Is fast food a retail job?

Is fast food a retail job? Only if you spin it. If you’re asking the question, that’s probably what you need to do. Here’s how to do just that if you’re looking for a change.

When you put a resume together or fill out a job application, you need to always match your experience to your next job’s requirements. The job duties you performed are more important than the names of your previous employers.

Retail jobs include a number of different job duties: running a register, answering customer questions, solving customer issues, setting up inventory displays, and unloading trucks. In fast food, you may very well have done all of those things too.

is fast food a retail job
If you want to move from a place like this into retail, play up your experience that mirrors work duties in retail. Don’t mention things like washing dishes. Include a line “other duties as required” instead, but only if there’s room.

So even though retail and fast food are different worlds in some ways, a lot of the experience in one transfers over to the other. For best results, when you move from one of those worlds to the other, find a job that uses the skill you’re best at. If you were good at handling customer problems and resolving conflicts, apply for a job at customer service. Or if you were really good at explaining the differences between menu items and suggestive selling, apply for a job in one of the sales departments. Finally, if you were good at running a register, apply for a cashier position. You probably get the idea. Play up the job duties that transfer over, and how good you are at those.

What you probably won’t have to do in a retail job is wash dishes or mop floors or any kind of food preparation. So there’s no reason to mention those kinds of duties, since it’s irrelevant. Just lump them into a single line item: Other duties as required.

Tailoring your resume or your job experience on the application is key. I used to write down everything I did at every job, in an effort to show versatility. Sometime in my mid 30s I realized this was hurting me. In hiring managers’ minds, if I listed five job duties and three of them weren’t relevant to the new job, they assumed I spent 60% of my time doing work that won’t help them.  “Other duties as required” doesn’t come with that mental baggage. If you need a line in your resume, add that. It suggests you’re willing to learn to do the things they don’t remember to mention in the interview. And if you’re running short on space, just leave it off.

Let’s talk a bit more about leaving stuff off.

I once had a hiring manager tell me he considered not hiring me because my resume said I had worked at Best Buy. I’d worked five other places since then and showed increasing job responsibility at each one. But he got hung up on Best Buy. Had the other candidate he interviewed given off a good impression, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. His impression of me would have been better if I’d found a way to make that experience relevant to him. Or I could have left it off entirely, since that job was more than 10 years before. You only need to go back 10 years. If that helps you save space on your resume or job application, leave the old experience out.

What if you have the opposite problem–gaps in employment? Here’s help on how to account for the period between jobs. And finally, here are some worthwhile questions to ask. Most of them apply to corporate office jobs, but I think #1, #2, #3, and #12 are wise to ask about retail. And most applicants won’t ask any of them.

And once you get an offer, here’s some advice on how to quit a fast food job without burning bridges.

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