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What are Retail Employers Looking for?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
What Are Retail Employers Looking For?

In spite of many people opting to work within the retail sector in one capacity or another, many retail companies often cite the fact that they just cannot find suitably qualified staff. By ‘suitably qualified’ this doesn’t just necessarily mean academic qualifications either. Yes, there are numerous roles within retail which require specialist knowledge and even, perhaps, a degree. However, in general terms, when employers talk about getting suitably qualified staff, they’re also likely to be referring to the personal qualities that are very much in demand within the retail sector and without them, any person is unlikely to succeed to any great degree. Therefore, if you are applying for a job in retail, here are some examples of things that you should be aiming to demonstrate.


It’s always important to be punctual in all types of jobs but never more so than in retail and especially if you’re a person on the ‘front line’. Shops have strict opening times and if you’re late, it can severely hamper a company’s ability to function, especially in smaller stores - likewise if you’re working shifts. Remember, you won’t make any friends if you’re constantly late as often people aren’t permitted to go home until their replacement is ready to start.

Good Grooming

Nobody expects you to be a top fashion glamour model but good grooming is essential. Most people at some time will have been put off shopping in a particular store because somebody looked unkempt. If you’re working on the shop floor, you are going to be the first point of contact for customers and your appearance will often be the first and most lasting impression you’ll leave with them. Furthermore, even if you’re working behind the scenes, the retail industry relies a lot on liaison with other organisations – take the role of a buyer, for example. So, as first impressions count for a lot, you need to be well groomed.

Personal Qualities

Most CV experts will often point to the benefits of including a section on your CV outlining your personal qualities. You’ll have gained these from a whole variety of jobs and from things such as hobbies and interests and it is an ideal opportunity to promote your personality. In retail, HR departments are particularly on the lookout for the following personal qualities so make sure you include them on your CV along with a brief one-line illustration of how you can demonstrate each of them from your previous experience:

  • Willing to work long hours
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Flexibility
  • Good communication skills
  • Capable of handling pressure and hitting targets
  • Dependable
  • Efficient.


Obviously, certain jobs within retail will call for more specific skills than others – working in finance or in IT for example. However, in general terms, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you’re comfortable working with computers as they’ll be part of your day to day working life to a certain extent, no matter which aspect of retail you aspire to work in. Being able to give business presentations is another sought after asset. Above all else, however, retail companies are keen to employ staff who can demonstrate some kind of ability and experience in sales or, at the very least, some knowledge of and interest in sales and understanding the importance of hitting targets. This is because whatever capacity you choose to work in, when it comes to retail – the bottom line is always going to be sales.

Demonstrating Your Enthusiasm

For retail employers and particularly when it comes to the shop floor, one of the major hurdles they constantly face is retaining staff. It also costs companies a lot of money to train new staff. Therefore, they are very keen to employ people whom they feel have the right type of skills and personal qualities but who also have a genuine interest in the area in which they are going to be working. Therefore, whether it’s fashion, cosmetics, food and drink or electricals, for example, an employer is more likely to sit up and take notice of an applicant if they can demonstrate some knowledge and a genuine passion for the sector they are going to be working in.

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