Watch out for “Sales and Marketing”

Most recruiters looks at hundreds, possibly thousands of resumes a week. As much as I’d like to tell you that a recruiter thoroughly reviews your entire resume before making a decision on whether to contact you, that’s usually not true (hint: the top 1/3 of your resume “page one” and the very bottom few lines of each page are most important). We have to sift through so many resumes to get to one that we think is a good match and candidates don’t always do a good job of matching their backgrounds with the job description. People who apply often fail to meet the minimum experience requirement and this adds to the volume of resumes that see.

So your resume needs to make a good impression pretty quickly. I posted earlier about how to use resume headlines when posting to a career site like or hotjobs. And I’ve also posted on the format of the resume itself. But there’s one thing I see on resumes that makes me less likely to consider the candidate than any of these other things and that is when someone refers to themselves as a “sales and marketing” professional. Here’s why:

  • If the person is truly doing “sales AND marketing“ they must work at a company with VERY few employees. Some marketing jobs have elements of sales (for example customer visits to understand feature specs) and some sales jobs have elements of marketing (driving messaging out through your channel), but to refer to yourself as both suggests more of a balance. The concern here is that someone focused on both of sales and marketing in a smaller environment wouldn’t have to opportunity to do the scope of work that someone doing marketing at a large tech company would. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, especially if the person is applying for very similar work. But working at a larger company has different challenges.

  • Often, when someone refers to their background as “sales and marketing“, they are doing sales and are looking to get into marketing. It’s rarely the other way around and I think that’s mainly because there are more entry level opportunities in sales than there are in marketing (certainly not to say that sales is more junior, though, because I have met some outstanding, strategic sales folks). There are also great career paths in sales, but when a company employees X number of sales people, only a small fraction will become managers. Sales folks can grow and differentiate themselves in other ways, but I have noticed that a number of them want to get into marketing. I can’t remember the last time that I reviewed a resume of a “sales and marketing“ person with a significant focus on marketing rather than sales.

  • And sometimes when people refer to “sales and marketing“ as their area of expertise, it’s because they know they want to get into the business world (or maybe even move over to the business side from tech), but they don’t want to limit themselves to one or the other because they are looking for a chance to make a career change.

So what do I recommend?

  1. If you use the term “sales and marketing“ on your resume (or in your headline), apply only to jobs that are looking for someone with a background in “sales and marketing“. At Microsoft, we have entirely separate recruiting teams for sales versus marketing. We look for folks with different skills and backgrounds. So candidates would benefit from positioning themselves as a “sales professional“ OR a “marketing professional“ when applying here because you are targeting 2 different recruiting teams.

  2. If you still want to be considered for sales jobs AND marketing jobs, create 2 resumes…one for sales and one for marketing. Your details should all be the same, of course (like dates of employment, company names), but you can position yourself differently. Also, keep in mind that it’s possible that one company would have both resumes on file for you so make sure it still looks like you are the same person. You just want to highlight different areas of expertise within each resume.

  3. Use the verbiage that you see in the job descriptions of the companies you want to work at. You’ll be surprised at how few are looking for “sales and marketing“ experience. If they call it “product marketing“ or “product management“, you may want to think about integrating those words into your resume (although be careful with titles…you should state your title as it is so reference checking is not a problem). I’m talking more about using this verbiage in the body of your resume, not giving yourself a new title ; )

  4. Highlight your best skill/most experience up front. It’s disappointing to find a resume titled “High tech marketing manager“ only to find that the resume doesn’t really back up the headline. You want your resume to be consistent with your headline (as I’ve mentioned before). Then recruiters’ expectations will be set appropriately. Otherwise, the recruiters attention is drawn more to the disconnect between the headline and the text than to your actual experience.

I’ve posted quite a bit on the topic of branding (employment branding and branding yourself). Think of your headline as your brand promise and your resume as your marketing collateral. In a business environment where I see people moving into more specialized roles (anyone else see this happening in tech marketing?), don’t be afraid to identify yourself as either a “sales“ OR “marketing“ professional.



Comments (9)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Microsoft recruiter Heather Leigh points out the important but oft-ignored differences between “sales” and “marketing”.

  2. Anonymous says:

    …The gentleman politely informed us that we had confused Marketing with Sales.

    “Let me explain the difference

  3. While I agree that sales and marketing are completely different functions at a large corporation, I take a small issue that working at a small company and having ‘balanced’ experience in both the sales and marketing functions is viewed at all as a disadvantage to the large company in terms of finding the best candidates. Smaller companies that force you to do both functions force you to think more creatively about issues like service and product differentiation both from a sales and marketing perspective. You are also closer to the actual customer, so those experiences give ‘real world’ emphasis on finding out what those customers need and how to get that information in creative ways. Those types of experiences can help a large company by bringing in people who can bridge the common "disconnect" between corporate marketing and the customers the company is in pursuit of. It also does sound like you value marketing a little more than sales in the post. That being said, you make some interesting points and valuable insights in to the recruiting function at Microsoft and I appreciate the information very much.

  4. stanski says:

    Marketing: (Staff Function)Identifying Markets, Suspects, go to market strategies (i.e. web, trade shows, seminars, media advertisement, cold calling,) developing promotional programs, performing competitive analysis(i.e. means understanding why you won the deal and why you lost the deal then putting together a plan that will allow you sales folks to win more then lose.

    Sales: Development of sales strategy which is to include strategic as well as tactical. Identifying possible suspects. research on suspect, contact suspect identifying dcecision makers, determining level of interest start of the sales cycle…if no

    interest move on and stay in touch for future requirements..Sales has customer satisfaction responsibity and account management responsibility…must forecast sales, must achieve/exceed sales budget….

    These are my thoughts…unfortunately many people think telesales and telemarketing are the same as outside sales and marketing and I wish they would get it right.

    Thanks for letting me speak my mind.

  5. Lisa says:

    Hi Heather,

    Could you please advise on what are the sales positions and interviews at Microsoft like?


  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hi Lisa – Unfortunately, I have never recruited for sales positions so mu knowledge of any differences in their interview process is limited. I’d assume that most of the interview is similar to a typical Microsoft interview. I don’t know how they assess sales talent specifically though. Sorry.

  7. Lisa says:

    Hi Heather,

    Thanks for the reply. However, could you advise on what are the entry level sales positions at Microsoft and what does the sales career path at Micrsoft look like?

    When I search for sales positons, lot of times positions like ‘Marketing manager’ show up, so was a little confused.

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Lisa – Since I recruit for marketing, I don’t think I would be the right person to answer those questions.

    As far as the searching goes, perhaps you are using "sales" as a search term and finding non-sales position that reference the word "sales" in the job description? I would just recommend looking through the positions and/or tweaking your search terms until you find one or more positions that you feel are right for your background.

  9. LocalDog says:

    I disagree with the comment that if an employee is doing sales and marketing they must be working at a small company.

    I work for an 18 billion office supplier and my business development role includes a tremendous amount of marketing strategy and the creation of best in class marketing tools.

    As a hobby, I also run sales jobsite httP// and I’ve seen many resumes come through with sales and marketing verbiage.

    My recommendation is dig into the details of the list of accomplishments to see how sales and marketing are deployed in the day-to-day, dont let a poorly chosen self descriptor invalidate a candidate.