If you’ve worked in the world of retail before, you know that you bring a lot of things to the table: maybe some Tetris mastering when it comes to shelf-stocking, the ability to balance your drawer with an accuracy the IRS could only dream about, a deft hand in crisis management with colleagues who are about to snap, and the zen skills of dealing with the worst customers in the world while still maintaining a friendly smile. You’re responsible, organized, diplomatic, and a problem solver. But often, one thing matters above all else: performance. You can have all the greatest skills on paper, but if you’re not able to deliver out on the floor, little else matters. You want your retail resume to represent a balance between your skills, and your proven record. Your resume should show the reader what you’re bringing, as well as how you can fit in with this new company (or a new opportunity at your existing one).
Which Format Works Best for Retail Sales Resumes?
If you’re just getting started (after graduating or starting over as a career change), you might want to consider a skills-based resume. This means that instead of launching into your work history, you put the spotlight on your professional skills up front. This kind of resume emphasizes the kind of employee you are, and what kind of employee you might be for this new place. A skills-based resume might be the best option if:
- You don’t have a ton of jobs or much time spent in a retail environment.
- You held a lot of similar roles at different stores. (And there are only so many ways you can list your skills as a retail sales clerk.)
If you have lots of relevant experience, then maybe the standard reverse-chronological format (your job history in reverse, followed by skills, awards, and education) is right for you. But you might also want to consider a hybrid of the two, a combination resume. In this kind of format, you lead with an overview of your most relevant skills, followed by detailed bullets walking back through your work history.
No matter what format you choose, consider leading with an objective statement. This is a brief summary of you—just a couple of punchy sentences that sum up your career progress to date, and where you hope to go with this new position.
Experienced, customer-oriented retail sales clerk seeks a position that capitalizes on my organizational and leadership skills.
You don’t need a novel, or even a paragraph—just a brief summary of your best skills and selling points, and what you hope to achieve with this particular job.
What Are Your Skills?
What skills should you include on your resume? Not all resumes need to have (or should have) the same skills. You want to focus on skills that show competence and leadership in retail sales. The trick with a retail resume is showing how versatile your skills are (because you have tons of great skills that are transferrable), while also sharpening your focus for the job you’re applying for.
Always, always revise your resume for the specific job opening. If you’re applying for a small boutique, emphasize your one-on-one sales skills. If you’re applying at a huge mega-chain, show how successful you are at managing a chaotic environment behind the scenes, and how you provided service with a smile to the many, many customers who came through your door. Whatever you’re trying to accomplish in this job, make sure the reader has as much context up front. If he or she has to dig to find out how qualified you are, it may be too late—your resume might already be in the “nope, moving along” pile. From the start, you want your resume to be a customized.
The words you choose are so important as well. The stack of resumes that the hiring manager will be reading will have an endless number of “responsible for”s and “helped customers.” Make sure you use strong action words to pump up your resume.
Show your management skills:
Show your teamwork skills:
Show your financial skills:
Show your organizational skills:
Retail jobs are rarely slow and boring—action words show your busy history of moving, helping, serving, organizing, etc. Don’t just say you’re a mover and a shaker…show it whenever possible! If you can, start every statement with a specific action word that tells the reader exactly what you did. Phrases like “was responsible for” and “handled” aren’t nearly as descriptive, and they’re so common that the eye glazes right over them.
And whenever possible, describe problems you’ve solved or niches you’ve filled. That emphasizes accomplishments over mere responsibilities.
Are You Experienced?
Quality is always better than quantity when it comes to listing experience on your resume. You could include every job and volunteer position you’ve ever held in your life, but if they’re not really related, or so old that you’d have to dust off some long-forgotten file format to remind yourself of what you did at that place—what’s it called, again?—consider leaving them out. You want your resume to be a lean, mean, one-page document (if possible), so it’s okay to be choosy about what you emphasize.
For your work history, you don’t want to leave gaps (which could throw up a red flag for the reader), but you also don’t have to go into a detailed discussion of everything you did in your part-time high school gig. The further back you go, the easier it is to just list the place you worked, your title, and the dates.
If you have a long and relevant work history, try to reduce each one to the most important 2-3 bullet points that offer different information than you listed for other jobs. You don’t want to undermine your extensive experience by having virtually the same information for each job. Space is precious on your resume, so use every line to the fullest!
How to Format the Resume
If you want to use an existing template, there are lots of great resources online that can help you whip your resume into shape, using templates or guidelines. You can also use these libraries to see what you like, and how you want yours to look.
In addition to samples, these sites also have tools you can use to build your resume from scratch.
Let’s look at a sample resume for a sales associate looking to move up the ladder
1313 Lucy Lane
Linus, MD 12345
Top-performing retail sales associate with more than ten years of experience, known for excellent customer service and teamwork, seeking to leverage experience and leadership skills into a team leader position.
- Retail sales
- Merchandising & stocking
- Display design
- Handling cash and credit card transactions
- Bilingual customer service (English and Spanish)
- Loss prevention
- Excellent communication skills
BIG BOX STORE, Baltimore, MD
National retail department store with more than $3 million in annual sales.
Senior Sales Associate, April 2014 – present
- Increased electronics department sales an average of 19% per quarter in one year by redesigning displays, improving signage, and enhancing customer service.
- Organized the annual Big Box Store Adopts! program, which brought in local animal shelter pets for a public adoption event.
- Designed and implemented in-store displays, and store opening/closing processes.
Retail Sales Clerk, June 2008 – April 2014
- Provided proactive, courteous customer service.
- Conducted cash and credit transactions to complete customer purchases, and balanced drawer at the end of each shift.
- Assisted in stocking, inventory, display design and implementation, and store opening/closing processes.
KIDZ TOWN, Barkerville, MD
Children’s toy and clothing retailer
Cashier, May 2006 – June 2008
- Handled cash and credit transactions for customer purchases, as well as returns.
- Opened and closed the store as necessary.
- Stocked shelves and assisted in merchandising.
- Consistently received “excellent” ratings on biannual performance reviews and customer surveys.
- Won Big Box Store’s employee of the month award twice, and was a finalist for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Employee of the Year award in 2013.
- Scored the highest in-store ratings for drawer/cash handling accuracy, with zero overages or shortfalls for 18 straight months.
James A. Garfield High School, Barkerville, MD
High School Diploma, 2008
- MS Word and Excel
- POS software expertise
- Graphic design programs (InDesign, Adobe Illustrator)
Available for all shifts and evening/weekend/holiday hours
When you take the time to create a customized resume that showcases your best skills and sales experience, you’re setting yourself up for an interview—and, hopefully, the job offer. Remember: keep it clear, emphasize your strongest points, and don’t be afraid to play around with the format to showcase your uniquely awesome combo of skills and experience.
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