Employer Insights - Retail and Sales Assistants


Looking for a job in retail? We asked employers what they look for when recruiting for retail positions.

What do employers look for?

Whether you’re selling clothes, cosmetics or collectible garden gnomes, employers generally look for the following personal traits for sales assistants:

  • A bubbly personality
  • A strong work ethic
  • Reliability and honesty

Good communication skills are also really important in this role as you will need to be able to interact with a range of different people.

How do employers recruit for sales assistants?

  • Word of mouth. Many employers don’t actively advertise their vacancies. Most ask their existing workers to spread the word that they are looking for staff. So let your friends and family know when you are looking for a job!
  • Being approached by job seekers. Approach employers directly about jobs. But remember, that you need to make a great first impression when you drop off your résumé and cover letter.
  • Other recruitment methods. Retailers also use social media to recruit and will often put signs up on their windows.

HINT: You might not need previous experience. Employers in retail businesses will often hire people with little or no experience as long as they can show the personal traits and capabilities that the employer is looking for!

Tips for applying for retail jobs

Before applying:

  • Tailor your résumé and cover letter to the specific job. Research the employer to understand what they do and what kind of worker they might be looking for. You could visit employers you want to work for. Don't be afraid to drop into their store to sample their products, see how the staff are dressed and how they interact with customers.
  • Be flexible with your schedule. The more available you are to work, the better!

Interview tips: Employers want to know... 

  • What you will bring to the business. Will your outgoing and friendly personality draw in customers? Or maybe you love helping people find what they need? Use your research on the business to come up with examples of times you demonstrated the personal traits and skills they are looking for.
  • Why you want the job. It’s not enough to say “I need the money…”! Think about how this job would be a good fit for you and what you want to get out of this experience. For example, maybe you want to build your customer service skills or learn more about the product.
  • What previous experience you have that is relevant to this role. Previous experience doesn’t have to be paid work. It can be unpaid or volunteer, or even skills built through study, sports or other activities. For example, if you enjoy hiking or camping trips, you could mention this when applying for a job at an outdoor adventure store.

You can never be sure what an employer will ask you at an interview, but there are some common interview questions that many employers like to use to find out more about applicants. It’s a good idea to be prepared!

For more information, check out our cheat sheet on Sales Assistants.

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