The recruitment process for seasonal summer employees in the retail sector has begun! Working in retail is an ideal job for many university students, travellers, and those wanting a flexible or full-time schedule over the summer holidays. With Christmas shopping and the major tourist season as the central focuses of the summer retail scene, there is a high volume and high variety of jobs in the retail market. So, how do you make yourself stand out amongst all the other applicants? Here are some tips to finding the right summer retail job for you!
What are retailers looking for?
The retail sector is filled with skilled workers, many of which have built progressive and successful careers. Retailers are looking for specific qualities in their employees and potential candidates, and applicants should highlight those skills. Retailers always appreciate candidates who look put together and take pride in their appearance. This means very simple things like good personal hygiene and appropriate clothing for the role, indicating a basic level of professionalism necessary to work in customer service.
People skills, positive attitude and self-management are key skills that retail employees embody, and these are crucial skills to emphasise during your recruitment process. Those who have strong people awareness and confidence approach customers with a welcoming nature, making patrons feel comfortable. Nothing says good customer service like a friendly face and a can-do attitude. Positivity is a quality that helps create a great culture in the retail sector, and can easily influence other employees. Those who are able to self-manage and take initiative are skills are successful moving up in the retail industry. Other key skills necessary to be successful in the retail sector include cash counting and mathematic abilities, as well as the ability to read and write.
Research the market and brands
Make sure you spend some time researching the various areas of the retail sector to find a business that suits your interests. Is it electronics, apparel, food industry or convenience? Working in an area that interests you makes the experience much more enjoyable than working for a business you don’t care about. Find out what a brands values or mission statements are.
Don’t forget to research the various roles within these businesses. If a retailer says they have various positions available, find out what those are to determine if one in particular interests you more than the others. There is no use applying for several roles that you possibly won’t qualify for, or roles you’d consider a major dud.
Work on a cover letter and CV
A strong cover letter is what wins you a chance at a first interview. You can have no work experience and still get an amazing retail job because your cover letter left an impression on the manager or HR. This is the space where you can make yourself stand out as a potential employee. Keep a cover letter short and concise- one page is ideal. Ensure to include what about the brand appeals to you, and what skills or qualities you can bring to their shop. Keep your cover letter professional, and ensure you are tailoring it as necessary to each application.
CVs should be kept as concise as possible as well, and relevance is the most important. If you have a long job history in many different sectors or businesses, try to only keep the three or four most recent, or the most relevant to the job your applying for now. If you have very little experience in the workforce, include extracurricular activities or hobbies. Make sure all contact information is correct, or else you’ll never hear back from a retailer! Lastly, confirm any references on your CV are comfortable to be contacted before they get a call from a potential employer.
Does it make a difference if I apply online or instore?
Not usually. However, if you are going to take your CV in to a shop, try visiting the store at off peak trade hours. This will potentially allow the manager some time to speak with you on the spot, which could be beneficial when interview time comes around.
If you are applying online don’t be afraid to follow up in store, or with a call or email. It is important to note that during this time, many businesses will only respond if they are considering you for a position due to high volume of applicants.
Don’t wait till the last minute to apply
Although there are many vacancies to fill this summer throughout the retail sector, recruiting is happening now! Leaving job applications till the last minute won’t allow you to be as selective as you’d like to be. Planning in advance and locking in those interviews will hopefully allow you to have your pick of several job opportunities this summer season. Retailers want to lock in these roles in advance with the best candidates, so schedule some time to dedicate to applications.
Prepare for interviews
Do not walk into an interview unprepared! There are many basic questions that most retailers will ask you, such as “what does good customer service look like?”, or similar variations. They will most likely also ask you what you know about their business or how you work in a team. These types of questions are much easier to prepare for than specific behavioural questions. Many retailers will also give you an assessment on the shop floor. During the busy summer holiday recruitment period, many retailers will hold group interviews. This will be more intimidating if you have not prepared at all. The best thing you can do is prepare as much as you can before an interview, and be confident in your answers.
An interview is a great opportunity for you to also ask the retailer a few questions. This allows a chance for you to gain more insight about the culture, other employees, or management styles in the store. Make sure to have a clear understanding of what type of employment you’ll be getting. There are significant differences between a permanent role or a casual role that you should be aware of. Get clarity on if the position is fixed term or not, as well as pay rates.
Make sure to highlight where your strengths are in your cover letter and interview, and don’t forget to mention what parts of the business you want to learn more about to improve your skills library!
Good luck, and happy job-hunting!
By, Emily Duncan, Retail NZ Adviser.