How to Spot "Marketing" Jobs That Are Really Sales Rep Jobs
A lot of entry-level “marketing” jobs are really direct sales jobs. Here’s how to spot them.
Many new graduates looking for entry-level marketing jobs get duped by sales roles disguised as marketing.
They apply to jobs with titles like “Marketing Assistant” and “Executive Marketing Manager,” only to discover late in the interview process or even once they are hired that the role isn’t marketing at all.
Don't let this be you.
These roles are usually demanding, high-turnover sales positions. They often involve cold-calling or some form of direct sales, a model where you have to buy products from a parent company in order to sell them.
You might be manning a booth selling products for brands in big box retail stores like Costco, or standing in a mall trying to get people to sign up for a new cable package.
Sometimes, the companies advertising these positions are multi-level marketing companies (MLMs), organizations where members make money by recruiting you to sell for the company and then getting you to recruit others (avoid these like the plague, they are almost always a terrible idea).
Regardless of the exact business model, the story is the same—they are using the marketing label to attract young talent that doesn’t know any better for a job that isn’t marketing.
Here’s how to spot “marketing” jobs that are really just sales jobs.
1. The job has “marketing” in the title
Here’s the reality: most entry-level marketing jobs don’t have “marketing” in the title.Here's a pretty complete list of entry-level marketing positions grouped by segment. Notice how few have “marketing” in the title.
- Brand Manager/Brand Management Associate
- Graphic Design Associate
- Junior Designer
- Content Coordinator
- Content Writer
- SEO Associate/SEO Specialist
- PPC Specialist
- Social Media Manager/Specialist
- Paid Social Specialist
- Content Creation (Content Marketing Specialist, Video Marketing Specialist, Etc)
- Email Marketing Specialist
- Media Buyer
- Affiliate Manager
- eCommerce Associate
- eCommerce Manager
- eCommerce Analyst
- eCommerce Fulfillment Manager (closer to logistics, but there can be overlap with marketing)
- PR Associate
- Community Manager/Associate
Research & Analytics
- Market Research Associate
- Marketing Analyst
- PPC Analyst
- Digital Marketing Analyst
- Product Marketing Associate/Manager (very different than a product manager)
- Product Analyst
The notable exception to this rule are the roles “Marketing Coordinator” and “Digital Marketing Specialist.”
Both are entry-level marketing roles that can be responsible for a variety of general marketing tasks. To make sure the “Marketing Coordinator” position you’re applying for really is a marketing position, follow the next few tips.
2. Research the company ahead of time
It’s important to do robust research on companies you apply to work at, and to use your gut. If a company or opportunity seems sketchy, it probably is.
The first thing to look at is the company website. If the website is poorly built, hard to locate information on, or a graphic design disaster, that’s a bad sign. Professional companies have professional-looking websites, and the reverse is true as well.
For example, check out this website for a company called “Premier Marketing Dallas”: https://www.premiermarketingdallas.com. It looks like a PowerPoint I remember making in 9th grade.
Another thing to research is reviews of the company. Look at Google. Look at Glassdoor. Look at LinkedIn. Try and find any information you can from people who have worked there.
Continuing with our example of Premier Marketing Dallas, here’s their Glassdoor page. Notice that there is only one review, from a Brand Ambassador in Plano, TX—a little iffy in itself, but then read the review.
Even though it’s a five-star review, it mentions “standing on concrete for several hours” as a con. That alone would indicate this is some sort of sales job, not a real marketing job.
Finally, be wary of any company where it’s hard to figure out what the company does. If descriptions of their service, product, or business model leave you with more questions than answers, that’s a bad sign.
It usually means they’re avoiding a more direct description because they're afraid it will turn people away.
3. The job description doesn’t mention specific marketing skills or software
Another warning sign that a role isn’t really a marketing job is that the job description doesn’t mention specific marketing or software skills as requirements.
Look for job descriptions that talk about marketing-specific tools and skills. Here are some software and tool names to look out for:
- Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, etc.)
- Social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Email marketing CRMs (Mailchimp, Hubspot, Pardot, etc.)
- Social media management software (Hootsuite, CoSchedule, etc.)
- Content management systems (Wordpress, Webflow, Squarespace)
- Analytics (Google Analytics, Power BI)
Here are some skills keywords to look out for:
- Content writing
- Campaign creation
- Graphic design
- Marketing analytics
- Google analytics
Some legitimate marketing roles just have poorly-written job descriptions, so this isn’t fool-proof, but if a role doesn’t mention specific skills or tools, be suspicious and dig deeper.
4. Ask the right questions
If you’ve done all your research and still aren’t sure if this is really a marketing role, that’s a bad sign. Use your interview as an opportunity to confirm.
Asking the right questions will help you get a clear picture of what the role is like. As always, if something feels off, it probably is.
Here are some sample questions to help you get to the bottom of things:
- What are the core responsibilities of this role?
- What will my day-to-day work look like?
- What deliverables will I be evaluated on?
- What skills are required for this position?
- What skills will I be learning on the job?
If you weren’t sure already, these questions should help clear up any lingering doubt as to whether the job is a legitimate marketing role.
Many less-than-reputable sales companies try to recruit young college graduates for high-turnover sales roles by disguising them as marketing opportunities with vague titles like “Marketing Assistant,” “Marketing Account Executive,” and “Marketing Manager.”
If you’re looking for an entry-level marketing position, there are some basic steps you can take to weed out the scams from legitimate marketing jobs.
No single step is fool-proof, and there are exceptions to every rule, but taken together they’ll help you find the real marketing jobs that are right for you.