Office Hours: Learn About Student And Entry Level Jobs At Softchoice

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Office Hours is an hour-long, live Q&A with industry eggs-perts for TalentEgg members only. Students and recent grads are invited to interact with a special guest, asking questions about career paths, recruitment processes and tips for success.

On April 11, 2012, we had the pleasure of hosting Office Hours with special guests Darryl Sheepwash and Sakshi Khanna, recruiters at Softchoice.

Darryl and Sakshi fielded questions about career opportunities at Softchoice, and provided excellent advice to help students and new grads successfully navigate the application and interview process.

In case you missed the live event, you can read the complete transcript below:

TalentEgg Taryn:
Welcome to Office Hours, TalentEgg-ers! My name is Taryn and I’ll be moderating today’s chat. Our eggs-pert guests today are Darryl Sheepwash and Sakshi Khanna, two recruiters from Softchoice. Over the next hour, you can send Darryl and Sakshi your questions about Softchoice, the sales industry, tips for success and anything else you might be interested in learning! You can start sending in your questions now.

TalentEgg Taryn:
Darryl and Sakshi, could you tell the group a bit about yourselves and Softchoice?

Darryl @ SC:
Sure thing! I’ll start with myself.

Darryl @ SC:
I’ve been with Softchoice as a recruiter for a year now. I was hired over Skype from Vancouver, and I’ve definitely been lucky to have joined a great company. My role is a recruiter for the Outside Sales Reps in Canada and the US East, for Finance and Operations, and I’m the Team Lead for the Telesales roles in Canada and the US.

Sakshi:
Hi everyone, I am a recruiter here at Softchoice and recruit for sales roles. I actually started my career at Softchoice as a co-op student and was asked to stay on after, and been here for about 8 months! It’s been a great experience so far!

TalentEgg Taryn:
Sakshi – that’s great! What was your co-op experience like? What did you do?

Sakshi:
My experience was great! I learned so much right from my first day. Anywhere from screening resumes to actually starting to recruit for some of the roles! I have also been part of many projects with the HR Manager during my co-op term!

Comment From Guest
Hi Darryl and Sakshi – What would you say are the pros and cons of Inside Sales vs Outside Sales?

Darryl @ SC:
Inside Sales is a great way to learn the ropes, so to speak. We put a lot of resources into training our new telesales reps and ensuring they’re going to feel comfortable in their role and be set up for success. With Outside roles, you’re really exposed to the elements. Being in-person, you’re going to want to feel very confident about your product and be a complete expert otherwise, we’re setting you up for a really big challenge. With inside sales, we can hire people that don’t have a technology background and can train them. That’s why we love to see grads, you’ve proven you can learn!

Comment From Guest
As recruiters, what do you look for in the people you hire and how can students stand out during the recruitment process?

Darryl @ SC:
I really like to see people that are focused on their goals. We ideally like to see some sales experience, but a lot of people didn’t have a chance to work during school. Show that you’ve been passionate about something – sports, volunteering, anything. You really should try to differentiate yourself somehow as well. Last week someone connected with me on Twitter and I interviewed that person right away. They were obviously committed to their craft and their job search. It gets me excited to reach out and say hello.

Comment From Guest
Thanks for the pro/con response, Darryl! What does the training program look like for new Inside Sales recruits?

Sakshi:
Our training program consists of a number of different areas. It’s usually 3-6 months long and you’d spend time with a trainer, your peers, online learning and getting a lot of systems and certification training.

Comment From Lukas Iafrates
Hi Darryl and Sakshi. First off, thanks for sharing your time to answer questions. Thanks to TalentEgg Taryn for moderating as well. Could you give me an example of what a typical day is like for a Territory Sales Rep at Softchoice?

Darryl @ SC:
You’d spend a lot of your day reaching out to new customers. Your role is that of an advisor and consultant, so you’d be asking about their technology headaches. We work with 3000-5000 different vendors, so you’ll be spending a lot of time speaking with product experts internally and linking them up with your customers. That’s why we don’t need people with much tech experience.

Darryl @ SC:
Lots of continuous learning and time with your manager as well.

TalentEgg Taryn:
That sounds like a great role for new grads! What kinds of advancement opportunities does Softchoice offer?

Darryl @ SC:
Sakshi’s probably a prime example of the opportunities we can provide new grads – Sakshi, what has your experience been so far for development opportunities?

Sakshi:
We believe in promoting within, and I think Softchoice really supports that internal growth. For myself, I started off as a co-op student as I mentioned, and loved the experience during my co-op. It was really a step to start my career, and I didn’t expect that from a co-op experience, but SC was able to give me that growth opportunity and I am learning something new everyday!

Comment From Lukas Iafrates
Is a Territory Sales Rep position based mainly out of the office?

Darryl @ SC:
For sales roles, you’re going to be spending 2+ years in your role so you can provide your customers with some continuity. It provides you a lot of opportunity for self growth as well. From there, a lot of people will move into an Outside Sales role – and that could be almost anywhere in North America. Or there are always leadership roles coming available. We do a really great job of pushing people and I think a lot of development happens as a result. For me personally, I have been a recruiter for a number of years now, but I’ve never grown in an organization like I have in the last year.

Darryl @ SC:
Yes, our TSR/ISAM/CSR positions would be based out of our offices in Toronto/Montreal/Chicago/Seattle. So you’d apply for one specific location.

Comment From Guest
How would you describe the attitude and characteristics of a top performing sales rep at Softchoice?

Darryl @ SC:
I’d see them having strong ambition, perhaps an entrepreneurial mindset, goal oriented and a strong communicator myself. You’re going to have a lot of support (a lot!) but you’re almost running your own business in a lot of ways. Success is what you make of it in the sales roles.

Sakshi:
The successful candidates are very excited about the position, they have done their research about Softchoice and what we’re all about! Their attitude is really positive, even if they haven’t done direct sales, they are confident and they are very open to learning.

TalentEgg Taryn:
Some students and new grads might not think to ask about company culture when considering where they would like to work. Everyone at TalentEgg thinks Softchoice’s dog-friendly office is egg-cellent! Can you tell us more about your culture?

Poll: If you worked for a dog-friendly company like Softchoice, would you bring your dog to work every day?

  • Yes! ( 56% )
  • No. ( 0% )
  • I don’t have a dog, but I might get one if I could bring him/her to work every day. ( 44% )

Sakshi:
The culture here at Softchoice is very different from other companies and I think that is what differentiates us from other companies. In addition to the dog-friendly environment, we have Beer Cart Fridays! This happens once a month and we all get together as a company and have BEER! It also gives us a chance to catch up for the last hour of a Friday! It’s a good way to end the week off.

Darryl @ SC:
It was one of the selling factors for me when I was making my decision. I was hired before coming to Toronto, so it was a huge plus when I got here. The dogs are great, beer-cart Fridays every month, and our Softchoice Cares program really set us apart in the marketplace. Ironically enough, it’s also a downside when we’re bringing people in. The first question our managers ask when someone comes in is “why do you want to work at Softchoice?” It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the beautiful building and the dogs, so a lot of people say they like the relaxed style we have. Big no-no, though. We work hard for the ability to earn our culture, so you need to show you’re excited to work for it.

Comment From Guest
Great, thanks Darryl & Sakshi! Is a sales position at Softchoice commission-based, salary-based, or a combination of the two?

Sakshi:
It is a combination of the two – Base + commission

Comment From Lukas Iafrates
What would you recommend an interviewee wear to their first interview at Softchoice?

Darryl @ SC:
Good question. It’s funny how many times someone calls me to ask the same question on the Thursday or Friday before they’re set to start their first day.

First and foremost, you need to feel comfortable in your own skin. That said, you’re going to want to dress professionally as well. We’re a jeans-friendly environment, but it’s important that you show you’re really interested in the role and you’re willing to dress to showcase that. Shirt and tie wouldn’t hurt, but certainly a collared shirt with nice pants would be the minimum. Hard for me to answer for female applicants though… Sakshi?

Sakshi:
I would say professional as well. Maybe dress pants and a dress shirt, or even a pencil skirt with a collared shirt.

Comment From Guest
Sakshi, you mentioned you began your career at Softchoice as a co-op student. Are there any co-op/internship opportunities for this summer, or is recruitment for those roles already finished?

Sakshi:
Yes I did! We have many great positions that open up for our co-op program. At this time, we have filled all of our co-op roles, but we would be recruiting for the next co-op term in mid – late July, and the co-op term would start in September. Check out our website in July to see all the exciting opportunities! I can ensure that it would be a great experience for you.

Comment From Guest
How would a lack of knowledge about IT and the IT industry impact a new hire or someone interviewing for a position with Softchoice?

Darryl @ SC:
We’re really open-minded when it comes to someone’s previous experience – especially educationally. We will happily speak with someone with a Philosophy degree as quickly as a B.Comm. For work experience, we like to see any type of sales – including retail. One of our managers loves to see serving experience as well. We really don’t need a technology background because we can do a really good job training people on that end of the business. Know how to sell, know how to develop strong relationships and be trustworthy and you’ll likely do well.

Comment From Guest
Darryl & Sakshi – What are the biggest turn-offs or red flags for you when you’re interviewing someone for a position at Softchoice?

Sakshi:
I would say lack of understanding of the position. I get some people who have no idea what the position is about and have just applied to get a job, it really just shows a lack of time spent looking at the job description and the company.

Darryl @ SC:
If we’re calling you, we want to speak with you specifically. Use that knowledge to feel more confident on the phone. Try to have fun and let your personality shine through. At the end of the day, if you’re hired, it’s going to reflect well on us and it’s going to make the manager happy. I think that is forgotten by candidates sometimes.

Comment From Guest
What are some common customer-related challenges for someone working in Inside Sales?

Darryl @ SC:
Good question… A large part of the role for a new rep is understanding who your resources are. You’ll never know about all of the products we carry, and we’ll never ask that of you. So it’s important that you can be a knowledge hub for your customers, an access point to those who can answer their questions. Being able to say, “I don’t know, let me find that out for you.” and following through on that promise is big. Showing patience and professionalism when you’re handling a difficult situation are important as well. Hopefully that answered your question.

Comment From Guest
In terms of resumes and cover letters, what is the best practice for someone who wants to get themselves some face or phone time with a recruiter/manager?

Sakshi:
Make your resume stand out! For sales positions specifically, I really like to see some accomplishments in your position. Throw some numbers in there if you were successful, show off a little and be confident. Make sure you have a balance, don’t put too many details but don’t put too little info either. I had a candidate who had 3 one-word bullet points under his position, but had some great volunteer experience. After speaking to him over the phone, I learned he was really successful in his last position and just didn’t put that on his resume.

Darryl @ SC:
There’s a great article on LinkedIn right now about how recruiters spend 6 seconds reviewing a resume. Makes us sound like we have the attention span of a goldfish, but it’s true… As I mentioned earlier, try to get in front of the recruiter in a different way, or check to see if you know anyone that works there. For the resume, make it very easy to read. Also, I never read cover letters… Sorry, I know people (myself included) put a lot of effort into crafting the perfect one.

Comment From Guest
What types of backgrounds lend themselves to careers in sales?

Darryl @ SC:
The days of the pushy salesperson are gone. If you’re pushing a product, you’re going to be beat on cost in the long run. A great salesperson creates a trusting relationship, adds value to their customer and is a great communicator. The product itself shouldn’t matter to someone that is a strong salesperson.

Comment From Guest
Is a BA enough? Or do you need further education?

Sakshi:
B.A. is the minimum requirement for the sales positions. No further education is required.

Darryl @ SC:
For us, it definitely is. I often tell people that we basically give a second degree in technology sales. Personally, I don’t see a lot of value in an MBA if you don’t have any actual work experience.

Comment From Guest
Do you search for candidates on social media to learn more about them? If yes, what advice would you give candidates who are active on Facebook/Twitter/other social media?

Darryl @ SC:
Sakshi’s going to answer that, but it’s a good segue into social media. There have been a lot of great questions. Please feel free to connect with us on LinkedIn (Darryl Sheepwash and Sakshi Khanna) and follow @asoftchoicelife on Twitter.

Sakshi:
Definitely! Social Media is a great way for us to connect to potential candidates. Make sure your profiles are professional, especially on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has some great features for connecting people to jobs, so those key words are important.

TalentEgg Taryn:
That’s all the time we have for questions today, thanks for participating in Office Hours and a big thank-you to Darryl and Sakshi for such insightful answers! Do the two of you have any final comments?

TalentEgg Taryn:
If you’re looking for more information on Softchoice, check out their TalentEgg profile or connect with them on Twitter (@ASoftchoiceLife)!

Comment From Guest
Thank you both so much! You’ve been incredibly helpful.

Sakshi:
Thank you very much for being a part of this and learning about Softchoice! Best of luck to all of you!

Darryl @ SC:
It’s a tough job market right now and I often feel bad for new grads entering this market. Make sure you take the steps to differentiate yourself and keep the search going. You’ll make it, eventually, so don’t give up. We just hired someone into our team that had graduated 1.5 years ago and now she’s got the entry-level job that she was hoping for.

Darryl @ SC:
Thanks everyone, this was a lot of fun!

Softchoice is a leading North American provider of IT solutions and services and one of Canada's Best Workplaces™. With a network of more than 40 local sales offices supported by five regional call centers, we work with partners like Microsoft, HP and IBM to manage the technology needs of more than 19,000 small, mid-market, enterprise and public sector organizations.Check out Softchoice’s company profile on TalentEgg to learn more about the company and to find out how to apply.

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About the author

Taryn Fahey is TalentEgg's Marketing Specialist and the Office Hours Moderator. Taryn is a recent graduate of UBC Okanagan's Faculty of Management, where she earned a Bachelor of Management with a specialization in Marketing.