For most retail graduate jobs or schemes, you’ll be asked to provide a CV. Writing about your experiences in a way that shows you possess the abilities needed to be successful in retail will improve your chances of clearing the first hurdle of the application process.
If you’re eager to go straight to an example of how you write up your contact details, education history and work experience, jump down – but we recommend you first read about identifying the skills you’ll use and how to structure your CV.
Before you begin: know the skills and qualities you’ll focus on
You should create your own template CV, then adapt it to suit each position you apply for. A strong way to plan what you’ll write about in your CV is to decide upon the skills and traits you will emphasise; you can then make sure the experiences you write about demonstrate these.
To begin building your template CV, take a look at a range of job descriptions for the role you’re interested in and highlight the skills and qualities mentioned. By also reading the relevant area of work on the TARGETjobs website – whether that’s merchandising, buying or retail management - you can make sure you haven’t missed out any important skills. Make a list of five to ten points; these should be the ones you refer to and back up with evidence on your CV (though you may decide to add others, too).
When it comes to tailoring your template CV to the specific employer and role, add (or put more emphasis on) the skills, qualities, values and behaviours mentioned on their job description. This will demonstrate your enthusiasm and show that you have the abilities required to work for them. After scouring the job description, see if you can find the values and abilities prioritised from other sections of the retailer’s website, then refer to some of these.
What should I include in a graduate CV for retail?
- Your name and basic details
- Your degree course and education history
- Your previous work experience
- Extracurricular activities, interests or hobbies
How do I structure my retail CV?
Don’t disregard those skills and attributes you think will enhance your application but which don’t fit naturally into the sections above; you can be flexible with headings. You might decide to add a section on ‘Language skills’ or ‘Skills in IT’. Alternatively, if you have a number of points that aren’t related to each other (such as your driver’s licence and first aid training), these could come under ‘Other capabilities’, or similar.
While you should make sure you cover all four parts in the section above, you have choice when it comes to the CV format; take a look at this TARGETjobs article for a better idea of your options.
Use your name as the title of your CV and add your address and contact details (usually your phone number and email address) underneath. A link to one of your social media profiles – preferably LinkedIn – will allow recruiters to find out a bit more about your passion for retail. However, this should only be added if all your details are up to date and the content you’ve posted and liked is relevant to the retail industry or role you’re applying for.
Other links could be useful, too, as long as they demonstrate a passion for retail or consumer products; for instance, a blog in which you review mobile phones would demonstrate your passion for technology if you were applying for a buyer graduate job at a tech-focused retailer.
You should list your education history in reverse chronological order (most recent first), with relevant dates and alongside the qualifications you gained at each school/college/university. If you’re still studying, use your predicted results. Rather than listing every GCSE, a format similar to the one below will work well.
As with your education history, your work experience should be in reverse chronological order, with dates included. Underneath each job or internship on your CV, write bullet points (around three to six) explaining your core responsibilities. Any significant achievements or successes should be highlighted here, too.
Where possible, use similar language to that of the job description and explicitly state the skills and qualities you demonstrated. The final bullet point in the template below shows how to do this effectively.
Write about each task in a way that makes clear how it demonstrates you’re suitable for a position with the retailer; go further than just listing what you did. In the example above, including ‘was trusted to’ (rather than just ‘cashed up tills’) makes it obvious that the prospective employee is responsible and reliable.
Make sure you use compelling verbs in each bullet point, as this will mean you cover the basics by writing about what you did and how you contributed – the use of ‘deputised for’, ‘trained’ and ‘dealt’ in the example above, and ‘ran’ and ‘presented’ below, should give you a good idea of how to do this.
Emphasise any time you contributed ideas or made a positive difference to the way things were run (no matter how small). This would be particularly advantageous if you were applying to a role in retail management – as it would demonstrate your ability to think like a manager by coming up with positive changes – but it demonstrates a level of leadership ability important for all retail roles. Bullet points three and five in the above template demonstrate how to successfully emphasise your contributions.
When writing about your extracurricular activities, you may pick out one or two themes and use headings like ‘volunteering’ or ‘sporting achievements’, or write about those that differ from each other under a more general heading like ‘interests’.
It would be best to give more space to extracurricular activities in which you played an active role; this might mean you contributed ideas that led to changes in the direction of a society, you hosted an event to raise money for a charity you volunteered for or you worked one-to-one with a student to help them with their A levels. Explaining a time in which your involvement made a difference will be better than just listing an impressive-sounding title if you made little impact when in the role. Where you can, quantify the difference you made; the statistics used in the model CV provide a persuasive example of this.
When it comes to writing about your hobbies, interests or extracurricular activities, be sure to include those that best demonstrate your abilities. However, don’t shy away from also giving one or two examples that let the recruiters know about you as a person, rather than sticking to all serious or career-orientated examples. You might, for example, write about your passion for photography along with your position as secretary of your university’s history society. Having said that, do think about the role-related qualities you can demonstrate through your genuine passion; the creativity demonstrated through your photography might support you in a buying position. If you taught your cousin the basics of photography, the abilities to guide and teach would translate well to a retail management position – in which you’ll train new recruits.
Prepare for the future: keep the interview in mind
A solid CV isn’t just your ticket into the interview; it will also allow you to prepare for questions. Recruiters will usually ask candidates about the experiences they write about in their CV, so make sure you’re ready to talk about each one in depth. Think back to the tasks you carried out during your previous work (including those tasks you haven’t got the space to mention on your CV) and consider how these could help you in the position you’re applying to. Choosing the activities and hobbies you’re genuinely interested in will also set you up well for this, as it’s likely that you’ll be able to recall them easily and talk more convincingly about them during the interview.