Sales Managers’ Perceptions of Important Personal Variables in Hiring University Recruits: a Singapore Example

ABSTRACT - This study investigates the attributes that are important to Singapore’ sales managers in looking for potential graduate sales employees for the purpose of assisting organisations that want to upgrade their sales force and marketing educators in developing a programme to equip marketing students with the skills necessary to compete in the competitive Ajob market@.


Mark A. Patton, Tekle Shanka, and Lee Lee Pui (1996) ,"Sales Managers’ Perceptions of Important Personal Variables in Hiring University Recruits: a Singapore Example", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, eds. Russel Belk and Ronald Groves, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 80-88.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1996      Pages 80-88


Mark A. Patton, Curtin University, Australia

Tekle Shanka, Curtin University, Australia

Lee Lee Pui, BBus (Honours), John Wiley


This study investigates the attributes that are important to Singapore’ sales managers in looking for potential graduate sales employees for the purpose of assisting organisations that want to upgrade their sales force and marketing educators in developing a programme to equip marketing students with the skills necessary to compete in the competitive "job market".

This research found that the ten most important attributes to Singapore sales managers when hiring graduates are: initiative, knowledge of product, self-motivated, oral communication skills, enthusiastic, interpersonal skills, honest, adaptive, energetic and able to articulate goals. The Singapore results were the same as sixty percent of the attributes found in the American research.



International competition is raking havoc on traditional usiness practices in today’s marketplaces the redundancy route becomes a more difficult tool for managers to use in the mid-1990’s, one of the best untapped sources to improve the bottom line is improving the quality of a sales force [Underwood et. al., 1996]. One best key source for peak sales performers is new university graduates and in today’s market new graduates are keen to take up the challenge. Recent studies have shown sales positions represent the major source of entry level positions for tertiary marketing graduates in Australia (Patton, 1990, Thomas and Patton, 1992a, 1992b) and the United States (Gadeke, Tootlelian, and Schaffer, 1983). Both Chew (1992), Economics lecturer at the National University of Singapore, and Dudley (1989), an American academic, stated that marketing graduates have the competitive advantage because they are more productive with little or no training.

The focus of this study is to highlight the attributes that are stressed by Singapore sales managers when hiring graduates. As a leader of Asian Newly Industrialising Economics (NIE), investigating Singapore sales managers’ perceptions can serve as a model for other aspiring nations throughout the world, particularly those in South East Asia. Singapore’s results will also be a good comparison with the United States and Australian studies in hiring practices because its education and skills level will be on par with these two countries in the near future which make this research more viable and useful. Specifically, this study is designed to determine the attributes that Singapore sales managers look for in potential graduate sales employees for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of how NLE’s perceive the sales profession and to assist origination’s attempting to attract high calibre sales talent and help marketing educators in developing an appropriate marketing programme to better equip marketing students with the skills necessary. to compete in the competitive "job market".


Characteristics of successful salespeopleBA discussion of some empirical studies

"What makes a good salesman?"the classic research project undertaken by Mayer and Greenberg (1964) on the retail automobile insurance and mutual fund industries indicated that the two basic characteristics for successful salespeople were empathy and ego drive. They defined empathy as "the ability of a salesperson to project himself into the role of the customer and his environment that is fundamental in gaining respect and building good relationship" and referred to ego drive as "...want and need to make the sale in a personal or ego way, not merely for the money gained" and concluded that experience was considered a less important factor than empathy and ego drive because training would only be successful if empathy and ego drive were present. Mayer et al.’s conclusions were supported more recently by Greenberg and Greenberg (1976) and Noonan (1986). Lamont and Lundstorm’s (1977) research attempted to identify successful industrial salesmen by personality and personal characteristics with unstructured exploratory interviews. Several attributes were identified in their research including personal energy and initiative; the ability to organise and plan with flexibility in thinking and working habits; educational background; the ability to adapt to a variety of personalities and behaviours; concern with personal and professional development; and a desire and need for recognition. Bragg’s (1988) work indicated that salespeople were made and not born. He found that the four most predictive attributes of a salesperson’s success were found to be experience, education, practice, and motivation.

Trow (1990) used a composite of the traits and qualities that exist in a company’s best sale representatives, on a direct sales force of 100 salespeople in a Tennant Company which sold industrial floor products. The qualities and qualifications that a successful sales candidate at Tennant Company should possess. included: (1) educational requirements; (2) stability, knowledge and experience; (3) first impression; (4) motivational skills; (5) oral communication skills; (6) interpersonal skills; (7)judgement; (8) persuasiveness/flexibility; (9) planning/organising; and (10) tenacity.

Practitioners’ Views on The Making of a Successful Salesperson

Some prescriptive literature which discussed the practitioners’ views on the attributes of a successful salesperson also provided some interesting insights to the attributes of successful salespeople. According to Lawson (1988), Thomas Williams of California Consulting Group indicated that employers should look for: (1) confidence on the part of the applicant is an important trait for good salespeople; (2) applicants who are improving performance; and (3) applicants taking up jobs with more responsibilities. He added that empathy, ego drive and ego strength were the three important qualities of successful salespeople. His views were consistent with the study conducted by Mayer and Greenberg (1964) and Greenberg and Greenberg (1976).

Richard Rose, Dataflex Corporations’ president suggested that a sales superstar must (1) exhibit courage, respond with calm, humour, and relentless persistence when dealing with a hostile customer; (2) have a burning desire for success to be able to sell; (3) be a conceptual thinker; (4) have the ability to improvise; and (5) be able to respond instantly with an appropriate gesture to any unexpected development (Garrett, 1991).

Hafer and Hoth (1981) conducted a survey to compare the attributes ranked by employers and students as important in the field. Questionnaires were mailed to 55 national firms registered at the placement office of the University of Nebraska. Another 250 students were surveyed and asked to rank the same set of attributes that the businesses ranked based on importance. The twenty-six attributes were categorised into four headings: teachable, influenceable, personality, and demographic. The ten most important attributes identified by potential employers and students in their research were: (1) Oral communication; (2) Motivation; (3) Initiative; (4) Assertiveness; (5) Loyalty; (6) Leadership; (7) Maturity; (8) Enthusiasm; (9) Punctuality; and (10) Appearance. The authors concluded that several attributes of these attributes were teachable skills. Oral communication skills, assertiveness, and motivation were found to be skills that are teachable. The implications for marketing educators are that those skills and attributes which employers desire should be emphasised within the framework of the marketing curriculum.

To determine the relative importance of 34 characteristics flint could serve as potential hiring criteria, Gaedeke, Tootelian, and Schaffer (1983) surveyed over 170 companies that hired graduates to fill entry-level marketing positions. They identified the most important criteria by breaking the set of 34 characteristics into thirds based on mean scores. Verbal and written communication skills and a number of personal traits such as motivation, initiative, enthusiasm, assertiveness, and self-assurance were rated in the top three in terms of importance. Criteria such as personal appearance, work experience, grades, knowledge of marketing and a willingness to relocate were considered less important. The least important criteria included references, social activities, and membership in student and professional organisations.

Lammers et al. (1984) conducted personal interviews with 260 job interviewers from firms in Los Angeles and 110 third-fourth year marketing majors at California State University, Northridge. The respondents were required to rate the importance of 50 attributes and characteristics on a five-point Liken-type scale in the initial interview. Of these attributes, 25 were positive and 25 were negative n nature. The factor analysis results suggested that there were seven key aspects. The factors were: (1) social interaction factor; (2) arrogance factor; (3) low self confidence; (4) etiquette factors; (5) anxiety factor; (6) professional poise; and (7) preparedness factor. They reiterated the need for social interaction skills, concIuding that students need to develop "professional poise and public display of self-confidence" through class presentations and panels. Attributes that rely on social interaction factors are: a sense of humour; a positive outlook; poise during interview; enthusiasm; good eye contact; and confidence during the interaction.

McKendrick’s (1986) study supported the view that social interaction attributes were essential hiring criteria. McKendrick surveyed 292 middle-level managers from both medium and small sized firms that hired entry-level management positions. His results showed that work experience, communication skills, enthusiasm, interpersonal skills and education were considered important.

Boatwright and Stamps (1988) sought to determine the dimensions that underlie employer hiring criteria of firms that recruit recent university graduates to fill entry-level business positions. By surveying the representatives of all the companies that recruited business majors graduates (e.g. marketing, accounting, finance and production) on an American university campus. Thirty-three characteristics similar to those used by Gaedeke, Tootelian, and Schaffer (1983) were used to identify seven dimensions of employer hiring criteria. Each dimension was then analysed by conjoint trade-off analysis. The conjoint analysis found that academic skills were less important than being a self-starter, possessing leadership characteristics and communication skills for the marketing-related industries of retailing and consumer products. The resuIts also reported that the most common types of entry-level jobs for marketing students were in sales. For sales jobs, the most important skills were leadership and self-starter skills. The least important skill was academic skills, however, the findings did not report the importance of individual characteristics as hiring criteria.

Goldgehn (1989) undertook a research project designed to assist marketing students preparing for the job marketplace and their careers in marketing by surveying the vice presidents of personnel, sales or marketing at 50 leading financial institutions. The results indicated that over half of the companies (67%) rated verbal skills as "very important" in the attainment of employment. Other important attributes were appearance, experience, goals and writing and analytical skills. 21% of the companies indicated that they often hire marketing graduates for sales positions, while 17% of the companies hired marketing graduates for management trainee positions and 16% hire graduates for sales support positions.

In another study, Gaedeke and Tootelian (1989) found that students and employers differed in their evaluation of desirable job attributes because job seekers had vague or unrealistic goals. Their study showed that employers viewed initiative, interpersonal skills and maturity as more important than students did while students viewed oral communication skills, self-confidence, and entrepreneurship as more important than employers. Their work also found that potential employers ranked personal traits and skills the highest and gave a low score to group activities.

However, limitations in the above studies may prevent marketing educators from designing effective programs to help their students prepare placement with employers. According to Kelley and Gaedeke (1990), the study by Gaedeke et al. (1983) was limited in that the mean scores of the characteristics were not reported. Also, McKendrick (1986) might not have captured several important hiring criteria by asking the respondents open-ended questions.

To counter these limitations Kelley and Gaedeke (1990) conducted a mail survey on 347 employers who have recruited "the most grads in 1988" and an in-class survey on 500 students at a western university in the United States They evaluated 34 hiring criteria on seven point Likert-type scale and also an identical 34 scaled items for the employer sample but with an additional two open ended questions.

A MANOVA was run to determine whether any differences existed between the employers and students on the 34 potential hiring criteria. They found out that the employers and students were similar in their responses. Personality, communication and technical skills were rated as the most important skills while socialisation activities were rated as unimportant. One major limitation of the research was that although the 34 criteria used were based on previous research in marketing, they may not have included all skills and personal characteristics that are used as hiring criteria. In additional, the data only provided insights into the hiring criteria for entry-level jobs and not upper-level jobs.

From the above literature review, it can be concluded that the attributes required by employers as luring criteria for marketing and sales positions are consistent with the characteristics of successful salespeople as perceived by potential employers. A summary of the 42 favourable attributes of salespeople found in the literature is shown in Table 1.


Population and Sample and Design of Questionnaire

To test the hypothesis, a convenience sample of 500 was drawn from a list of the top 1000 companies in Singapore. The rankings were based on sales which included all operating revenue for the fiscal year ended 1988/89. To qualify for the ranking in "Singapore 1000", a company must incorporated in Singapore and may either be privately or publicly incorporated but must be engaged in business activity other than banking, finance, insurance or stock brokering’ (Singapore 1000, 1991). The sampling frame was reduced from the original 1000 to 350 after screening for the following reasons:

(1) the unavailability of a sales or marketing department in Singapore;

(2) the nature of their business, for example, trading firms, hospitals or companies that have an established customer base;

(3) the use of distributors (that is, the use of agents rather than internal salespeople); (4) under judicial management (that is, the company is bankrupt or being run by a receiver).



The questionnaire was divided into three sections. Section A consisted of six questions which focused on information on hiring salespeople. The questions dealt with hiring sources, type of degree preferred when hiring university and non-university graduates, positions that were available to students majoring in marketing, perception of marketing graduates having the skills and attitudes that were required by. the organisation.

Section B contained a 42-item scale which measured the importance of the attributes for hiring a salesperson. The scale was based on the attributes found significant in the Literature as shown in Table 1. These attributes were arranged in alphabetical order to eliminate bias.

Section C sought some background information on the organisation (type of industry, number of staff in sales department and organisation and average salary of a salesperson) and the respondent (gender, age, number of years in current position and involvement in recruitment process).

Data Collection Methods

The data were collected through self completion questionnaire with pre-stamped envelopes which were mailed directly to the sales or marketing manager of the companies.

In an attempt to increase the response rate for the survey, several steps were taken. These included:

(1) a cover letter with Curtin University of Technology letterhead that was individually signed;

(2) a self-addressed, pre-stamped return envelope;

(3) a summary report of this study to be sent to the respondents at no cost;

(4) confidentiality and anonymity of returned questionnaires; and

(5) a follow-up letter.

Telephone calls were made to remind the sales managers about the questionnaire. In addition, follow-up letters were sent out through the use of the facsimile. The receiving respondents who had not responded would then call to request for a copy of the questionnaire to be facsimiled to them; or if they had the questionnaire, the respondents would then facsimile it back. It was found that the use of facsimile was a much more time and cost efficient method of increasing the response rate. Upon return of the completed questionnaires from the respondents, the data were checked for completeness, accuracy and uniformity before coding and statistical analysis on an SPSS package.

Testing of Hypotheses and Analysis

Descriptive statistical analyses including frequencies and means used to obtain a #feel’ for the data and to rank the variables or attributes in the questionnaire and check the face validity of the responses. Ranking the means would provide a relative measure of the importance of each attribute by the sales managers. Mean scores greater than 4.0 were identified as high priority items while mean scores less than 2.0 were identified as low priority items. Any attribute scoring between 3.0 and 4.0 was identified as a neutral element.

T-test and one-way factor analysis of variance (ANOVA) were used to determine if there were any significant variations among the population means.

A factor analysis was run on the data to reduce the 42 attributes in this study to a more meaningful set of variables "which contain most of the information in the original set" (Weiers, 1988) for simplification in analysis and also for examining the relations among the variables. To determine the set of evaluative criteria used by potential employers, factor analysis (VARIMAX rotation), was performed on the sales managers’ importance ratings of the 42 attributes (Lehmann, 1989). It is appropriate to use factor analysis in this study as it is used for exploratory purposes and not for statistical testing (Ibid, 1975) although it was recognised that there might be some non-response bias. Reliability analysis was then undertaken to confirm the reliability of the factors using Cronbach’s alpha (1951).

A discriminant analysis was also performed on the factors identified from the factor analysis to determine the factors (independent variables) which discriminated the differences between respondents who hire or do not hire graduates in their organisation (dependent variables). Discriminant analysis was selected because it is a "technique that is appropriate with the nominal dependent variable and interval variable" (Kinnear and Taylor, 1991).


Of the 350 mailed surveys, 95 completed surveys were returned, representing a response rate of 27.1%. A similar response rate (27.9%) was obtained in a recent survey conducted by the National University of Singapore Students’ Union NUSSU) in a Singapore research (NUSSU, 1991).

Ratings of Importance of Attributes of Salespeople

To determine what attributes Singapore sales managers seek in potential sales employees the means of respondents’ importance ratings were calculated for each of the 42 attributes. The mean ratings were then ranked and tabulated from highest to lowest to reveal the relative importance of these attributes.

The importance ratings of attributes will be presented in this section in the following order:

(1) for all respondents as a whole;

(2) for respondents who hire university graduates;

(3) for each of the three employee size categories; and

(4) for each type of industry.

Importance of attributes for all respondents

The rank order of mean ratings indicates that the ten most important attributes were: (1) Initiative; (2) Enthusiastic; (3) Knowledge of product; (4) Honest; (5) Self-motivated; (6) Oral communication skills; (7) Interpersonal skills; (8) Energetic; (9) Able to articulate goals; and (10) Adaptive,

All of these ten attributes except knowledge of product and oral communication skills are not traditionally included in formal education curriculum. They constitute personal traits. The results indicated that all the respondents emphasised personal attributes when selecting sales personnel.

The five attributes which were rated as least important were: (1) Administrative skills; (2) Social activities; (3) Computer skills; (4) Community involvement; and (5) Participation in sports. The results revealed that the social aspects of the potential employees were not regarded as important by all the respondents. Furthermore, there was no emphasis on administrative and computer skills.

Importance of attributes for respondents who hire university graduates

A majority of the respondents (72.6%) indicated that their organisations hire graduates while 27.4% indicated that they do not hire university graduates for sales positions. The types of degree holders that employers prefer to hire were ranked by the order of their mean ratings and the results indicated that they prefer degree holders in marketing, other business or commerce, and engineering for sales jobs. The above results indicated that business school graduates are preferred for sales positions. In addition, engineering graduates with technical expertise required for industrial sales positions are preferred. The least preferred degree holders according to the mean ratings were arts, science and others (including social science, real estate management) degree holders.

In addition to being first in terms of mean rating, the preference towards marketing graduates is evident from the survey which indicating that 74% of the respondents have a high preference for marketing graduates (i.e., indicating their preference with at least a 4).

The ten most important attributes to companies which hire graduates were: (1) Initiative; (2) Knowledge of product; (3) Self-motivated; (4) Oral communication skills; (5) Enthusiastic; (6) Interpersonal skills; (7) Honest; (8) Adaptive; (9) Energetic; and (10) Able to articulate goals. The above ten attributes were also selected as being the ten most important when the mean ratings were calculated for all the 95 responses although the rankings were not identical. Initiative and knowledge of product surfaced as the top attributes in terms of mean ratings for organisations which hire graduates and all the 95 respondents. This clearly demonstrates the iportance of the above two attributes.

The findings disclose that the following important attributes are similar in the three different employee size categories: energetic, enthusiastic, honest, initiative, interpersonal skills and self-motivated. These attributes are also similar to the attributes most important for the organisations which hire and/or do not hire graduates. These results revealed the importance of these attributes.

Attributes such as able to articulate goals, adaptive and co-operative were viewed as important attributes by small and medium size companies. Medium and small size companies considered attributes such as knowledge of product and oral communication skills as important attributes. The attribute that was found common in small and large size companies was self-confidence. Medium and large size firms differed in their opinion with regard to the importance of the following attributes: medium size firms emphasise the importance of being energetic and large size firms emphasise knowledge of company.

Importance of attributes for each type of industry

The results showed that them are three similar attributes among the four industries. They are: enthusiastic, initiative, interpersonal skills and serf-motivated. Again, these three attributes are those found important in the responses of respondents who hire and/or do not hire graduates and the different categories of employee size organisations.

Some attributes were considered as being very important to certain industries but did not appear as important to others. For example, responding firms from the manufacturing industry stressed on appearance or presentation and positive outlook. Problem solving skills were regarded highly by respondents in the sales industry. For the service industry, being loyal and having knowledge of the company were rated highly. The importance of having leadership skills and possessing flexibility were emphasised by responding firms from the electronics industry.


Factor analysis, as a multivariate statistical technique was performed to identify the basic dimensions or factors underlying the large number of attributes in this study.’ and to minimisc problems of multi-colinearity.

The results of the principal components factor analysis are summarised. The appropriateness of the factor model was indicated with a 0.8 value using the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy, which indicated that the correlations between the pairs of variables can be explained by the other variables. Twelve factors which explained 70% of the variation in the 42 attributes were extracted after varimax rotation which all had an eigenvalue greater than 1.00. The factors were labeled as follows: (1) Specific selling skills; (2) Personal attributes; (3) Interpersonal skills; (4) Well rounder, (5) Knowledge; (6) Written skills; (7) Goal centred: (8) Adaptive: (9) Professional skills; (10) Serf-starter skills; (11) Entrepreneurship skills, and (12) Personal impression. Leadership skills was not included in any of the twelve factors due to its small factor loading (3.5543), indicating that it does not correlate highly with any of the factors. Factor one was labeled Specific selling skills with attributes such as sales techniques, self-confident, self-motivated, related work experience, persuasive, problem solving skills, energetic and tenacity. These attributes are essential skills to perform effectively in the selling function.

Hypothesis 1

Hypothesis set 1 states that the importance of an attribute varies by whether the organisation hires or does not hire university graduates.

Results of analysi: Using T-test (see Table 2), significant results were found for the following three attributes: (1) Adaptive; (2) Administrative skills; and (3)Highly recommended. The null hypotheses for these three attributes were rejected at the .05 level. The mean importance ratings for these three attributes, classified by whether the organisation hires or does not hire university graduates, are reported.

Discussion: Three out of the 42 attributes showed significant results at .05 level. These results suggest the basic homogeneity of Singapore sales managers’ perceptions towards the importance of attributes in this study (Ashforth, 1983). The mean scores for these attributes indicate that organisations which hire university graduates perceived adaptive and administrative skills as being more important than organisations which do not hire graduates. Being adaptive and having administrative skills are considered important to organisations which hire university graduates because different approaches to markets, products and customers are required for a higher level sales executive position. The above findings disclose that firms which do or do not hire graduates do not differ in their opinions of the importance of the various attributes except for the three attributes: adaptive, administrative skills and highly recommended.





Hypothesis 2 (ANOVA)

Hypothesis set 2 states that the importance of an attribute varies by the employee-size of the organisation.

Results of analysis:: As indicated in Table 3, two attributes showed significant results. The null hypotheses for these two attributes were rejected at the .05 level. They are: (1) Ambitious; and (2) Cooperative.

Discussion: Two out of the 42 attributes showed significant results at .05 level. These results suggested the basic homogeneity of Singapore sales managers’ perceptions towards the importance of attributes in this study (Ashforth, 1983). Table 3 reveals that being co-operative was the most important attribute among the three categories of employee size because of the importance in teamwork and working towards a common goal in Singapore work culture. Results also disclose that smaller organisations tend to emphasise more the importance of being ambitious and co-operative when compared to the medium and large size organisations. This result clearly showed that there are no significant differences in importance ratings for the three different categories of employee size organisations in Singapore.

Hypothesis 3

Hypothesis set 3 states that the importance of an attribute varies by the type of industry.

Results of analysis: Hypothesis set 3 was rejected for the following six factors which showed significant results at the .05 level: (1) Co-operative; (2) Leadership skills; (3) Loyal; (4) Self-motivated; (5) Good results; and (6) Tenacity. The results are given in Table 4. The mean importance ratings of these six attributes, classified by the type of industry, are reported in Table 4.

Discussion: Six out of the 42 attributes showed significant results at .05 level. These results suggested the basic homogeneity of Singapore sales managers’ perceptions towards the importance of attributes in this study (Ashforth, 1983). As shown in Table 4, being self-motivated is of particular importance across the four different types of industries (especially the sales industry) in Singapore. Self-motivation is very important to salespeople who want to succeed and have the ability to work in "demanding" sales work environment. In addition, the service industry considers being loyal, having good results and tenacity as important attributes. Being co-operative and leadership skills are also more important attributes to the electronics industry. The above results also confirmed that there were no major differences in important attributes among different industries.

Reliability Analysis

Cronbach’s alpha (1951) was used to confirm the reliability of the summed scales of the twelve factors. The resulting alphas are shown in Table. Factor one, Specific selling skills; and factor two, Personal attributes, with Cronbach’s alphas of 0.84 and 0.85 respectively, indicated a high level of reliability of the scale. Factors 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10 and 12 all had Cronbach’s alphas greater than 0.6 indicated that all the factors had an adequate level of reliability. Factors 8, 9, and 11 all had Cronbach’s alphas of less than 0.6 indicated a "weak" reliability of the summed scales. Therefore, variables that did not load onto these three factors were "split-up" into new individual factors (Factor 13, 14, and 15). The three variables and additional factors are: (I) Willingness to travel/relocate; (ii) Assertive; and (iii) Co-operative.



Discriminant Analysis

A discriminant analysis was undertaken to determine if the factors which discriminated the differences between respondents who hire graduates and do not hire graduates using the 15 factors. Since there were only two groups, only one discriminant function was possible.

Using step-wise discriminating analysis and Rao’s V as the step-wise criterion, six factors from the original 15 factors with the largest increase in Rao’s V were selected as the "best" set of discriminating variables. The results of the discriminant analysis are summarised in Tables 6, 7 and 8. The six discriminating factors included: Factor 8 (Adaptive), Factor 2 (Personal attributes), Factor 4 (All rounder), Factor 3 (Interpersonal skills), Factor 5 (Knowledge), and Factor 11 (Enterpreneurship skills).

As shown in Table 7, the six factors produced a low degree of separation as indicated by Wilks’ Lambda (.8019) and a canonical correlation of .4451 for the first discriminant function. This result indicated the six factors were not good discriminators in separating the respondents between those that hire and those that do not hire graduates.

However, there are some differences in the selection of employees by the respondents who hire graduates and respondents who do not hire graduates. As shown in Table 8, the six factors were ore important to respondents who hire graduates than respondents who do not hire graduates as the average value for Group 1 (respondents who hire graduates) has a bigger discriminant function score than respondents who do not hire graduates (Group 2).

Further evaluation of the model reported that approximately 71% of the respondents are correctly classified as respondents who hire graduates and respondents who do not hire graduates. This is shown in Table 9.



The above results indicated that 60% of the ten most important attributes are similar between the United States and Singapore. Therefore, it can be concluded that the hiring criteria for salespeople between these two countries with dis-similar cultures are basically similar, although differences do exist. For example, in Singapore, more emphasis is placed on attributes such as: knowledge of product, honest, adaptive and energetic whereas, attributes such as: maturity, entrepreneurship, ambitious, self-confident and problem solving skills are more important in the United States.

Respondents indicated that they prefer marketing graduates for sales jobs. 70% of the respondents also indicated that they partly agree that marketing graduates have the skills and attitudes required by potential employers. Only a low 5.8% strongly agee that marketing graduates have the skills and attitudes required by’ potential employers. This showed that 75.4% of the respondents felt that marketing graduate employees have the skills and attitudes required by their organisations.

The factor analysis of the survey data suggests that there are twelve factors underlying the 42 attributes desired by sales managers. The twelve factors identified were: specific selling skills, personal attributes, interpersonal skills, all rounder, knowledge, written skills, goal centred, adaptive, professional skills, self-starter, enterpreneurship skills and personal impression. It is evident that factor 1, Specific selling skills has the largest eigenvalue implying that it is the more important factor in this study.

Implications for marketing students

Both potential and present marketing students can use these important attributes identified as a "checklist" to make sure that all the important attributes have been taken into consideration to enhance or improve their skills and attitudes when preparing themselves for employment in the future. A marketing student would be better prepared for sales positions if he or she has a fundamental knowledge of what is expected by his or her potential employers.

Implications for marketing educators

The importance of a sales course being offered in tertiary education and the need to design an effective programme to equip marketing students with the necessary skills and attitudes to meet the needs of their potential employers were discussed in the introduction. This research aims to close the opinion gap between the practitioners and academics in this area. The results of the importance of attributes by order of mean ratings for organisations which hire graduates and the underlying factors identified by the factor analysis provided a list of important attributes and factors which marketing educators can use in grooming their graduates for employment. Marketing educators can expand their courses and curricula with this information to meet the "consumer behaviour" of potential employers. A marketing programme developed to help marketing graduates based on these findings will produce favourable results measured in student placement.












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Mark A. Patton, Curtin University, Australia
Tekle Shanka, Curtin University, Australia
Lee Lee Pui, BBus (Honours), John Wiley


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2 | 1996

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