Starting Your Retail Career: Resume, Salary and Interview Advice 

Retail is one of the largest labour markets in North America and around the world, employing millions of people. Hiring managers, especially in large cities, often get dozens of resumes a day and are likely conducting several interviews a week, depending on the time of year. If you are thinking about a career, or even a summer job in retail, below are some resume, salary, and interview considerations to keep in mind and help you land your ideal job.  

Tailoring a Resume for Retail

Much of the hiring, especially for large chains, is done through large, sometimes highly automated HR and hiring processes. Massive brands get dozens, perhaps even hundreds of resumes sent or uploaded to them on a weekly basis, so there is a lot of competition. 

One of the most important things you can do to make your resume stand out amongst the competition is to spend time tailoring it for the position, brand and the location. Generic resumes are impersonal and are usually the first to be passed over. Make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of the specific retail resume tips before sending out your applications. 

Resumes for Independent Businesses

The era of walking door-to-door with a stack of resumes in hand is pretty much over. Almost everything is handled digitally nowadays. There are, however, still some instances in which personally approaching managers and businesses can work to your favour.

This is really only the case if it is a small, independent business (a boutique or a one-off store) with a small staff (typically one where there is one manager, a couple of employees). The owner(s) may also help manage these places and could very well be the person you meet when walking into the store. These places receive fewer resumes at a time, are usually less busy when you enter, so you can actually talk to whoever is responsible for hiring and make a connection with them. 

Starting Salary

Most retail positions will start you off at minimum wage, which will vary depending on where you are located. Salary is typically non-negotiable for retail jobs if you are applying for a job with a large brand (H&M, Zara, Forever 21 etc.). With smaller, independent places, you are likely being hired either directly by the owner(s) or through a manager who has direct contact with them, which could allow you to negotiate for a higher starting wage. 

Increasing Responsibility Means Increasing Salary

As it is with virtually anything, if you start off in retail with limited or no experience, you have to learn the ropes. You are untrained labour at this point and must develop your on-the-job skills and knowledge. This is the stage at which you will be most likely earning minimum wage, with some opportunities for overtime hours depending on the store and its needs. 

As you progress, however, and if the owners or store-manager believes you have the skills and desire to take on more responsibility, you might eventually be offered a management position, which comes with more money. Managers typically make several dollars an hour above the minimum wage. Additional positions in a retail setting include store trainer and even warehouse worker, which both tend to make more than the minimum wage. 

The Interview Process

The interview process for retail positions is quite straightforward. After you have submitted a resume, depending on their procedure, you will either be called back using the number you have provided or emailed. You will be notified that the store or company wishes to schedule an interview with you and will likely be given several time slots and/or locations to choose from.

Like any other job interview, showing up on time, well-groomed, with a paper copy of your resume for the interviewer’s convenience is a must. Maintain eye contact, smile, sit up straight and answer questions forthrightly. 

Interviewing and Interview Questions

Most retail jobs are a combination of customer service and sales. This means businesses want to be sure you are able to interact positively and helpfully with the public, and also that you are comfortable making sales. 

Common interview questions include: how do you handle rude or surly customers? What would you consider exemplary customer service? Explain a time when you provided excellent customer service. Are you comfortable working in a fast-paced environment? Do you have good attention to detail? Describe a time you went above and beyond to help a customer get or find what they wanted.

While the exact phrasing and posing of questions may vary, it is a good idea to come to a retail interview with a rough outline of how you are going to answer such questions. You could even practice them with a friend or family member beforehand. 


Retail work can be a great fit for people who enjoy working with the public and helping people meet their needs. Retail jobs and brands are worldwide, which means that experience gained in one place can easily be applied elsewhere, allowing you to work all over the world. Whatever your reasons for pursuing a career in retail, keep the above resume, salary and interview considerations in mind and land your ideal retail job with ease. 


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