Any advice? Applying for entry-level retail jobs

Hello! I am applying for retail sales associate positions at nearby dept stores (Macy’s, Homegoods, Marshalls, etc) but my major detriment is that I do not have any experience as a paid worker, much less in retail. I do have ample volunteer experience @ nursing home and nonprofit organizations, however, as well as many skills/traits that align with what the positions require. How would you suggest that I weave things about myself into a successful application? What should I include in my cover letter?

How you’ve handled challenges to create a win-win situation. Be sure to have a neat appearance. Polite and friendly. As much flexibility in available hours as possible.

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They are going to be looking for customer service skills…so think about times you’ve worked with the public and talk about how you gave great customer service…volunteering etc. How did you handle someone who was upset, or a difficult situation. Also talk about your problem solving skills are, what are your strengths that relate to retail…you are a fast learner, you work hard, you have a keen attention to detail, you love to help people…things like that!

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I’m not sure what things are like where you live but where I am, entry level retail jobs are available literally everywhere with nowhere near enough applicants for the openings. My D just applied for her first paid job by dropping an index card sized form in a fishbowl at a store and was hired immediately after a 5 minute phone call. Be polite, kind, and pleasant and when you need to show up in person, be 5-10 minutes early, neat, clean, and dressed nicely. She had in person orientation yesterday and was worried about what to wear so I suggested black pants and a nice short sleeved shirt that didn’t say anything on the front. You got this!


Thanks for advice! Can you elaborate a bit on the store your D was hired at? e.g. a large dept store like Macy’s? A clothing store like tJ Maxx? a smaller local store?

My eldest worked at Macy’s during her breaks and summers. Use your current volunteer/work experience to post your skills set for each experience.
For example, note your Nursing Home experience:

  1. excellent communication skills while working with clients to facilitate their needs and requests.
  2. knowledge of protocols and procedures for facility, clients and staff
  3. punctual and reliable taking on extra shifts.
    They used to have a dress requirement of black. Slacks and understated jewelry. My daughter wore a LOT of black and white. PM me if you need more information.
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I would describe it as a “regional” retailer, not a local small business and not a nationwide box store. My best guess is about 100 locations in our quarter of the country and no locations outside that area.

Highlight your adaptability to different situations and people.