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Highlighting Relevant Work Experience on Sales Job Resumes

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Getting a job depends on two things: a great interview and a stellar resume. Salespeople have strong communication skills and usually perform well during interviews, but when it comes to showcasing their work experience in writing, most lose focus and make mistakes. For sales professionals who want to climb the corporate ladder, properly displaying relevant work experience counts more than anything else when it comes to resume composition.

In sales jobs, most of the learning is done on the job-but not all experience gained on the job is relevant. If you are a job hopper, for instance, and have gained work experience in a series of sales jobs or sales functions that are very disparate, it may harm rather than help your career development. However, if your resume displays the kind of work experience employers are looking for, it will make up for most shortcomings.

The Outdated Method for Showing Work Experience

A particularly common mistake sales professionals make when displaying their work experience is providing a timeline of organizational experience instead of relevant work experience. Such a timeline might look like this:
  • 1995-1998, sales executive for Sunset Corporation

  • 1998-2000, sales representative for Amway

  • 2000-2004, senior sales executive for Knives Galore

  • 2004-present, sales team leader for XMC Corporation’s North American division
The problem with this kind of resume is that it gives the employer no idea of whether you possess relevant skills or not. All it demonstrates is that you managed to survive in a series of jobs and remain employable. That may seem like enough, but in a world of cutthroat competition, it is not. It will only increase the number of questions asked during your interview with the employer.

A strong resume does much more than list the employers for which a candidate previously worked; it showcases the specific skills the candidate gained while working for those employers. If your resume does its job, the interview will boil down to niceties and negotiations.

How to Display Work Experience

Displaying work experience on a resume has two components:
  1. showcasing relevant work experience

  2. showcasing an accomplishment record
The first component is essential. The second component is optional but has the potential to be more powerful than the first component. This is because the first component shows that you have acquired the skills necessary for the job, while the second component proves that you have internalized and applied the skills you have acquired.

Five Functional Headings That Are Relevant to Sales Experience

Below are the five functional headings under which the work experience of a sales professional falls. You do not need to place your experience under headings, but headings don’t hurt, and they make your resume look more organized.
  1. Selling existing products to existing clients: Briefly mention the producer, the product, the time period, and any relevant accomplishments.

  2. Selling new products to existing clients: Briefly mention the producer, the product, the time period, and any relevant accomplishments.

  3. Selling existing products to new clients: Briefly mention the producer, the product, the time period, and any relevant accomplishments.

  4. Selling new products to new clients: Briefly mention the producer, the product, the time period, and any relevant accomplishments.

  5. Team leadership and project management: Mention the organization; briefly describe team statistics and responsibilities, your role and responsibilities as a team member, any projects handled, any relevant accomplishments, and the time period.
Why List Work Experience According to Relevance?

Employers look for sales expertise in the five areas listed above. They know that sales professionals who have acquired work experience in these areas have solid fundamental skills and can be relied upon to perform well. Your chances of securing a job increase considerably when you display work experience on your resume that clearly focuses on these five relevant areas.

Accomplishments can be categorized under these five headings or grouped together as a separate accomplishment record. Simply listing the organizations you have worked for or the products you have sold in the past as work experience means little to prospective employers. Names of past employers, names of products sold, and the length of time you have spent in the industry cannot guarantee your employability; however, relevant work experience backed up by an accomplishment record will make you an attractive sales job candidate.


Weitzul, James B. Personality Traits in Professional Services Marketing. Westport, CT: Quorum Books, 1994.
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