8 retail skills that put you in demand
From emotional intelligence to adaptability, here are the qualities that can help you stand out.
The retail industry is powering ahead despite reports of store closings. According to the National Retail Federation, there are over 1 million retail establishments across the United States, and retail sales have grown almost 4% annually since 2010. In fact, during the holiday 2019 season, retail sales grew 4.1% from the previous year to $730.2 billion. Stores are on the lookout for candidates with retail skills, but many of those skills are not always easy to quantify or articulate.
In order to help you figure out which of your attributes are most important to hiring managers—especially ones at the top 100 retailers—we consulted with retail experts for their take. Here’s what they say are the eight most important traits, with tips on how you can showcase you're a great fit for today's retail jobs.
1. Emotional intelligence
Whether it’s to your employee or to your customers, the ability to really listen and empathize with the people you work with is critical, says Ray Wimer, professor of Retail Practice at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. “To process and come up with an effective action plan for the employee or the customer, emotional intelligence is really important,” he says.
Tip: When you’re interviewing, it shouldn’t be the “me” show. “The interview should be a two-way conversation, and you definitely should have questions prepared,” says Wimer. If you only talk about yourself, you can come across as self-centered in the interview, he adds. “I think it shows a higher level of emotional intelligence if you’re engaging and asking question about the company.”
Looking for retail manager jobs? Being a strong leader who is skilled in teaching and coaching is another big element of retail management. “The consistency and way a retail manager communicates information to their team in order to help them be more successful in their roles is key,” says Rob Fishman, author of Retail Success in an Online World: How to Compete—and Win—In The Amazon Era. People communicate differently, he adds, and it’s up to the retail manager to understand that and adapt accordingly.
Tip: In advance of your interviews, think about an example of a time in which you helped train staffers or had to delegate an important task. Discuss your approach and the outcome that resulted.
3. Attention to detail
“They say ‘retail is detail,’” says Wimer, and there’s a good reason for that. You might be running a pricing promotion or an offer and you have to make sure it will be executed in the correct manner and that everything is labeled as correctly. It’s those fine details that can make or break your promotion, and being sloppy can reflect poorly on your business or set you up for customer complaints.
Tip: Make sure your resume and cover letter are flawless. Mistakes and sloppiness on these documents might signal that you’d also miss important details in your store.
Or put another way, self-motivation. Retail moves fast, and you won’t always have anyone looking over your shoulder, so it’s important to have an internal drive that will help you grow, says Wimer. “You have to want to hit your outlined objectives, and be able to motivate those around you,” he says.
Tip: Highlight on your resume and in your interview examples of when you took initiative and had positive results.
5. Positivity and respect
It sounds simple, but a positive attitude is really important in this profession. “Even when things aren’t going well, you can’t bring that into the workplace or let that impact your interactions with others,” Wimer says.
Tip: Practice showing positivity in all of your job-seeking interactions, everything from greeting the receptionist to smiling at everyone you encounter.
6. Stress tolerance and adaptability
In most retail settings, there are times when the pace can be hectic and overwhelming. “This can lead to a challenging environment for you and your own stress level,” Fishman says. “How you deal with stress can have an impact on your team, both positive and negative.”
Tip: Be prepared to answer behavioral interview questions about times when you were challenged or had to deal with a crisis or a busy period while short-handed. Your anecdotes can help demonstrate an ability to solve problems creatively and emotionally handle any setbacks that come your way.
7. Managing relationships
Managing different personalities in a highly active workplace can be challenging, and sometimes, conflicts will arise. “Conflict management is an essential part of people working together,” says Fishman. Therefore, understand how best to minimize potential conflict. More important, over time, you will be able to build trust and empathy.
Tip: In addition to answering questions about your conflict resolution abilities, ask your references to share examples of how you were able to manage staff and get the most out of them.
8. Goal-oriented and ability to prioritize
“Good retail workers are very focused on the tasks at hand, but great ones also have the ability to be more strategic and create longer-term as well as short-term goals for themselves,” says Fishman. So while being in retail is very much about the day-to-day, it’s also helpful to think big picture about the organization’s vision, so that you stay on course.
Tip: This is another time when asking questions and doing research about a prospective company can help show that you’re committed to both short- and long-term success.
Looking for great jobs in retail? Do this next
Great, so you know what retail hiring managers are looking for in a top-shelf candidate. Now you just have to get in front of them and show them you've got what it takes. Could you use some help with that? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of retail jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Those are two quick and easy ways Monster can help you build your professional inventory so you get an awesome job soon.