18 Jan 2018

2018 Sales Hiring Forecast

With 2017 behind us it’s time to look ahead and project sales hiring for 2018. As there aren’t any specific sales hiring forecasts, each year we build our own by looking at the overall hiring projections from the industry standards – CareerBuilder, Manpower and Linkedin. We also bring in relevant data from Glassdoor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since each company gets their information from different sources, we have confidence that the aggregate of their projections will give us an accurate forecast. From this research, our 2018 sales hiring forecast predicts another strong year for sales hiring.

1. Unemployment Continues to Drop.

Before we forecast 2018 let’s look at the hiring data for 2017. On average, 174,000 new jobs were added each month in 2017 which brought unemployment down from 4.6% to where it stands today at 4.1%. This paints the picture of an all out war for talent as 5% is considered full employment.

We can also look at the unemployment rate for sales specifically as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports list the unemployment rate by occupation. In 2017, the unemployment rate for the combination of b2c and b2b sales professionals dropped from 4.6% to 3.8%.

To get a better idea of corporate b2b sales unemployment rates (excluding b2c sales jobs) we can look at the unemployment rate for workers that hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Unemployment levels for this group dropped from 2.3% to 2.1% in 2017.

Confirming the strong hiring data for 2017 is Linkedin’s Workforce Report. Linkedin tracks actual job movements of the 143M US workers that have a profile on Linkedin. Their data showed a 10.2% increase in 2017 hiring as compared to 2016. Clearly, 2017 was an amazing year for employment in general and sales hiring specifically.

2. 2018 Sales Hiring Forecast.

The major forecasters predict strong hiring growth in 2018. CareerBuilder forecasts that 44 percent of employers plan to hire in 2018 which is a four percentage point increase from 2017’s forecast of 40 percent. Similarly, Manpower forecasts a Net Employment Outlook of +19% which is the strongest forecast they have reported since 2007.

The forecasts for sales hiring in 2018 looks to be even more robust with Linkedin’s US Emerging Jobs Report listing sales as the 2nd most in demand skill. Although CareerBuilder doesn’t rank the most in demand jobs, they do list sales in their “Hot Areas for Hiring”.

3. The War for Sales Talent Will Intensify in 2018.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces a chart that visualizes how brutal the war for talent has become. Since 2015, jobs have been created faster than they can be filled. Reflective of this, CareerBuilder reports that “forty-five percent of HR managers currently have jobs they cannot fill because they cannot find qualified talent”.

Adding to this challenge for employers in 2018 is a projected increase in employees leaving their current employers in search of higher pay. Glassdoor reports that 35% of employers anticipate an increase in voluntary employee turnover.

If you’re an employer, read Sales Recruiting in Tough Markets – 4 Rules to gain insights into how to compete effectively for top sales talent.

How Long Will it Last?

Manpower surveys employers from 43 countries to produce a Global Employment Outlook. This survey forecasts employment gains in 41 of the 43 countries. Even more significantly, there were zero negative Outlooks among the 43 countries. Both Globally and in the US, 2018 looks to be a historically strong year for hiring.

This brings us to the question of when and what could cause this to end. We’re now eight years into this current economic cycle. If we look to US history, the longest period of economic growth has been 10 years (March 1991 to March 2001). With no warning signs of a looming downturn present, our current economic cycle may still have some room to run. Finally, If you’d like to compare, you can read our 2017, 2016 and 2015 sales hiring forecasts.


Chris Carlson

President and founder of Sales Talent Inc, a B2B sales recruiting firm. Based near Seattle, WA we place sales reps, sales engineers and sales leaders across North America.