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How to write a great graduate retail CV

When writing your CV, here are several ways you can show retail recruiters that you’d be a fantastic candidate.
If you want to maximise your chances, you can’t use the exact same CV for each application.

Boots, Marks and Spencer, Lidl, and Abercrombie and Fitch are just some of the large retail employers who ask you to upload a CV as part of their graduate application forms. It's worth spending extra time on your CV in order to convince them that you have the skills they seek.

Tailor your graduate retail CV

If you want to maximise your chances of getting an interview, you can’t use the exact same CV for each application. Each specific role that you apply for will require some different skills and abilities. Buying schemes, for example, will involve analysing complex data, while retail leadership schemes will need you to be comfortable making decisions without necessarily having all the data to hand.

So, when writing your CV, try to use some of the language included in the job description to emphasise that you have the skills required by that particular employer for that particular role. For example, if they want somebody who can 'set direction', make sure that, when giving an example of how you've done this, you write something like: 'I set the direction of the team by...'. This will draw attention to your suitability for the role and demonstrate that you have read the job description.

Plus, firing off a generic application will make recruiters assume that you don't really care about the job or company you're applying to.

How to structure your graduate retail CV

There is no ‘right’ way to write a CV – you can write it in the way that best emphasises your skills and achievements. However, take a look at the following advice to avoid some common pitfalls:

What to include in a retail graduate CV

If you want a graduate job in retail, below are some of the things you should highlight in your CV to make retail recruiters take notice.

Show retail recruiters that you get things done

Retail is a fast-paced industry and all retailers want graduates who can make sure that things get done efficiently and with good results. When writing about your work experience, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities:

  • Include any examples of when you’ve met objectives or targets. Much of retail involves working to targets. Part-time jobs in retail or telemarketing will look good, but your extracurricular activities are also valuable. Possible examples include fundraising/gaining sponsorship or marketing student society events, but it can be anything that involved setting an objective and working towards it.
  • Quantify your actions and achievements. Use numbers to support examples of your work where possible. If you previously had a job in telemarketing, for example, specify how many calls you made and how frequently those calls were successful. If you were a cashier, write about how many customers you typically served on busy days or mention the store's turnover. If you marketed, say, a show for your university's drama society, you could include how many flyers you handed out or how many tickets you sold. Or, if you were fundraising, how much money did you raise?

Demonstrate your leadership and management potential

This is especially important if you are applying for a graduate retail management or leadership scheme, but all graduates are hired in the hope that they will develop into the company’s future leaders, so it’s always good to stress your management potential.

Include in your CV any times when you managed a project or part of a project, whether it was for your course, a task for a student society or something else in your spare time. You should also emphasise any examples of when you have taken responsibility for something. For example if you've deputised for a manager in your part-time job, looked after a group of younger children on school camp; or even spent time babysitting. In particular, it would be good if you could point to a time when you inspired others into action.

Emphasise your creativity and problem-solving skills

Creativity and the ability to solve problems are key skills for all retail jobs – from buying to logistics to store management. On your CV, highlight any times when you had to be creative, made an innovation (change) or overcame obstacles to achieve a goal. Your examples will be particularly impressive if they show that you can be creative and solve problems by analysing data, which is a key part of many retail roles, including merchandising.

Prove that you have customer service experience

Retail, unsurprisingly, is a very customer-focused sector. ’The customer is at the heart of what we do’ and ‘Putting our customers first’ are examples of the sort of claims on retailers’ websites. The quality of customer service can make or break a retailer's reputation so employers want graduates who they’re confident will treat customers well. Make sure you add into your CV:

  • Times when you went 'above and beyond' to help a customer.
  • Any instances when you were praised by others for your good customer service (eg your manager).

Your examples would look best if they occurred in a commercial environment, but any public-facing role (such as an advisory role for your Student Union or being part of Nightline) would impress.

Show that you can sell

Although customers are crucial to the retail sector, it's important to also remember that retailers exist to make a profit and, even if you’re not applying for a customer-facing role, you are going to have to think about the bottom line: what sells and what doesn’t. If you have any examples of when you’ve made a sale – such as in a part-time job, make sure you include them in your CV and write about your success rate.

As well as giving examples of previous selling successes, think of your CV as another opportunity to demonstrate your skill in this area. When reading your application, recruiters will be judging how well you sell yourself. Put simply, is your application so persuasive that they simply have to invite you to an interview or assessment centre?

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