10 of The Biggest Mistakes I See on Retail Management Resumes

August 25, 2014

By Michael Howard

While not an all-encompassing list, here are 10 of the most common mistakes I regularly see on retail management resumes:

1. Lack of a retail-specific headline

If you're a district manager, state it loud and proud at the top of your resume: RETAIL DISTRICT MANAGER (tip: If you rank highly in your company, then you're a TOP-RANKED RETAIL DISTRICT MANAGER!). You're not a Business Development Specialist. You're not a Sales and Marketing Professional. You're not a Strategic Operations Leader. If you are looking for a job as a retail district manager and you have experience at that level, then label yourself as such and make it easy for the recruiter. Then use a separate resume with a different headline for jobs in other fields.

2. Long and meaningless summaries or profiles

If you have only held one or two meaningful jobs and your resume is one page, you probably don't need a summary at the top. If you have held several jobs, you may want to include a short summary to help the reader understand the depth of your experience. But remember, a true summary should summarize your experience and other key qualifications - not your personal characteristics. Don't turn it into a lengthy spiel about how talented you are. On that note, see point 3.

3. Using adjectives to describe yourself

You may be dynamic. Your friends may think of you as dynamic. Heck, every boss you ever had may consider you to be dynamic. But you calling yourself dynamic on your resume won't convince anyone, so don't waste your time or the reader's time. Stick to the facts and avoid including anything on your resume that makes the reader think, "Oh yeah, prove it!" (However, if a former supervisor called you "the most talented district manager he's ever seen" in a written recommendation, you may want to include that on your resume!)

4. Over-emphasis on core competencies

Almost every job-seeker uses a core competency section on their resume, and they usually put it near the top. The problem is it's usually just a list of skills that, really, the reader has no reason to believe (after all, it's YOU talking about YOU - not exactly objective). Sometimes it can help to include these keywords on your resume, but don't assume that recruiters put much stock in them. And yes, it's perfectly acceptable, and often preferable, to put them at the bottom of your resume. This keyword list is not as important as your employment history, so make it easy for the reader to get to that section.

5. Listing accomplishments before work history

The first thing a recruiter wants to know about you is your current and recent employers and positions. They don't want to know whether you increased sales 12% over last year UNTIL they know where you worked, when, and in what position. Don't put the cart before the horse - show your achievements within the experience section, not before. (One exception may be an achievement that summarizes your experience, such as "Developed and promoted 8 store managers and 15 assistant store managers with last 3 employers.")

6. No clear description of accountability

How many stores did you oversee? Where were they located? What was the annual sales volume under your control? How many direct reports did you have? How many staff in total did you oversee? Where did your store/district/region rank in the company? I often see resumes where it is not easy to determine the person's accountability. Just this week I reviewed a district manager's resume and it took a second reading before I found that his district had 8 stores in it - that crucial piece of information was buried half way through the 8th bullet point and I missed it on the first scan-through. Recruiters may not try as hard as I did to find that information.

7. Lengthy descriptions of duties and responsibilities

Retail recruiters already have a good understanding of what store managers do on a daily basis. The same is true for assistant store managers, district managers, regional directors, etc. They recruit these candidates for a living so they don't really need to be told that you, as a store manager, were responsible for customer service, hiring and training, inventory management, head office reporting, performance management, coaching, setting expectations, etc. It's not terrible to include these keywords on your resume, but don't go overboard - it's already obvious to the reader.

8. Lack of clear, tangible achievements

Key performance indicators are perfect to use as achievements. After all, they are measurements of your performance, and future employers want you to perform well for them too. They're also tangible, which is important for building trust with the reader. If you don't use any numbers on your resume, and instead only use achievements such as "Built a strong and talented team of sales professionals" or "Instituted an open-door policy and significantly improved morale," the reader may not be too impressed. Those are great achievements but they're also entirely subjective, and resumes should focus primarily on objective facts.

9. Too much work history

I quite often see resumes that list - and sometimes fully describe - jobs from the early 90s, 80s, 70s, and yes, I've seen jobs listed from the 1960s on a resume. There are two problems with that - one, recruiters aren't usually interested in what you did that far back, and two, it opens you up to age discrimination. If recruiters can tell that you are in the later stages of your career and the employer is looking for someone younger, you will be passed over for that. Don't give them the opportunity.

10. Poor layout and appearance

Appearance is very important. In fact, appearance is usually noticed before content. Think about it - when you first glance at a page, you notice aspects of the document's appearance before you've actually read anything, and that can include font type/size, use of white space, text enhancements, page margins, etc. Your mind forms an instant judgement about whether reading that document will be an enjoyable or easy experience, often before you've read anything. So when we talk about making a great first impression with your resume, appearance plays a very big part in that.


Michael Howard
Professional Resume Writer, Retail Industry

Michael Howard is a professional resume writer working exclusively with store managers, district managers, regional managers, and other retail leaders from across North America. Visit retailresumes.ca for details or follow him on Twitter.