In CV workshops, I am often asked about work experience such as supermarket roles and bar work. Should I include it, or is it irrelevant? Should I elaborate, or should I keep the reference to a minimum?


To be quite honest there are no right or wrong answers here, and I have heard employers expressing contrary opinions. One talent manager once said to me: I simply pass over what they’ve done in their local pub or supermarket!


However, yesterday I spotted two opinions that said the opposite. One came from an investment banker. He was weary of CVs that overflowed with interesting work placements that had obviously been organised by Mum or Dad. As a manager director on a trading floor, he was looking for people who had grit. Knowing that a candidate had stacked shelves to pay for their travels aboard was seen in a positive light.


The other feature came from Accenture, the management consultants. In their advice to graduates they suggest that you should keep supermarket jobs on your CV, as long as you can explain what kinds of relevant skills and knowledge you gained stacking shelves or pulling pints. One of their recruitment team recalled: “One applicant had worked in a factory but he was able to explain how the experience taught him about manufacturing and how to make sure the line was efficient as possible. It wasn’t necessarily an impressive internship experience, but actually the fact that he was able to think about what that might bring to the table was really interesting.”


I would certainly agree with this, it’s what you have learnt from the experience, or how you made a difference in the role that counts. I would always say include a reference to these types of jobs on your CV, but be careful not to overdo the chat about them, unless you have something particularly interesting to say. Also consider the context of your CV and how it should work alongside an application form. Sometimes its best to keep the chat about what you’ve learnt from stacking shelves to the application form.


Career thought:

Always include your supermarket jobs on your CV,

but only elaborate if you have something interesting to say