A knockout CV is vital but retailers often fail to sell their skills on paper, says Liz Morrell

The CV has long been the first chance to sell yourself to win that dream job. But with redundancy and recruitment freezes there are more candidates than ever chasing retail vacancies and, as the first filtering process, the perfect CV is now more crucial than ever.

New Look is recruiting at present as part of its relocation programme. Recruitment manager Lee Evans says the fashion retailer has been inundated with applications and that the attention to detail in a CV speaks volumes about a candidate.

“It’s cut throat at the moment and it’s really important to get it right because you are up against so much competition,” he says. “I’ve just had one CV where the candidate said they were punctual, reliable and paid attention to detail – and yet the covering letter was littered with spelling mistakes.” 

Such basic errors are unacceptable and will deter prospective employers immediately. “There’s no excuse because everything has a spellchecker,” says Evans. He admits he will bin CVs for such fundamental mistakes. “It just puts you off because you haven’t got the time,” he says.

CVs should give full details of achievements but this is often where retail staff let themselves down, says Clare Kemsley, managing director of recruitment agency Hays Retail.

“The majority of them are involved in the sales side but it’s interesting the lack of confidence they have in selling themselves.

“The CV has to be data rich and you need to have the facts and data behind statements such as ‘I increased sales’,” she says.

Evans agrees. “If there is a lack of statistics, figures or fact then alarm bells will be ringing.”

Another common error can be failing to explain gaps in CVs. Kemsley says employers suspect the worst if career interludes are left a mystery – even though it could be something as easily explainable as taking a career break to have children. “They may not have the time to ask what the gaps are for and can make all sorts of assumptions,” she says.

Some candidates think that standing out from the crowd means doing something completely different. While Kemsley says that may work for some brands, Evans says it is not for him.

“We do like a bit of personality but weird and wacky designs turn you off. Quirkiness might get you a chuckle in the office but it’s not going to get you a job. The CV needs to be black and white and straight to the point – telling me where you’ve been and what you’ve achieved,” says Evans.

Get that sales pitch right and it is more likely to be your CV that stands out from the pile.

Make your CV stand out

  • Run a spellcheck
  • Limit your experience to the most recent jobs rather than listing everywhere you have ever worked
  • Keep your CV length to two A4 pages
  • Keep it straight, succinct and to the point
  • Include facts and figures to back up achievements
  • Explain gaps in your CV
  • Avoid quirkiness
  • Include a covering letter or at the very least tailor your CV to the specific role you are applying for