Why I look for fast-food and retail experience in prospective employees

Article by Krisi Smith, co-founder of Bird & Blend

When reviewing CVs, employers in the corporate world often dismiss the indispensable skills that retail, hospitality, and customer service experience equips prospective employees with.

A common misconception is that this sort of work is merely a stopgap for young people wanting to earn some extra cash and this type of experience is often seen as irrelevant, especially when looking for things like higher education institutions and degrees. But research shows over 70% of hiring managers say retail work provides its employees with foundational skills and experience that are transferable to other industries. I couldn’t agree more, and actually rate this really highly. 

Not only are FMCG roles a major gateway to the world of work and the first time most people learn how to act in a professional manner, but they also provide the transferable skills most of us carry for life: from time efficiency to learning how to work in a team to customer and client interaction. There is a widespread expectation of young people to pursue something ‘academic’, and although I decided to take the university route and study politics – all of which was part of my eventual discovery of what I wanted to do career-wise – I acknowledge that this narrative needs to change.

“Your first job was in McDonald’s? Great, you’ve got grit”

During the recruitment process, if a candidate has FMCG experience – whether bar work or a stint in a fast-food shop – this immediately informs an employer of their grit, determination, and resilience. Tending to the demands of a retail role is not easy, whether that’s customer concerns, queries, or unavoidable shortfalls in service.

Young people especially rely on FMCG and retail jobs to kickstart their journey in the world of work. Not only are we most impressionable during this time, but this also marks the period in which important skills are crafted that we carry with us for the duration of our career. And as an entrepreneur and co-founder of a successful retail business which prides itself on the customer experience, a prospective employee with this kind of experience demonstrates gravitas and proactiveness: serving the general public in a minimum wage job while keeping a smile on your face is no mean feat.

But how does a part-time retail job form vital skills for the corporate world?

Learning how to manage expectations and act instinctively in unexpected scenarios might not be the first skills you think of when considering retail and food service roles, but they are key for success in these industries. For those planning on joining the corporate sector in later life, this same skill set translates into dealing with clients and critical decision making for a business on a larger scale.

Being able to prove these skills at the interview process are also integral as they show personality. Many companies now conduct culture fit interviews, whether an official and obvious part of the interview process or a subtle assessment of one’s character. At Bird & Blend we take the former approach and look for the same skills associated with retail workers on the shop floor as we do for roles in our head office – a culture fit is of upmost importance to us in the recruitment process.

Whether an indie retail shop or a FTSE100 company, employees become the embodiment of a company’s brand. To view them as merely a line on a profits and loss sheet is to undermine the extent of the value they bring to a business and the personable skills that are difficult to quantify on a CV.


About the author

Bird & Blend, the now award-winning tea mixologist company with over 100 blends, is reimagining the ultimate British staple of tea.

Krisi Smith is co-founder and Creative Director at Bird & Blend Tea Co. Over the last 10 years, she has been responsible for building the innovative, award-winning and customer centric brand from scratch. As well as this, Krisi has developed Bird & Blend’s retail strategy, growing the company’s high street portfolio to 14 destination sites (and counting!) that all deliver exceptional experiences.

Krisi Smith
Pioneer 20 2024 - Top 20 refugee women in the EU

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