How to Move from Sales to a Sales Recruiting Role

The career path for a talented salesperson is similar for many people. You start as a sales development representative, move up to account executive, and eventually become a sales manager, or even director, depending on your ambitions.

There is another path forward for dedicated, passionate salespeople who know the ins and outs of their business, however: a move into sales recruiting.

A growing sales team has an evergreen need to source and hire qualified and talented salespeople. If you’ve been with your business long enough and understand what it takes to succeed with this company and in this field, you might be a good candidate to fill the role of sales recruiter if your company creates that position.

As it turns out, sales and recruiting have many corresponding skills that can make a transition from one into the other fairly seamless. You need to be a great listener, to be able to read between the lines in a conversation, to stay organized, and to manage the needs of many stakeholders.

That’s probably why the job that most recruiters had before they entered their field was sales, according to LinkedIn.

Recently, longtime salesperson Jordan Tenedora—having moved from SDR to AE to Senior AE at Fundera—made the move over to sales recruiting. Tenedora recognized that sales recruiting had become a huge initiative for Fundera, and wanted to do his part to build a more robust sales arm at the company.

Since there will always be a learning curve when taking on a new role, Tenedora has a few pieces of advice for those in sales who are considering a move into the world of sales recruiting.

1) Lean into your sales experience

Whether you’re interviewing for the sales recruiter role at your company (or with a new organization entirely), or settling into the position and interviewing SDR and AE candidates, know that your sales experience makes you a valuable asset.

“Knowing what it takes to be a salesperson at this type of company is going to be helpful,” says Tenedora. “You speak the language of a salesperson, and you know how to spot someone that wants to be in sales, because you did it yourself.”

The skills you develop in sales are going to be beneficial when you move into recruiting, since many of those skills overlap. Tenedora notes that juggling various stakeholders in particular is a skill that translates well to recruiting.

“You’ll kind of look at recruiting as you did your clients or customers. You’ve got the candidates, you’ve got the managers, you got the sales director, you’ve got the agencies. Just the ability to talk to each of them and incorporate feedback from all of them is huge.”

2) Tell your own sales story

As a sales recruiter with a history of working in sales at that same company, you’re in a unique position. Unless there are multiple sales recruiters at your company, no one else will have the same experience as you do of working with and among the current sales team.

Tenedora describes having worked on the same sales floor as every current manager when they were SDRs and AEs as being an advantage for him. He can also easily speak to candidates about the day-to-day of the job.

Why is that important? Because if you don’t paint an accurate picture of what it’s like to work at your organization on the sales team, you’ll lose them quickly. A hire isn’t a success if they don’t last long with the team.

“I know the management team well, I know the products well. I know what it takes to be successful as an AE,” says Tenedora. “So when I’m speaking to candidates, I can tell if it’s someone that wants to work in a company like ours, or even work in sales in general, and are the type of person that’s gonna be able to get on the phones and learn our products and our systems.”

3) Come to the role with a growth mindset

This is good advice for any role, at any company—but Tenedora highlights it as a big part of what has made him successful in this new role.

He also points it out as something that prevents potential salespeople from catching on at a new company.

“I always have to be open to learning. You can’t go into any role thinking you know everything,” he says. “I’ve also noticed that with candidates coming in, if someone comes in and they already think they know everything, it might not be a good fit. If they actually do want to grow within a company they have to be open to learning a new industry and learning a new skill set—and I have to practice that as well. I’ve got to be open to learning something every day.”

What does a sales recruiter have to learn? That’s what the next three points are about.

4) Learn how to ask ‘second-level’ questions

You may already be familiar with this concept as a salesperson but your conversations and interviews with prospective candidates will require you to ask questions, particularly “second-level” questions.

Tenedora describes second-level questions as inference-based questions. They are questions based on the answers that candidates or stakeholders gave to your original questions. You’ll need to prove you can follow up when a candidate has an answer to your question that requires more context or details.

Going thoughtlessly down your list of questions without stopping to follow a train of thought that a candidate offers is not only going to give you an incomplete picture of the candidate, but it’s not a good candidate experience.

“A second-level question means going a little deeper—you’re going to learn a little bit more about them and what their real interests are,” Tenedora says.

5) Be careful when it comes to overscheduling

One of the biggest pain points for Tenedora when shifting over to recruiting was packing his schedule with too many tasks early on.

“On my first day, I thought I could handle eight to nine phone screens a day. At half an hour each, though, that doesn’t leave you a lot of time to do literally any other part of your role—checking portals, screening resumes, speaking with agencies, syncing with my team,” he says. “When I was working as an account executive, and I could easily rip 100 dials a day, because my pipeline was my pipeline, and that was my only role. It determined what I wanted to do that day.”

The takeaway here is that, as Tenedora puts it, your time “is not just your time” when you’re in recruiting. You need to take into account a candidate’s time, or an agency’s time. You were a part of a sales team when you worked in sales, but in recruiting, you are part of a much more interdependent whole that will require some balancing to get used to.

6) Identify the value proposition for, and of, each candidate

When you’re in sales, you need to identify the value of what you’re selling to the customer. The same process applies in recruiting.

On one hand, when reviewing an applicant’s credentials and experience, you’ll need to understand whether it’s worth your time and the company’s dollar for you to pursue them. A big part of that is knowing that just a resume screen isn’t going to give you a 100% truthful picture of the applicant—according to HireRight, 85% of employers have caught applicants lying on a resume. Can you glean enough from an application to learn whether to move forward?

The other side of that coin is that you’ll need to explain to a candidate why working for your organization is worth their time. Taking a job is often a life-changing choice, and you’ll have to decipher, throughout the interview process with each candidate, what aspects of the job to highlight, in order to tailor an offer to them that is both truthful and compelling.

One thing that Tenedora uses to promote and gauge excitement is discussing how Fundera expanded last year when the company took over the office space next door.

“When I meet with candidates face-to-face and give them a tour, I point to how things have changed, because it shows how much we’ve grown as a company,” he says. “You want to show their explosion of growth, and to say, ‘When I started here, we only had this one side of the office, we all fit in here, and then we literally broke a hole in the wall to grow the company. People get excited about that.”

The bottom line on moving to a sales recruiting role

Moving into a new field is never an easy transition, but sales to recruiting is one of the more natural moves you can make. So many of the skills and goals overlap that you might yourself in the swing of things right away. Keeping the above tips in mind, however, can help smooth out any bumps in the road that do arise.

Eric Goldschein

Eric Goldschein is an editor and writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions such as business loans. He covers marketing, finance, entrepreneurship, and small business trends.