Ken Sundheim is a Manhattan-based executive recruiter who has a knack for getting people to open up. Get him on the phone, and his quick wit and subtle sarcasm will keep you engaged. For the past 12 years, Ken has leveraged this talent to help companies find great employees, and his client roster is impressive. T-Mobile, Porsche, Credit Suisse, Intel, Budweiser, Travelocity, and Mayo Clinic are among the brands that have filled open sales and marketing positions by tapping into Ken’s matchmaking abilities.
Ken founded the recruiting firm KAS Placement shortly after graduating from Fordham University, and he specializes in placing sales, marketing, and media professionals. Not your typical recruiter, Ken believes in forging deep bonds with customers, as well as job applicants.
We caught up with Ken to talk about what type of sales candidate impresses him, how he makes that client-candidate match, and how sales professionals can best work with him and his team. Of course, many of his tactics can be applied to working with other recruiters.
TopResume: Job seekers often want to know how a recruiter finds candidates, probably hoping that their name will wind up on your radar. How do you find sales candidates?
Ken Sundheim: A lot of candidates come to us by submitting their resume to our firm. We also look for people on social media, job boards, college placement offices, and more. There are essentially a dozen different ways to find candidates. If candidates are out there and have the right resume, we'll find them.
TR: Having the right resume is key. When you look at resumes for sales candidates, what phrases or statements do you expect to find and want to see?
KS: Numbers and statistics are always eye-catching. In sales positions, for example, I like to see a candidate listing quarters when they beat quota and by how much. I look for the number of years they achieved status like the President’s Club, and the growth percentage on their accounts or territory. There are myriad ways someone might choose to highlight their accomplishments, but being able to show cut-and-dried data is usually most effective.
There are myriad ways someone might choose to highlight their accomplishments, but being able to show cut-and-dried data is usually most effective.
TR: What about sales candidates you’re placing at the director level? What impresses you there?
KS: When searching for a sales director, our clients want to see a proven ability to define strategy, execute it via a team, and handle the bottom-line aspect, so I look for things like having ownership of P&L, as well as management of sales technologies like Salesforce. From a resume standpoint, it’s often beneficial to succinctly convey achievements and skills around those things that are not only concerned with account management and mentoring, but that also bring a bird’s-eye view of the company’s sales division.
Related: Sales Management Resume Sample
TR: What immediately raises a red flag for you and lands someone’s resume in the trash pile?
KS: The surefire way to land a [sales] resume in the “no” pile is frequent job-hopping. It’s unfortunate because, in some cases, the circumstances really have been out of the job candidate’s control, but right or wrong, there is a perception in sales hiring that an accomplished salesperson would be able to retain their job, no matter what.
The surefire way to land a [sales] resume in the “no” pile is frequent job-hopping.
TR: When you find a good candidate, what’s the next step?
KS: Usually it’s a phone interview. We also use Skype or meet in-person. Phone screening is the most efficient method in most circumstances. It’s where we start to assess culture fit for our clients’ organizations.
TR: In addition to culture fit, what are you trying to tease out during the phone screening?
KS: We’re assessing how open they are to coaching and molding. For any position, we are evaluating what they might be like to manage and under what sort of leadership they perform best. And, for sales, we put a lot of emphasis on what sorts of sales cycles and sales styles engage their interest and skills.
For sales or marketing positions, we are also looking to see if the person can hold a normal, cordial conversation. It may sound simplistic, but more than any skill-set or background, our clients are looking to work with people whom they’ll like. If someone is rude, short, or gruff without good reason, that’s more reason for the “no” pile than anything that a resume could reveal.
TR: How should a job candidate best prepare before they answer your call?
KS: It’s important to speak about the similarities between what you have been doing at your current and past sales jobs, and how the tasks relate to what the hiring manager wants. Even if you are coming from a different industry, the similarities could be such things as length of sales cycles, the types of companies you sold into, and the average amount per sale. Make sure that you touch upon these topics when describing your previous work experience and keep it as relevant as possible. It helps to prepare by writing down three ways what you did at past jobs is similar.
Sales candidates should also be prepared to discuss what they like about the position, what motivates them, and why they are leaving their current job. They should know their numbers regarding revenue growth on accounts and in their territory. They should also be prepared to share major accounts they have won, especially if it’s a noteworthy brand. And, they should share the times they stood out amongst the crowd, such as making the President’s Club.
TR: When you interview someone, are you looking for certain types of answers?
KS: I’m looking for answers that require some thought. I’m looking for sincerity and honesty. I want to know who they are as an individual. Instead of one type of answer, it’s really about the conversation. I strive for interactions that involve old-fashioned empathy and getting to know them better. That tells me a lot.
I strive for interactions that involve old-fashioned empathy and getting to know them better. That tells me a lot.
TR: The interview goes well, but your client chose someone else. What should a candidate do next?
KS: One of the best ways to remain in the good graces of a recruiter is to be gracious upon losing an offer. Sometimes, applicants will bad-mouth the hiring manager, which makes them look petty and unprofessional. By thanking the recruiter for their time and informing them you’d be interested in anything similar that comes along, you leave the door open to working with me again. If handled correctly, working with a recruiter will only benefit your career. Regardless of whether you end up accepting a job today is not as important as whether or not you’ll be re-considered in the future.
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