One of the biggest challenges that a VP of Sales will face is finding and hiring new team members. We see this fact often lamented as more reps leave for different positions, and others struggle to meet their quotas. The answer could be as simple as looking for different candidates, such as the recent graduate.


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The recent grad is a clean slate, removing the need to break old habits. Better yet, they are hungry, eager to prove themselves while earning a stable paycheck. The recent grad can be an asset, but as with all hiring, you need to be sure you have the right process in place.

There are critical traits to the success of a salesperson. You will find them in recent grads as well, but uncovering them is a challenge. Fresh graduates lack the documented experience that a seasoned sales veteran would bring to the interview.

We will help you identify those five core traits, show you how you can locate them in new grads, and provide you with warning signs as well.

1. Coachable

One of the strongest indicators to sales success is how open someone is to being coached. That said, acceptance of coaching is only half of the story. The other half is how effective a person is at implementing that feedback once they have it.

People will tout their willingness to learn, but there is a notable difference between the quest for knowledge and the desire to have it challenged.

To find the coachable recent grad, give them a sales scenario that requires a particular tactic. The classic problem of “sell me this pen” is an ideal challenge here. The goal is to create a need for the pen or to show the pen as an answer to a problem, rather than trying to sell it on features alone.

Once the scenario has finished, do a review with the candidate. Show them where they excelled, and then point out areas for improvement. Finally, ask them to sell you the pen again using the coaching feedback that you delivered.

Assess how well they accept the feedback, as well as how effective they are at implementing it. A good result is where the candidate accepts the constructive criticism and asks questions to make sure they fully understand it. Then they process the feedback quickly, add to it, and demonstrate that they can put it in motion.

If they get defensive, or they are too easily persuaded to change their methods, they are not the right choice. The coachable salesperson should be flexible but not a pushover; determined but not immobile.

2. Passionate

Sales is a grueling profession. Long hours of cold calling, building value when the customer only wants to talk price, and you need a thick skin.

When the job gets tough, passion for their craft can give a salesperson the push they need to drive forward. Finding passion in the recent grad is not all that difficult, but it can manifest in areas that you might not expect.

First, look at the application process.

  • Was your candidate content to drop their resume into a pile and hope for the best, or did they follow up with a phone call?
  • Was their cover letter obviously a form letter where the fields have been changed, or did they take the time to create something unique?

These are the first signs of passion that you don’t even have to dig around to find!

In the interview, ask them about their personal passions.

These answers offer you valuable insight in determining their will to succeed.

In this case, you are looking for answers that mesh well with sales. Are they passionate about building memories with friends and family? Do they enjoy mental or physical challenges? If so, they’re a good candidate for your position.

But if their focus is only on the money, they are probably going to have a rough time in sales. While no salesperson worth their salt is showing up to work for free, there needs to be a driving force beyond the green that gets them over the bumpy roads.

3. Time Management

When you have to make calls, answer emails, set appointments, close deals, and still find a way to finish your paperwork, you are bound to run out of time.

The recent grad may think that they have a handle on time management, but the chances are that they have not faced a professional scenario where they don’t have enough time to complete all objectives.

They need to know how to use prioritization wisely and craft creative solutions to conquer the most important work first.

To find the candidate who manages their time wisely, present them with a problem where a solution does not exist to achieve every goal. Show them an Activity Report to help them understand what is required to meet the needs of the Sales team. Then, once they are presented with all of the requirements, ask them how they would handle the challenge.


Look for them to spot opportunities to automate, delegate, and use the tools that are available to them. Your keys findings here are, how well they prioritized the goals and were they creative in their approach. It’s fine if the priorities are not in line with your own, as that is teachable.

Beware of candidates who tell you that they can’t find the answer or ones whose answer is “I’ll do it later.” A salesperson needs to be both quick and nimble with their thinking, never confining themselves to a metaphorical box. Your recent grad shouldn’t give up when the odds are stacked against them in a situation.

4. Great Communicator

Sales is about solving problems. Solving problems relies on effective communication, both of the problem itself and possible solutions. Your recent grad has to be an excellent communicator who listens first, then talks, because communication is a two-way street.

To determine your grad’s ability to communicate, ask them questions that deal with unfamiliar situations. Put them into the shoes of their customer. They should have the empathy required to understand customer problems, and they must be smart when dealing with objections.

By being put into this situation, your candidate should be able to gain knowledge of the problems, then provide insight regarding how your products solve their problems.

The successful recent grad will provide answers that give real solutions instead of platitudes. They will be able to relay the information that they gathered from listening, passing it on to other team members who may encounter similar problems.

Be careful of the salesperson who talks so much that they end up chatting their way deeper into a problem instead of solving one. Filling awkward silences with meaningless words is a crutch of people who can’t communicate. This will not only handicap the sales process but may also raise problems or objections that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.

5. Relationship-Oriented

Every long-term, successful salesperson focuses on building relationships. They know that positioning themselves as the trusted partner and source of information is the best way to earn top-of-mind awareness when it’s time to make a buying decision.

To find out if your candidate is relationship-oriented, ask them about former work-related relationships and friendships.

  • Can they name a few that are ongoing?
  • What value do they feel like they bring to the relationship?
  • What do they gain from the effort required to keep the relationship healthy?

Ask your candidate why they believe that customer relationships are important. There are a wealth of acceptable answers here, but they should focus on the fact that healthy relationships lead to easier, more frequent sales.

The key to finding problems in this case is determining whether their interest in relationships is real or contrived. If their answers are almost solely focused on money, or if they elude to fooling a customer into feeling good about the relationship, they are the wrong candidate for you.

Investigation Leads to Recent Grad Sales Success

Every salesperson starts somewhere.

When you find yourself in a position where a recent grad is on your hiring radar, consider the traits that you need to find. Sometimes hiring the new grad and training them the way that you want is easier than breaking old habits.

If you keep your eyes open for these five traits, you are likely to find a great hire who can help your entire sales team grow with values aimed at success.

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