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U.S. Sales-Job Forecast Points to Better, but Cautious, Hiring Outlook

By SHRM Online staff  1/22/2013
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More sales jobs can be expected throughout the coming year, but U.S. employers will continue to move cautiously, according to CareerBuilder’s annual hiring forecast. The survey also points to heightened competition among employers for high-skill labor and improved compensation trends. 

 The nationwide survey was conducted online Nov. 1-30, 2012, by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder. More than 370 sales hiring managers and human resource professionals and 290-plus sales workers from companies of varying sizes were polled.

“We’ve seen demand for sales professionals remain steady, with gradual growth over the past year,” said John Smith, CareerBuilder’s vice president of enterprise sales. “Competition for quality sales reps is intense, so hiring managers looking to fill sales positions are likely to invest in additional training for new hires, as well as reach out to top performers from other companies.”

Full- and Part-time Hiring Expected

While the number of employers hiring sales professionals is trending up from 2012, so is the number that are planning to reduce their sales staff, “reflecting a mix of optimism and caution that has been characteristic of this recovery,” according to a press release about the survey. Twenty-seven percent of employers polled reported they expect to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2013, up from 26 percent last year. But 12 percent reported they plan to decrease head count, a jump from 8 percent last year. Fifty-two percent expect they will make no change in their staffing levels, while 10 percent are unsure.

More companies are turning to staffing and recruiting firms and temporary workers to help meet increased market demands. Thirty-nine percent of employers reported plans to hire temporary and contract workers in 2013, up from 37 percent last year. Among these employers, 46 percent plan to turn some temporary workers into full-time, permanent employees over the next 12 months.

Renewed Focus on Retention

Companies may need to make changes in 2013 in order to retain some of their top sales talent. Thirty-seven percent of sales employees polled said they consider themselves underemployed, and nearly one in five (18 percent) say they plan to switch jobs in the coming year.

Employers may come knocking, solicited or not.  One in three sales representatives (33 percent) reported having been approached to work for another company in the past year without applying for a position with that organization. 

In an effort to retain and attract top talent for skilled jobs, employers expect to provide higher compensation for both current and prospective employees. Seventy-three percent of employers in the sales industry will increase compensation for existing employees, up from 57 percent last year; while 51 percent will offer higher starting salaries for new employees, up significantly from 33 percent in 2012.  Most increases will be 3 percent or less, however.

Employers are taking measures to “reskill” workers, too.  Forty-one percent of sales employers plan to train people who don’t have sales experience and hire them for positions within their organizations, up from 39 percent last year.

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