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Want a Top Sales Job? Write a Sales Proposal!

A Sales Machine reader recently wrote with some questions about job hunting. To get the best answers, BNET turned to world-renowned headhunter and bestselling author Nick "Ask The Headhunter" Corcodilos. Here's the original email:

Resume experts advise that when employers review resumes from sales candidates, they're looking for key attributes, such as empathy, persuasiveness and resilience.
I know those are important things to discuss in your resume, but they didn't stand out for me as things that I think sales managers want to see.
Who am I to question the experts, but I think my critical qualities include my work ethic, that I'm a team player, that I'm enthusiastic and focused, and so on.
Of course, the resume should also describe my sales successes. Am I totally wrong, or are there articles that address these as the most important qualities that employers really want to see?
Here's Nick's Response:
The resume is wildly over-rated as the "marketing tool" you should use to get a job interview. In fact, the average manager spends no more than about 30 seconds looking at a resume. As I explain in Tear Your Resume in Half, the basic idea is if the top half of your resume doesn't get the manager's attention, you're toast. The manager will move on to the next resume.

But why risk your job search on a dopey piece of paper that a manager will barely read?

In the article, Resume Blasphemy, I explain how to write a resume that will definitely get you noticed. The basic idea is that your resume should not be about you.
Your resume should not list the companies you've worked for, your job titles, the work you've done, your accomplishments or your "key words" (for the automated resume scanners).

Blasphemous, isn't it? Your resume should simply describe the problems and challenges this specific employer faces, and then outline how you will tackle these profitably if you're hired. It's a tall order, but so is the sales job you want. Start showing how you'll do the job now!

Outrageous as it might sound, employers don't really care where you've been, what you've done, or who you are. (Don't believe me? Then why isn't your traditional resume doing the job, and netting you interview after interview?)

Employers hire you for what you can do. So, what better thing to communicate to them than how you will help them make more money? Explain it enough detail that you're believable, to entice them to want to know more. (But don't give it all away.)

You don't need a resume to do this. You can communicate your plan to the hiring manager like a high-priced headhunter does it for his job candidate. Pick up the phone and talk. But, even a headhunter can't always get the manager on the phone. So, do what the headhunter does: Triangulate. Talk to people who know and work with the manager. Work your way in slowly and methodically.

Impress these peripheral folks enough that they will introduce you (and recommend you) to the manager. That's how headhunters do it. It's why an employer will pay a headhunter $30,000 for a top candidate to fill a $120,000 position, while your resume sits in a pile of thousands and gets a 30-second read.

Even if they claim otherwise, the main thing employers want to know is how much profit you will bring to their bottom line. They won't ask you. You have to figure it out in advance and explain it to them. Then they'll listen.

Here's are some more resources to help you on your search:

Does Nick's approach sound familiar? It should, because that's how you write a winning sales proposal. To net it out, if you want to get a job, think like a sales professional. If you're already a sales professional, that should be easy, so don't revert to being a chump who thinks a resume (i.e. a brochure) is going to make the sale.


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