Tips from the team at Sparkbox on how to turn your merch skills into a new role in technology
Sparkbox is a technology company based in Manchester and London, we help merchandising teams make data-driven pricing and inventory decisions. In the last year, we’ve hired 4 amazing merchandisers for roles in product, customer success, and operations.
Thanks to @thismerchlife, we've connected with many talented candidates for these roles (thank you all for your interest!!). We've also spotted some individuals with great potential who could benefit from a few tweaks to their CV or interview, so we thought we would share a few tips to help the TML community make the leap from merch to tech.
We love to meet merchandisers who are as excited about technology as we are, and we hope this helps as you explore an exciting new career path! For news and updates on new roles from Sparkbox, join our mailing list or follow us on Linkedin.
(Keep in mind, this advice is limited to our experience and what we look for specifically at Sparkbox)
Craft a CV that stands out
Customise your CV for the role/ company. This is annoying but worth it, we can tell when candidates have made the effort. To make this easier:
Add a summary section to the top of your CV (3 bullet points) and just customise that part
Use the name of the company you are applying to – this always catches our attention: “Experience using systems like Sparkbox including X, Y”
If you are applying to a role with a tech company from a non-technical role, be sure to shout about ANY tech projects you have been involved with - as part of an implementation team, superuser, etc. Even experience as an end user affected by a new system is relevant – your good and bad experiences show a familiarity with what makes a tech project successful!
Highlight what you achieved in a role, rather than what you did in a role
Weak: “Managed a category with £20m annual turnover”
Strong: “Did X and Y to improve category sales +5% YOY and reduce average cover by 2 weeks”
Put your most recent experience at the top of your CV
Research the company. If you aren't looking, follow some companies that interest you - then when you're ready you'll have industry insights and talking points
Try to answer each question with an example. The “STAR method” is a good approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result)
If you mention any data skills or training, we will probably ask you how you applied that skill in your current role. We value application of the skill more than the accreditation
Don’t be afraid to mention skills you acquired outside of your core or current role (through part time or temporary jobs, or your interests outside of work)
Try to demonstrate your “unique selling points”, rather than core merch skills. Rather than talking about trade meetings and signoffs, tell us about how you identified a problem, improved a process, collaborated cross-functionally, or worked outside of your core role to deliver something interesting
Our best interviews tend to be conversational. Genuine questions in the middle of an interview can lead to great conversation!
We pay attention to the kinds of questions you ask about us. If your questions are limited, we wonder if you know enough about us to make a decision to join. Generally when interviewing with a growing technology company, it’s good to learn more about:
Their growth plans and expectations (geographically, industry expansion, headcount)
How they are funded (do they have investors, how much funding do they have before they need to raise money again?)
Who their customers are and what customers are in their pipeline (is the company demonstrably growing?)
What we look for
Resourcefulness / self-starters: examples of how you have taken initiative, owned a project or process, and delivered a result
Some level of experience with technology, a demonstration that you know how our customers might be feeling or what they might need to successfully adopt our software. What have you seen that has worked or hasn't worked with software you have used?
Demonstrated understanding of the career change you will be making. What are the pros and cons of moving to a smaller company/ a startup? Why not progress on a merch path?
Are you looking for any new job, or for this job in particular? This is most evident by your CV (is it customised?), but also have you followed us on Linkedin, etc
Willingness to get “stuck in” – especially when interviewing senior candidates, we want to understand your interest in and willingness to do what needs doing as we grow. Successful candidates have shown they want to do the job, then improve it, automate it, or train a junior to help. (Are you willing to pull your own reports?)
What will it be like to work with you? If you are joining an early-stage tech company, you’ll be an important part of a small team. The more of your personality you can share the better – what are your interests? What motivates you? What makes you unique and what will you add to our company culture?
Above all remember - as a merchandiser you've juggled tight deadlines, non-existent budgets, natural disasters, and more. Your skills are transferable and will be hugely valuable to most growing tech companies! Good luck!! We are currently collaborating with the University of Manchester to conduct some research on the state of merchandising following the pandemic. If you work in merchandising, we'd appreciate your contribution to our survey here. It takes 5 minutes and all responses are confidential. Results will be shared here in SS23!