A Startup's Guide to Recruiting Sales & Marketing Freshers

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The sheer number of higher educational institutions in India providing Engineering education makes hiring for Technology and Engineering roles fairly straight forward. You set up a campus recruitment drive in one of the good Engineering colleges closer to where you are located. You are chauffeur driven to the institution where you deliver a presentation, conduct an aptitude test, interview prospective talent and issue the offer letters.


However, it is not quite straightforward when it comes to hiring for non-tech roles such as Sales & Marketing. While recruiting from B-Schools is an option, MBA grads often come with a smorgasbord of skills and need time to skill up in a focus or specialization area such as Sales and Marketing. Plus, if you are just starting up, you may not be able to match the B-School salaries offered by top MNCs and ITeS biggies.

As a result, many startups are playing the guessing game: Retraining Engineering grads for Sales & Marketing roles and hoping they tick.

In my experience of founding 3 companies in the Education and EdTech space, I have recruited for Sales and Marketing roles in Engineering Institutions and found that a 10-20% segment of Engineering graduates from across the country are keen to start their careers in business, management or consulting profiles. While they lack the skills that an MBA program would have equipped them with, some of them certainly have the aptitude to learn on-the-job. Some of our superstar sales champs have come this way. But, finding such talent regularly, time-after-time, and on the scale, is quite the impossible.

Sales & Marketing professionals must be from the territory so they can truly connect with the stakeholders in the region and can also speak the same language. If you have a pan-India presence, you will have to schedule multiple recruitment drives in multiple regions to find just 1-2 hires for the region. The Placement officers would also not be keen in hosting you if your requirements are too small. You must also be prepared to walk away from some institutions without short-listing anyone. This is time & effort intensive.

The Sales & Marketing hires must be extroverted, sensible, flexible and result-oriented. They must be able and willing to travel regularly. They must have excellent spoken and written communication skills. Their people skills and convincing skills will be crucial in determining their success in a Sales & Marketing role. There is no aptitude test for these recruitment parameters.

Here’s a quick guide if you are in a similar situation and are looking to hire Sales & Marketing freshers.

  1.  Ask candidates to complete tasks that resemble actual day-to-day work in the role you are recruiting for.
  2.  Create a 1-week pre-joining induction & evaluation process where the company and the recruit can get to know each other and decide whether there is a fit. This must be a two-way street.
  3. Bring in the entire team to engage with the recruits for a day in the one-week induction process. There must be a meet-and-greet with some training sessions.
  4.  It is better to show the worst aspects of the role than just the nice ones. This way, expectations can be set.
  5. Look for strong value systems like being on time, being well dressed, and being well prepared on subject matter & about the company.
  6. Prefer candidates who have done their education across multiple schools, locations, hostelers, etc. Such candidates tend to adapt to new environments quickly. This is especially desirable in a Sales role.

And remember, the millennials and post-millennials are a diverse bunch who are often making non-traditional career choices. That is a good thing for startups.