Advice from a Technical PreSales Hiring Manager


As someone that started their career on the IT operations side of the table, I’m always imageexcited when I get an opportunity to pay it forward and work with others on the operations side that want to try their hand at the PreSales world.  A recent great example is my good buddy Brian Carpenter (@InTheDC).  He’s in the process of blogging about his move from VP of IT to a PreSales Systems Engineer here at EMC (Blog: I’m an EMC’er ).  Go follow him on twitter and his blog !!

Anyway, this is a big career change for most and it can be very difficult cracking into the imagePreSales world.  Mostly because hiring managers don’t normally like to take on projects and will take the path of least resistance and hire someone that has prior presales experience.  BUT, if you are up for the challenge, there are a few things you can do to get a leg up on even the most decorated PreSales engineer you might be competing with in a job opportunity.   In this blog post I’ll take you through a few things to consider.  Keep in mind, as a hiring manager these are just some of the major things I’m looking for – other managers might have other hot buttons or priorities, but this is a good starting point..

In this day and age it really boils down to “who you know” more than it does what sort of background or resume you have.  For example, I have an incredibly large stack of resumes on my desk for a role I recently blogged about (Now Hiring: Advanced Software Division PreSales SE).  There is just no way I can call each and every one of them, so I do what most hiring managers do which is cull down the list.  I do that by giving resumes the once over and separating them into 2 different piles.  The first pile is resumes that without looking very hard, seem to fit the hiring profile/job description.  If you don’t know the hiring manager, or know someone that knows the hiring manager your resume is your one and only shot to get into that good pile.

So here is my first big piece of advice. Make sure your resume SCREAMS OUT thatimage you are a good fit for the role I’m hiring for.   If you are going after a PreSales Role, don’t send an Operations Type Resume.  If you list DOS, Windows 95, ME, 98, 2000, 2003, 2008, 2012, Ghost, archaic networking protocols of years past, or anything that is older than about 3 years, it’s not going to help you too much. Smile  If you list every major software/hardware/switch you’ve ever touched, it’s probably not going to help you get into the good resume pile.  It’s going to probably get moved to the “other pile”.  Remember, this is a PreSales role, if you are in a meeting and you have to rely on your DOS skills to get you through the meeting, you are in the wrong meeting Smile

So to net it out, re-write your resume to fit the hiring profile of what that job is and remove things from your resume that doesn’t seem to add “Value” around what the job is looking for.

Second bit of advice, this is 2013 if you don’t have a decent LinkedIn profile, you are killing me.  Seriously,  resumes are great and stuff but I ALWAYS go toimage LinkedIn first, probably before I even open up your resume.   It is so easy, and free and if you do it right, you can print it out and send it in as your resume.  While you are creating a LinkedIn profile, make sure you are connected to as many people as you know.  That’s another thing I look at, “who do each of us know”.  Its another quick way to make one of the two piles !  Not to mention, it’s a fantastic way to network with others.

Third bit of advice, speaking of Linkedin, NETWORK with your peers.  In this day and age, its more important to know people, than to have every certification known to man.  As a hiring manager, we zero in on things like this.  We want others to tell us “Oh ya, I know this person, they are a great/awesome/rockstar” etc.  Also, spending time at VMUG’s (VMware User Group) and other conferences (VMworld, EMC World, CiscoLiveOracle Open World, Microsoft TechEd etc) is a great opportunity to network with others.  I tell people all the time, “I wasn’t looking for this job when I found it”.  In other words, I’ve never been one to hit the job sites to find my next big adventure, I usually heard about killer job opportunities at various events and through people I’ve met at conferences and user group meetings.

Fourth bit of advice.  Do your homework !  You would be surprised how many people I’ve interviewed over my career that couldn’t tell me one thing about the company they were interviewing with.  They couldn’t name a product, a feature or anything.  I’m not asking you to give me my trailing revenues, and recent board member changes, just fake like you spent 10min’s on Google reading up on the company !  Come to the interview (Phone or in person) with a set of 5 or 10 “filler” type questions you can ask me when I inevitably ask you “So, what questions do you have for me”.  BE PREPARED !  It’s not as if my simply asking you that question is a new ground breaking interview style.  It’s sort of a standard question to ask Smile

Fifth and final advice.  I had an AWESOME mentor in my professional career.  I’ve actually had a couple, but the one that had THE largest impact in my life was a guy named Tony Lagera.  I remember one day, on our way to a sales call on a 110 degree day I asked imageTony, “Why are you wearing a suit to this meeting, it’s freaking hot outside”.  He said “you can ALWAYS take a tie and jacket off in a meeting, but you can never put one on once you got there”.  In other words, it’s better to overdress, then underdress.  With that said, I’m not saying you HAVE to wear a suit to an in person interview, but it certainly can’t hurt and you can always remove the tie and jacket if it becomes clear it’s a casual interview.  You only have one chance to make a great impression, don’t blow it by being stubborn and rocking sperrys and jeans thinking it’s no big deal.   I know others will disagree, but the pure fact that not EVERYONE would disagree means that some people do pay attention to how you dress for an interview. 

So there you have it, a few of random thoughts from a PreSales Technical hiring manager.  My hope is you can take at least one thing away from this blog post and use it next time you interview.  By the way, Josh Attwell did an AWESOME job about his journey from operations to presales and the sort of dress clothes you need to buy after you get the job.  Check it out:  The Sales Engineer Uniform


Good luck !


3 thoughts on “Advice from a Technical PreSales Hiring Manager

  1. Hey,
    It was really nice reading your article,
    I have a question I’m am a Software Engineer working in a private firm.
    Recently my company has asked me if i can move to Pre-Sales.

    i’m a bit confused whether i should go for this opportunity or not.

    Any suggestions?

  2. I think the third bit of advice should be first, second AND third – network network network. In sales the saying goes, “people buy from people they know and trust” and the same goes with hiring. I have had VERY few jobs that I got as a result of a blind application (actually, I think 2 total in my life – and they both sucked). The rest of this stuff is solid gold but networking is THE ONLY way to get into the door. Think about it this way – networking is a two-way street… not only does the employer get a high level of confidence before meeting you, but you can trust that the person recommending you wouldn’t put you in a horrible career situation (unless you are TOTALLY doing networking wrong, of course). NETWORK, PEOPLE!!!!

  3. Good advice. I went the presales route for a while and loved it (got caught up in a buyout of the company and laid off now back in ops). I would like to add that the hardest thing for me to get over going from ops to presales was that you are driven by the dollar and the sale. You have to be able to juggle both a solution that meets the customer needs and helps your company. Sometimes the customer just needs X today and the salesperson wants to push XY and Z. You have to know when and how to properly upsell the customer without sounding like a used car salesman.

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