How to write a good CV for retail apprenticeships and jobs

Writing good CVs for retailers
Find out what to include in your CV (and how to sell your skills, achievements and experience) to land a store assistant, management, buying, merchandising or other retail apprenticeship or job.

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Most retailers ask you to apply via an online application form and many will give you the option to upload your CV. Always take the opportunity to do so. David Yates, the early careers resource manager at Tesco, says that one of the biggest mistakes would-be apprentices typically make on their application is ‘not submitting a CV’.

What to put on your CV for retail apprenticeships and jobs

A school leaver will usually only need a one-page CV. If you have slightly more experience and meaningful information, then do not exceed two pages.

Include your personal details

Make it easy for retail recruiters to contact you, so keep this information at the top. Don’t use your school email; use your personal email instead, as you will always have access to this account. Make sure you use a sensible, professional-sounding email address, such as your first name and surname. If you haven’t got one, then create one. You don’t need to include your date of birth or age on your CV.

Include your education

Make it clear for the recruiter to see that you have the specific entry requirements stated. For example, Tesco’s trainee retail management apprenticeship requires 240 UCAS points and grades C or above in GCSE maths and English. If you’ve attended more than one secondary school, list the most recent one first; you don’t need to include your primary school.

Most importantly, don’t lie about your grades. If you get offered the apprenticeship, it may result in your offer being withdrawn.

Include your work experience

List your experience with your current or most recent job first. Recruiters want to know about your responsibilities, your achievements and your skills.

David says: ‘Highly promising candidates ensure that the information they provide is clear and articulately written. It is to the point and focused around what they have contributed, achieved and learned.’

When writing about your work experience, good skills to mention include customer service, team work, flexibility, communication, time management and decision making. Emphasise, too, how your skills and attributes match what the retailers want – describe your roles and skills using the keywords and phrases the retailer uses in its advert.

If you have direct retail experience, you could write it up on your CV along these lines:

‘[Insert name of retailer], [insert job title, eg Sales adviser], [insert employment dates, eg May 2015–present]

My responsibilities include:

  • Providing excellent customer service, which was acknowledged by customer feedback; one customer said I was ‘very friendly and helpful’
  • Directing customers to shorter queues to ensure they have the best shopping experience
  • Operating the tills and following procedures and policies relating to cash and stock handling
  • Making sure the eight self-service checkouts were working correctly for customers, especially during peak times
  • Maintaining a clean and tidy working environment by following the cleaning rota
  • Promoting offers to customer – I have been on the winning team when we have had targets. For example I once sold £300 worth of promotional items during a six hour shift
  • Following all the training I have been given – I was nominated for the ‘best newcomer’ award in the first eight weeks of working at the store.’

If you don’t have retail experience, you need to think outside the box. Most part-time jobs require skills that you need in a retail career, such as teamwork and communication. When writing about your part-time jobs, emphasise the skills that retailers want.

Include your interests and hobbies

Recruiters like to see that applicants get involved with extracurricular activities and have developed skills. Involvement with team and community activities are particularly impressive, as many retailers value community spirit.

You should write about how your activities have developed skills that will help you in the workplace. It’s also a good opportunity to show you share the same values as the retailer, which are usually stated on the retailer’s website.

Here is an example of what NOT to write on your CV:

‘I like jazz music, the cinema, shopping, netball, reading and bird watching.’

These are valid hobbies and interests, but they don’t emphasise your abilities. It’s better to write about fewer interests more fully. Remember to ask yourself what abilities or attributes your interests are highlighting to the recruiter.

You could write about your netball interest like this:

‘I have always enjoyed netball and have been part of my local netball team for three years. Training once a week and participating in matches has allowed my team work and communication skills to develop. I have also been team captain for the past six months. I communicate with the team to arrange practice sessions as well as with other teams to arrange matches, allowing my leadership skills to flourish.’

Revealed: the secret to a good retail CV

The secret to a good CV is to provide sufficient detail to show that you have the capabilities to do the job and be a good apprentice, but not so much that they know everything about you. ‘Highlight key achievements on your CV, but don’t write an essay,’ says David. ‘Leave the recruiter wanting to find out more.’

For more advice take a look at our main advice article on writing CVs. It includes a CV template.

Check your retail CV

David says: ‘It may sound like basic advice, but I’d urge all candidates to proofread their CVs and ensure that there are no grammatical or spelling errors.’ Don’t rely on your computer’s spell check – ask a family member or friend to check your CV for errors. Some common mistakes to look out for include spelling the name of the organisation you are applying to incorrectly, misusing apostrophes and accidentally using the wrong word (eg putting ‘manger’ when you mean ‘manager’).

Check your tenses too; if you are still employed in the position, use the present tense. If you have left the job, use the past tense. Make sure your tenses are consistent within each section of your CV.

Finally, it may sound obvious, but check your contact details are correct. For example, check the accuracy of your contact number, as it is easy for numbers to get muddled up; if the recruiter can’t get hold of you, you may miss out on the chance of the apprenticeship or job.

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