Posted March 3, 2023

Tips for an Entry-Level Retail Resume

By Gigi Tino

Entering the job market can be an intimidating experience for anyone, no matter the industry. This year has seen an added pressure on job seekers as the fear of recession grows. This does not mean it is time to slow down your job search, especially if you are looking to enter retail. Retail is a diverse industry with plentiful entry-level jobs available and a continuously high demand for workers. A lack of work experience should not be a deterrent in sending in an application. Every entry-level job seeker is capable of crafting an eye-catching resume that lands them the job when they use the right tricks and tools!

A lack of professional work experience is one of the greatest deterrents from applying for entry-level job seekers. A recent survey from the Cengage Group found that many recent educational graduates were experiencing anxiety regarding their career-readiness. Almost half of the respondents also revealed they would hold back from applying to an entry-level job because they felt underqualified.

The good news is that you don’t have to let a lack of work experience deter you from finding work. Retail is a particularly great industry for any inexperienced job seeker to try out. No hands-on experience? No problem! There are many ways to demonstrate your aptitude for a retail job in your resume even without a lengthy work history.

Focus on Your Soft Skills

Soft skills are going to be key for landing an entry-level retail job. Soft skills are the personal qualities and traits you already naturally possess or have gained from experience; hard skills are job-specific competencies that can only be learned. The retail industry has been adapting a more skill-focused approach towards hiring in order to fill growing job openings with well-suited candidates quickly. Skills-based hiring focuses on finding job seekers with the proper skills, disposition, and capabilities for the job rather than requirements such as years of experience or education level. Employers will take time to deeply understand the skills necessary for someone to succeed in the role while crafting the job description and while reviewing applications. As a job seeker, your goal is to create a resume that fits that ideal candidate profile.

If you do not have the job experience to back up hard skills, or to demonstrate your soft skills, there are other ways to demonstrate your professional qualities in a resume. Come up with a list of some of your strongest attributes. Consider things such as interpersonal skills, analytical skills, personality traits, and work style. When getting more specific in these groups, some examples of desirable skills are time management, teamwork, and problem solving. If you do have skills that might be related to the job that would be considered hard skills, don’t shy away from adding those to your list. Once you have a few of your top skills picked out to highlight in your resume, think about your life experiences that demonstrate them. Perhaps you took a business management course in high school that taught you sales, or you learned customer service by selling cookies for a team or extracurricular group. Pulling experiences from education, activities, or even unrelated jobs or internships give your soft skills credence.

Choose the Right Format

The resume that might come to your mind first is the chronological format, where there is a heavy focus on job experience listed by date. If you are an entry-level job seeker, this resume format will likely not be the best for you. A functional resume format, also known as a skills-based resume, will draw attention to your skills and how they were developed in areas outside of just work experience. As discussed above, your transferable soft skills are going to be your greatest asset when it comes to catching the eyes of hiring managers. This format includes your education and a summary, like other formats, but it allows you to group your skills together to truly stand out. Use your list of your soft skills to create sections of your resume that demonstrate how you are a fit for the job. You can explore some functional resume examples here.

Write a Strong Summary

A functional resume will still require you to write a summary or objective statement. This is a brief statement that clearly defines your goals in your career and in applying to the specific job, as well as what you can bring to the table. Consider this section of your resume your elevator pitch; you can state your value to the hiring manager even before your interview. Use this section to summarize your skills that transfer to the job and state why you are seeking a job in the industry.

Use the Job Description

Retail businesses have a wide array of positions available in various departments. Brick-and-mortar stores are abundant with entry-level positions in customer service and sales. Some of these jobs are cashiers, sales associates, customer service associates, baggers, or order pickers. Whatever the job is, make sure to go over the job description with a fine-toothed comb. Write down the keywords you see in the ad to use in your resume later. These keywords are often the skills and qualities hiring managers are looking for in their ideal candidate and will be important if the company is using an ATS (applicant tracking system) as a precursor to reviewing applications. Find ways to incorporate the skills the job highlights into the skills sections of your resume. Two very common qualifications you will see in a retail job description are customer service and sales. While customer service might be considered more of a hard skill, many soft skills actually go into it. Interpersonal communication, problem solving, and time management are qualities that show your aptitude for customer service.

If you are an entry-level job seeker, take advantage of what the retail industry has to offer. Retail offers a variety of jobs for inexperienced workers and highly focuses on skills-based hiring practices. Craft a resume that concisely states and demonstrates your soft skills through any relevant experience or education and you are sure to catch a hiring manager’s attention!