Rocking a retail CV

The retail sector covers a vast number of very different jobs. From fashion sales assistant to becoming an expert in selling anything from sports to trades, jewellery, pets, health food or boats, working in retail often goes far beyond just knowing how to handle payment transactions and smiling nicely to customers.

But in this popular industry, which presents so many opportunities for your career to rise from entry level Saturday morning retail assistant right through to national manager, you’ll probably encounter some stiff competition for the jobs that come up, and your CV needs to shine its way out of the pile.

To help you get started, here are our top CV tips. Based on our knowledge, plus info from thousands of Trade Me Jobs advertisements for retail positions to find out what recruiters are really looking for in an employee and in a CV.

Soft skills that retail recruiters love

Honesty, reliability, punctuality and responsibility are all soft skills that are music to the ears of retail recruiters. They are, after all, placing a great deal of trust in an employee. Retail owners and managers are looking for someone who can be in charge of a till full of money, can be trusted with the keys to open and lock the shop, and be within a whole shop-full of shiny new items without being tempted to take them home.

So, aside from those listed above, the soft skills you should be sure to include in your CV are:

  • trustworthy and loyal

  • hands-on, solution focused and full of initiative

  • resilient, with a proactive attitude

  • hard working

  • blessed with a natural ability to negotiate and build relationships

  • determined to achieve results no matter the obstacle

  • competitive by nature and have a passion for success. 

Communication is key, and the customer is king

Most retail jobs are customer-facing, and that requires someone who can communicate clearly, is helpful and smiley, resilient in the face of a complaint or badly behaved client, and can follow procedures. 

They also want someone who will come to work looking clean and tidy, not like they’ve just walked in from a big night out, even if that really is the case. 

In your CV, you could include attributes such as:

  • a genuine passion for customer service

  • confidence to grow and maintain relationships

  • open communication style

  • approachable

  • immaculate presentation

  • experience at handling customer complaints

  • great people skills

Flexibility is a must

If you’re available on weekends, late nights, early mornings and everything in between, then make sure your CV shouts it from the rooftops. 

Retail is an industry not made for the 9-5 workday, and recruiters will be looking for someone who can fit in with that. In your cover letter, ensure you include your availability, your level of flexibility and any roster management skills you may have.

Teamwork is the dreamwork

Retail outlets vary hugely in size, so the job you are applying for could see you working with a large team or just one other person. Getting on well with others is vital, so make sure your CV reflects that. Suggestions for inclusion are team-oriented skills such as:

  • Work well in a team of any size (include evidence of this if applicable)

  • Driven to lead a high performance team

  • Retail management or supervisory experience

  • Roster management experience

  • Experience in staff training

  • Motivate team to meet and exceed sales targets

  • Lead by example and like to maintain a fun environment on the shop floor

You’re the expert

Retail is more than just ringing through sales – it’s also about product knowledge. If you can demonstrate prior knowledge of what you’re hoping to sell, such as product care, you’ll hopefully catch more attention than others. In your CV, include phrases like:

  • A flair for marketing

  • Creative, innovative and able to multi-task

  • Proactively engaging with customers

  • Retail floor maintenance, visual merchandising, products handled with pride and care

  • Willingness to learn and upskill

Plus, if you have a genuine love or passion for the products you’d be selling, then by all means demonstrate knowledge of those products – even if from a consumer perspective.

Technical skills

Retail can call for a number of specialist skills, such as using unique software, advanced marketing, health and safety, food safety, or stock management systems. Some other examples, according to Trade Me Jobs retail advertisers, include:

  • Engaging with instore and external marketing

  • Assisting with database marketing with emails and text messaging

  • Co-management of Facebook, Instagram and WeChat platforms

  • Health and safety focused to ensure the safety of team members, suppliers and customers at all times

  • Overseeing stock processing & visual merchandising

  • Possess an analytical ability to utilise data for generating merchandising decisions

Experience counts

If this is not your first time applying for a retail position, then show those recruiters what you’ve got in the way of experience. Suggestions of what you could include are:

  • Sales targets met or exceeded – provide figures if appropriate

  • Extra training undertaken during previous employment

  • Extra responsibility taken on, i.e. training new staff

  • Specific systems used during previous employment, such as software or stock management processes

  • Ringing up goods, and collecting payment or arrange credit or laybys

  • Carrying out stocktakes and order new stock

  • Checking delivered stock against orders, and ensuring it is in good condition

  • Pricing and putting away stock, and creating displays

For further inspiration, check out our Top CV tips article.