June 16, 2015

Five tips to help you land a summer job in the retail industry

Now that we're midway through June, many high school students have started to focus on all the free time they'll have once exams are done. Invariably, this leads to a rush to apply for any and all available jobs and quite often, retail is a very popular choice.

With flexible working hours, an indoor and air-conditioned work environment (usually), staff discounts and perks, the possibility to work in the same place as your friends, and the potential that the job will continue on a part-time basis during the school year, securing a retail summer job is seen as ideal for many students.

So today, I'll be sharing with you five tips to help you land a summer retail job.

1. Make a plan

When looking for a retail job, planning is key. Gone are the days when you could print off a stack of resumes, head to the mall, hand them out to hiring managers, and expect a few calls for an interview. Hiring managers can often spot those who are applying to random stores - the dead give-away is a cover letter that is not tailored for the job/store.

Making your plan is quite easy. Using Google and mall and retail store websites, create a list of stores you would like to work at and enter them into your 2015 Summer Job Tracking Sheet. Mall websites are particularly useful as they often have a "Jobs" section that list retail stores currently looking for staff.

2. Get your resume and cover letter ready

This is a no-brainer - to apply for a job, you need a resume and cover letter. If you don't have a resume or cover letter, download the set of templates and spend a few hours making sure both tell your story and show your skills and experience.

Once your resume and cover letter are ready and show your relevant customer service experience, tailor your application to each store. Use Google to find out their address and if possible, call the store to find out the name of the hiring manager. In my experience, hiring managers really like receiving a personalized letter - it shows you want the job and are willing to go above and beyond to differentiate yourself from other candidates.

3. If needed, complete an application form

Some stores still use an application form as it allows hiring managers to quickly find relevant information. Before submitting your cover letter and resume, check to see if the store requires an application form. There's nothing worse than walking into a store, speaking with a hiring manager, and finding out that s/he will not accept your resume because you need to complete an application form.

When completing an application form, look out for any tricky and off-beat questions and know how to answer them properly.

4. Apply in-person during the store's "quiet" time

Once you've got your resume, cover letter, and application form (if needed) ready, head to the mall or store and personally deliver your application. Dress professionally - business casual is best and I recommend not wearing jeans, halter tops, hats, sweat pants, and any other types of clothing that are really casual.

Ensure you visit the store at slow time. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are ideal as hiring managers tend to be less busy and are more likely to be available for a quick chat.

Also, ensure that you hand your application in to the hiring manager or key holder. Even if a sales associate mentions that s/he can accept your application, politely ask to speak to the manager so that you can hand your application directly to him or her.

5. Be prepared for a short interview and then follow-up

If you time it right, the hiring manager may have a few moments to speak to you about your application. Don't panic. Be prepared for a short, informal interview and practice answers to commonly interview questions like "Why are you interested in working here?", "What skills do you have?", and "What retail experience do you have?".

Regardless of whether you have a short interview or not, follow-up within a few days. It reinforces your desire to get the job, can help the hiring manager remember your application, and can also alert you to any potential issues (e.g. a hiring freeze, the position has already been filled, etc.).

Good luck!