaining the relevant work experience mentioned above is vital to your chances of landing a graduate job.

Large companies across a variety of industries offer graduate schemes in sales, including Microsoft, Softcat and Nestlé. Other companies offer sales, marketing or general schemes where you could be given the opportunity to rotate between departments. You should check employer websites early in the student year for details of how to make an online application - or find out more about your sales training options.

You can find graduate sales positions, such as that of a sales executive, through specialist recruitment agencies or job sites. For example, if you're searching for a medical sales position in pharmaceuticals or health care then head to CHASE.

For jobs with small and medium-sized enterprises, you should make speculative enquiries. Find out what should be included in your CV and cover letter.

To find sales jobs and graduate schemes offered by leading recruiters, search graduate jobs in sales.