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Getting ahead in merchandising

Getting ahead in merchandising

You probably already know the importance of a great CV, some basic tips for performing well in an interview and the kind of things you can expect from a psychometric test. But the best advice is always going to be specific to your role and for that you need a specialist. We asked Henrietta Griffiths from specialist recruitment firm Fashion & Retail Personnel to give us some expert advice for merchandisers looking for their next role.

So, you have started your dream career in merchandising and although you love your job you feel that it’s time for a new challenge. Whether you have notched up a couple of years at allocator level or are a seasoned senior merchandiser, the process of getting a new job is largely the same.

At which companies should I look?

Try not to stick with your wish list of where you would like to work. The retail industry is very competitive and so it may be a good idea to look at brands and retailers that you hadn’t considered before. Make a list of what you want from your next role so you know exactly what you are looking for. There are hundreds of retailers and brands out there so don’t just think about the obvious ones. It’s worth considering smaller brands and even start-ups.

What other positions can I look at with my experience?

There are many different roles within merchandising; from branch merchandising, ecommerce merchandising and international merchandising. When searching for your next role be open minded about the type of role you go for, as it can be possible to move into an area you haven’t tried before.

Try to be flexible as to the product area you look after. For example, if you are in fashion have you considered homewares? It is easier for a merchandiser to move into another product area than for a buyer — and it will also give some great variety to your CV.

Am I restricted to working in London?

Absolutely not! More and more internationally based companies are looking for UK merchandising talent and often pay really well! Also consider other areas of the UK, as there are plenty of head offices that are not London based.

What are employers expecting to see on my employment history in my CV?

As a merchandiser it’s a great idea to get different companies on your CV as you move up the career ladder. Not only does this give you a great exposure to different types of businesses, it allows you to get experience with different systems and processes.

However, be careful not to move roles too frequently, as you don’t want to be seen as a job hopper. When adding individual positions, be very clear with dates adding not only the year but the month of each role. If a role was a contract, make that clear and don’t forget to explain any breaks in employment.

Related content: The 7 deadly CV sins. How many are on your CV?

What else should I include?

Make sure you make a clear note of all systems you have used. Some systems such as SAP and Oracle are used by lots of retailers so they will look for candidates with these skills. Don’t forget to add your level of excel proficiency, too. If you have experience of the WSSI put that on. You may be a pro in setting up one from scratch or just starting out with line cards; whatever your level, make sure there is a point that shows exactly how good you are.

Make sure you include your current department turnover and SKU/option count. This gives the recruiter an idea of the size of department you have been used to managing. Mention how many people you manage and if you have coached your team members to achieve a promotion. Don’t forget to add  their levels. If you manage a small part of the main department you work on, make it clear exactly what you manage. It shows commercial awareness, too!

Finally, don’t forget to add your key achievements. Perhaps you had a positive impact on profit with a new range or were instrumental in implementing new systems. These are the points that will highlight your true ability and demonstrate what you have done over and above your day job.

Interview preparation

Once your killer CV has bagged you an interview for your dream job, there is still more you can do to prepare before you get in front of the hiring manager. For example, an absolute must for any interview is to visit the stores and research the company website. When you do your visit make sure you look at things from a merchandiser’s point of view. Check things such as price point and density. Don’t forget to visit some competitors, too!

Whatever level role you are going for, it is a good idea to complete a SWOT analysis. This will focus your research and really get you thinking.

Finally, make sure you know your CV inside out. It’s great that you added all those impressive figures but make sure you have them in your head. It would also be good to get a few extra figures, such as your margins, so you can really jazz up your answers at interview.

The interview

So, the day has actually arrived and you are fully prepared for the face-to-face interview and we are just a step away from getting the role of your dreams. There are a few things you need to keep in mind.

For example, whatever level role you are being considered for, not just entry level, there may be some kind of maths or Excel test. This is standard for some companies so don’t be alarmed if this is part of the process. The person who invited you for the interview will normally make you aware of this, but sometimes it can be a surprise on the day.

In your preparation, make sure you include relevant examples and make sure you have enough depth to your answers. Candidates often assume that the interviewer will know what their job entails, but a merchandising role can vary greatly from company to company. Make sure you give a thorough account of your responsibilities.

If you are going for a slightly different job within merchandising, for example you are a core merchandiser interviewing for a branch or international merchandiser position, make sure you make your answers relevant to the position for which you have applied. This shows that you understand the role and will be able to adapt easily.

Finally, remember the process is a two way street and you should make sure you use this time to find out if the company and role are right for you. Think of some questions to ask at the end that will help you make your decision.

Related content: What (really) not to do in interviews

PLUS: Which fashion brand should you be working for? Take our personality test here!

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