Why You’re Losing Out on Sales Talent by Only Looking at Top-Tier School

Jillian Rinehimer
June 21, 2017

We hear it all the time from internal recruiters: “We only want to interview candidates from top-tier schools”.

We understand why. Top-tier schools tend to have a reputation for producing top tier talent, but when it comes to sales positions recruiters may be losing out on talent, and wasting resources, by limiting the talent pool to this criteria.

The qualities needed in sales can be found everywhere

Just because a candidate didn’t attend a high profile university doesn’t mean they won’t perform just as well or better than those candidates from the “gotta-get-in” schools.

In speaking with hundreds of Sales Managers at top tech firms like HubSpot, InsightSquared, Splash, and more, when looking for top sales talent, they all tend to focus on some of the same characteristics: initiative, aptitude, coachability, persistence, perseverance, and determination to name a few.

Ivy or not, these are the qualities that exist in many graduates who have gone through years of working toward a college degree and are honed throughout an education, whether at the price point of $50,000 per year or at $15,000 a year.

It’s something that writer Frank Bruni recognized in his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, which studied American-born CEOs of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies. And guess what? The majority of these CEOs didn’t attend top universities and there was no correlation between where they were educated and where they ended up in their careers.

In fact, you may not find your next high-performing sales rep out of a top-tier school because of the niche fields and programs that these universities typically provide their graduates. Since these schools offer programs and carry weight in their names alone, graduates who come from a school outside of a top tier network may actually have more drive.

Maybe it’s because they had slightly more to prove during their college years. Maybe it’s the fact that they had to work multiple jobs to pay for college. Or maybe they realized, early on, that they had to work a little harder in order to keep up with the competition.

Once you broaden your search to include schools you may not have considered before, you’ll realize that finding your next sales candidate, from a less limited pool, will translate to a diverse pool of relatable qualities-- possibly with even more motivation to work hard and prove their abilities to their next employer.

So, by filtering out resumes based on college prestige, you’re not doing yourself any favors. You’re simply missing out on potentially great employees.