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Andrew Arkley

How To Write a Stand-Out Retail CV

how to write a stand-out retail CV

Wondering how to write a stand-out retail CV? 

CVs for retail positions differ from those for office-based roles, as your CV needs to be largely focussed on your customer service and people skills.

There’s often stiff competition for retail roles, especially in certain places like city centres, a situation worsened by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic which has seen the closure of thousands of stores.

In fact, UK retail vacancies plummeted by almost 80% in the first month of the pandemic, and while recovery is making steady progress, there’s still an abundance of candidates vying for the same position.

Your CV needs to grab the attention of the hiring manager and secure you an interview, where you’ll have the opportunity to let your personality shine through.

Read on for how to write a stand-out CV for retail jobs, including how specifically to write a retail assistant, retail manager and sales assistant CV.

How is a CV for retail different from others?

A retail CV will usually be more focussed on your skills and personality than qualifications, depending on the level of the role you’re going for. 

Retail employees aren’t just employed to sell products. You’re there to provide a great experience for customers, so you need to show that you can do this or have experience doing this on your CV.

Qualifications can help, but it’s possible to work your way up in this industry. 

You need to catch the employer’s eye straight away, so a reverse chronological CV where your most recent experience is listed first may be best if your most recent roles are in retail.

Retail hiring managers tend to receive CVs in this format, so you’ll make it easy for them to read.

What qualities do I need on a retail CV?

Skills you need to include on your CV for retail and customer service roles are:

Patience – Retail is renowned for its often intense contact with the general public on a daily basis. You’ll need patience to deal with the same query repeatedly, and to deal with aggressive or upset customers.

Resilience – Similarly to above, you’ll need to be resilient to deal with hassle you can get from some customers.

Adaptability – Often retail roles will involve moving around departments where the demand is needed, for example, being on the till during certain busy periods and then replenishing stock when the crowds die down.

Problem-solving – You’ll need to think on your feet to resolve problems and respond to questions from customers, as well as solving logistical problems involving stock and your colleagues.

People skills – You’ll need to be able to converse and communicate well with both customers and your colleagues. Depending on your retail role, this could be during the entire working day.

Positivity – You’ll need to remain positive when responding to multiple demands and to put on a happy face for customers, even when you’re tired and stressed.

Prioritisation – Often in retail there’ll be multiple demands for your attention at once, which will need you to be able to make effective decisions when prioritising tasks.

Read the job description and make sure that if any of these qualities are listed on there, then they’re catered for on or peppered into your CV.

Retail CV personal statement

Underneath your name and personal data (email, phone and address), you need a personal statement. This is a short space in which you need to summarise your retail experience.

Look at the specifications of the specific retail role you’re applying for and make sure you hit a few of the points in your personal statement if possible.

This acts as a kind of ‘CV sample’ – giving the recruiter a quick feel for who you are and what you’ve done.

For example, if the job adverts mentions you’ll be working on the tills, try to mention this in your personal summary.

Remember, recruiters only look at CVs for an average of 7 seconds, so you need to catch their eye immediately.

They often don’t like to get hit with a block of text, however, so try to keep your personal statement to two or three lines of text to prevent waffling.

Sometimes it helps to leave the personal statement to last, when you’re finished writing your retail CV, so you can pick out the strongest points of your CV.

It can also help to dictate your personal statement out loud. Challenge yourself to summarise yourself and your experience in two sentences to a friend.

Applying with no retail experience

Everyone’s got to start somewhere in retail, although it can be tricky applying to jobs with no retail experience on your CV.

Instead of talking about your past retail experience, you’ll need to think of skills you’ve gained in other areas of life that may be relevant to the role.

For example, have you done any volunteering or extracurricular activities that involved interacting with a range of people? Maybe you did something that involved cash handling? 

If it’s possible for you to do so, simply volunteering at a charity shop can go a very long way. 

It looks great on your CV and you can demonstrate that you have direct retail experience like operating tills and putting out stock, which will help you get your foot in the door.

Putting in the hours volunteering could be the difference between getting your first retail job or continuing to apply with the hopes someone will give you a shot.

If you have no previous retail experience, you’ll need to show on your CV and cover letter that you’re genuinely interested in the role and are really keen to work in retail. 

How to show off retail experience on a CV – the power of numbers

If you do have retail experience – great! 

Your retail experience will look even better if you can back up your experience with some figures.

For example, rather than saying that you’ve trained new employees, say how many employees you’ve successfully trained.

If you rearranged a certain area of the store and sales from products in that area went up by 50%, mention it.

How to write a retail CV – the essentials

Keep your CV clean and easy to read – use classic fonts like Arial or Verdana so that your CV looks professional and doesn’t distract from the content on it.

Present your experience from retail jobs in bullet points. 

Use ‘I’ and action verbs like ‘I accomplished’, ‘I managed’ and ‘I operated’ to show you had the agency when completing the tasks.

For example, follow the below retail CV template: 

Shop Assistant 

Waitrose  |  London  |  March 2019 – March 2020

  • I operated the welcome desk at the front of the store, greeting customers warmly as they entered the branch, giving directions to parts of the store, and handling customer complaints and queries.
  • I also managed the meat and fish counter. This involved setting up the display in the morning by portioning the products, disinfecting the surfaces and labelling the meats and fish neatly and clearly.

Don’t waffle – keep the CV down to two pages or less. Cut out unnecessary words or points that are weaker than others. Cut out information that’s not as useful for the role you’re applying to than other parts of your employment history.

Create your CV in Word format and either send the document as a Word file, or export to PDF format to ‘freeze’ your formatting in place. 

Retail Assistant CV

Include your hobbies and interests if you think this shows off your personality, or if it matches the retailer you’re applying to.

For example, if you’re applying for an outdoor clothing shop, it may help to show you’re interested in camping and orienteering, not so much if you enjoy knitting in your spare time.

retail CV

Retail Manager CV

In your retail manager CV, you’ll need to show that you can manage people effectively and can balance lots of tasks at the same time.

Again, quantifying this will help if you can get some facts and figures from your work experience.

You’ll need to emphasise your people skills, problem solving skills and traits which can show you can handle great responsibility.

Sales Assistant CV

Your CV needs to show that you’re persuasive, and so you’ll need to sell yourself on your CV like you would a product. 

Your personality needs to shine through in your CV, so a template is not going to cut it.

Quantify your successful previous sales with figures. You’ll also need to show how you’ve met or exceeded sales targets in the past.

How to write a CV for retail: Conclusion

Jobs in retail are often sought-after, so you need a CV that’s going to set you above the crowd.

Your retail CV needs to showcase you as a person, and show that you possess the skill set to be a great retail employee.

Stuck for time? Most of the time using a generic CV builder is not going to cut it. Why not let us write you a bespoke professional retail CV?

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