Why You Should Never Hire Grads for a Sales Role

Every year, hundreds of thousands of shiny new graduates come spilling out of our universities and other institutes of higher education clutching their brand spanking new degrees.  Wide-eyed and hopeful, these bright young things thrust themselves into the job market, with some pinning their hopes on a sales position.

You may think they’re as sharp as pins with their first, second or third class degrees and they may well be, but they can be wholly unsuited for a direct sales roles.  Some organisations avoid hiring them like the plague*

Children With Books

*look out for part 2 of this article, coming on Thursday ‘Why You SHOULD Hire Grads for a Sales Role’


Students can lack business acumen: whether graduate students studied hard or attended university to prolong their adolescence, most if not all lack business acumen.  Effectively, they have just spent 17 years in classrooms and lecture halls and latterly a lot of time in campus bars.  Their experience of the business word extends to repeated viewings of The Wolf of Wall Street and at best a few weeks work experience.  They have been in the real world, for oh, just about 20 minutes and therefore lack commercial expertise.  They can have little understanding of how you operate and make money or the drivers that will move you forward.

Students can make expensive and embarrassing mistakes: really, if you’ve got a bottomless pit of money and like nothing more than throwing thousands of pounds into the fire, then employ a grad student.  If however, you actually want to make a profit, putting them in sales roles may be costly idea.  Some are so keen to make a sale that they end up not only giving away the kitchen sink, but the entire farm as well.  Sales is a high pressure environment with lots of nuances and a need to form mutually beneficial relationships.  This is hard for someone fresh out of the classroom.  One antiquarian book dealer tells a story of a grad student who cost his company more than £10,000 in one sale.  Left to mind the shop for a couple of hours, the graduate was overjoyed to sell a rare book from the late 19th century for £1,000.  The customer picked up the bargain for the century, because the tome was priced at £11,000.  Someone with knowledge and experience of the field would never have made this mistake.

Students are expensive to train:  when you employ an experienced sales professional, you are taking on board someone with an extensive track record of success in turning ice cold prospects into sizzling hot revenue-generating customers.  Graduate students come to you with diddly squat, and therefore require massive amounts of training.  This includes mentoring from other sales professionals who could be better spending their time out in the field making you money.

Students can be sensitive: they have yet to develop a thick skin which is required in all work environments, let alone the rough and tumble of the business world, with its highs, lows, successes and failures.  You really don’t want to be handing them dozens of tissues to mop up their tears at the first sign of rejection from a cold or warm prospect.

Turning Grads into Sales-Generating Dynamos

This article is not to unduly diss graduate students. They are fabulous human beings, with the world at their feet, but they can really screw things up for you big time if you employ them in a sales role without proper thought and planning.  The picture may not always be so bad and despite what I have said, they can also be a boom.  In the next article, I’ll be looking at how you can turn a nervous, quivering wet-behind-the-ears grad student into a sales dynamo.

Let us know your thoughts and experience with grads in sales below!

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