Graduate employment is stronger than ever in the UK job market, with top employers expecting to increase their graduate intake again this year, the fifth year in a row such growth has occurred. This is according to the 2023 Graduate Market Report produced by High Fliers.

With more competition in the market, how can you attract graduates and make sales stand out as a viable career option for candidates fresh out of university? The industry can come with a stigma for young people who have little commercial experience, and many potential candidates don’t know what a modern career in sales looks like. When you’re hiring your next sales talent and want to attract the brightest young graduates, you need to find new ways to appeal to them. We know that graduates are motivated by more than just money – in fact, millennials view high pay as less important than doing meaningful work – so how can you adapt your approach to get your hands on this talent pool?

Offer clear progression opportunities

Career progression should be a vital part of any sales management plan, and this is particularly true when it comes to attracting and nurturing graduates. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Millennials at Work survey, career progression is a top priority for the new generation, with more than half saying it’s the number one thing they look for. Competitive salaries came in second place, showing that while graduates still want to be financially rewarded for their work, it’s more important for them to have a clear pathway in the workplace.

From our own research, we’ve found that only a third of employers offer a structured approach to their teams’ development. Sales people want to work to targets, and for millennials this goes beyond KPIs. Set personal goals and objectives for your graduates to show you’re committed to their development. SMART objectives – those that are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Oriented – should give young people all the information and motivation they need to work effectively, while quarterly performance reviews provide a more formal and structured framework for performance management and development. As graduates hit their targets and show potential for higher achievements, be sure to move them up the career ladder (and pay bracket, as appropriate). Failing to do so will leave them disheartened and they may look elsewhere.

Promote job flexibility

As a sales manager, you’ll be all too familiar with the requirement of many of your staff to work under flexible conditions. When it comes to graduates and millennials, you should never underestimate the importance of providing this agility in the workplace. A recent NextGen study found that 15% of male employees and 21% of female employees would give up some of their pay and even slow the pace of promotion in their careers in order to work fewer hours. Meanwhile, millennials in particular want to be able to work from home occasionally or shift around the hours of work.

While it may not always be possible to be so agile in how your sales team operates, you should consider maximising millennials’ tech-savvy nature and offering the potential to work remotely. In sales, this is particularly important. A lot of consultants’ working weeks are spent on the road, so they need the freedom to work anywhere between meetings to be most productive. If you provide clear instructions and concrete targets and graduates are hitting their goals, why not be a little more flexible?

Transform your culture

Along with flexibility, graduates expect a positive and engaging work culture. This is so important to young workers that 64% of them would trade a higher salary for a positive social atmosphere. And with Generation Z (those born after 1995) spending a whopping 7.6 hours a day socialising with friends and family, it’s no wonder they look for a work environment that cultivates a friendly, open culture.

Let’s face it: sales is a hard job. That means you need to tailor your management style to your graduates in order to keep them motivated to hit targets. For many younger sales people, this might mean organising social activities, sports leagues, charity events and days away from the office, particularly as a reward for positive performance. Whatever you can do to make your office a more fun place to work will help to attract graduates.

Always be ready to adapt

Graduates are the future of the modern workplace, and they bring so much to any sales team. Their enthusiasm, motivation, willingness to learn and wealth of fresh ideas means that they can provide a breath of fresh air to any sales team, particularly when combined with their natural abilities to utilise technology. All you need to do is adapt your recruitment methods to beat the competition and ensure you get the best new sales talent on the market.

For more information on working with us to help recruit your next graduate talent, click here. For the latest graduate vacancies, click here.