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11th Nov, 2022

Jack Ireland
Jack Ireland
Job Title
Content Marketing Executive

Retail employees, in many ways, are the extension of your brand and reputation, serving as the focal point for many customers looking to engage with your products and services.

In the retail industry, interviews act as an opportunity to understand the ability of potential employees; how they interact with customers, offer excellent customer service and how they problem-solve. Even though interviews differ, it’s likely that similar types of questions will be asked that focus on interpersonal skills, retail knowledge and working examples.

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Here are​​ 25 of the most common retail interview questions that you could ask as an employer to identify the best talent, and how a candidate might answer them.

General questions

Tell me about yourself

Employer: A common question to begin most interviews, this is a great way to learn more about a candidate’s background, previous experience and skills they’ve picked up from other roles. This question can also be extended to try and learn more about the candidate on a personal level, understanding how they could fit in at your company.

Candidate: There are multiple ways to approach this question. An effective way for a candidate to structure a response would be to start with their current role and what they do, then move on to past experiences relevant to the role and finish with why they're interested in the vacancy. ​​Our expert consultants can help with your next career step.

Why do you want to work in retail?

Employer: A relatively standard opening question, to help with understanding the reasons a candidate wants to work in your industry is a great way to gauge their passion for the role. By asking why the candidate wants to work in retail, you’re allowing them to provide key buzzwords and phrases that you’re looking for. Such as, ‘customer service’, ‘interacting with people’, and ‘helping customers have a positive experience’.

Candidate: The retail environment can often be challenging. This question gives the candidate a platform for a passionate response, indicating their enjoyment working in the industry. Answers from candidates may illustrate their people skills.

Why do you want to work for our company?

Employer: This question will test potential candidates to see if they have done their homework. As a hiring manager, you want to discover if the candidate understands your brand and vision. Look out for answers that include knowledge of both the company values and digital presence.

Candidate: An ideal candidate will focus their answer on your company’s values and ethos, reinforcing the fact that they’ve spent time researching your organisation. Candidates should highlight why the brand is important to them, and what they like most about the company, its products, or services.

What makes you stand out? Why should we hire you instead of somebody else?

Employer: In answering this question, candidates should be aware of the requirements of the role through the job description. Look for mention of the essential criteria points, but also pay attention to the candidate’s body language, attitude and how they present themselves when answering this question. ​For more information about the recruitment process, our sales recruiters can help.

Candidate: Retail is about sales – so candidates will need to ‘sell’ themselves to the hiring manager to highlight why they are the best person for the job. By offering a unique and sincere answer, candidates can prove how they are a perfect fit for the company and would complement an already strong team.

What do you know about the products we sell?

Employer: Interviewing a candidate who is already aware of the product or service is a great start. Not only does this question show a candidate’s forward-thinking, but also that they have put the time in to understand the product, its purpose and how it helps customers and clients.

Candidate: Listing a few products or services the company provides is a great start, especially when it’s a retail manager interview question. Even if the candidate doesn’t know the intricate details surrounding the products, a basic knowledge of the industry and what the company sells highlights that a candidate has taken the time to understand the organisation, in turn, making their application more appealing.

What is your greatest strength?

Employer: This is a standard interview question that is used across most industries. As an employer, this question allows you to get to know a candidate’s skill set while helping you determine if they are a good fit for the role.

Candidate: Interviewees would do best to be honest in this situation​​, as it’s a classic sales assistant interview question. For a sales assistant role, candidates may discuss their greatest strength as an ability to work under pressure while ensuring their work is always of the highest quality. This will show employers that their strengths lie in the right places.

What do you consider a weakness of yours?

Employer: In retail, this question is a great way of assessing a candidate’s self-awareness and is considered of the most common retail job interview questions. Look out for answers that show a candidate’s ability to self-assess and show improvement.

Candidate: This a tricky question to answer. On one hand, a candidate shouldn’t show any insecurities, but not be too boastful. Any answers indicating a growth mindset and a willingness to improve means an employer could develop a candidate into the perfect fit for their organisation.

Other questions to consider:

  • What are your ​​salary expectations for this retail job?

  • What three words would you use to describe yourself?

  • What do you hope to learn in this position?

  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Experience and background questions

What do you consider good customer service?

Employer: A very important question to ask – supplying high standards of customer service is the backbone of the retail environment. You will want to find out if your company’s definition of customer service matches the candidate’s response.

Candidate: Candidates should focus on what good customer service looks like, using examples of service they’ve experienced, or given in the past. Customer service is about providing a memorable, positive experience for customers, so any examples of this will form a strong answer.

Tell me about a time when you’ve worked well as part of a team?

Employer: Being able to work as part of a team is a crucial component of many retail jobs, as the industry lends itself to collaborative working. Take time to understand how a candidate works with their colleagues to create a successful working environment.

Candidate: Scenario-based questions help employers to understand a candidate’s practical ability. For questions about teamwork, candidates are encouraged to provide examples or talk about how they overcame challenges as part of a team, and what their role was.

Can you provide an example of a time when you went above and beyond for a customer?

Employer: Within retail, you want to hire employees who are passionate about helping the customer. Here, you’ll want to discover what a candidate has done previously to go above and beyond in customer service – offering multiple examples of high standards.

Candidate: Competency questions are used to assess scenarios where a candidate has interacted with customers. Interviewees may use these questions to highlight when they’ve received praise in previous roles from customers, and what the overall outcome of their hard work was.

Tell us about a time you exceeded expectations at work?

Employer: Positive experiences encourage managers to trust employees. Asking questions centred around excellence in service and exceeding expectations will help you to understand a candidate’s motivations and willingness to push the boundary and promote their work ethic.

Candidate: Hiring managers are looking to be impressed by a candidate's commitment to the role. Similar to going above and beyond, a candidate should focus on times when they were tasked with an assignment and received adequate praise from line managers, customers or external providers. If a candidate hasn't worked in retail before, they should think of an example from another job or role.

Other questions to consider:

  • What experience do you have in problem-solving to meet the needs of the customer?

  • Can you describe the accomplishment you're most proud of?

Position-relevant questions

Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer?

Employer: Another common scenario-based question: this is designed to show if a candidate knows how to show empathy, de-escalate situations, and offer solutions. This question could also pinpoint a candidate’s accountability and self-awareness – valuable traits for employees in the retail industry.

Candidate: An ability to deal with conflict resolution is highly desirable. Candidates should provide a clear description of the situation including the circumstances under which a difficulty occurred, how they dealt with it and the eventual outcome.

How well do you perform in a busy work environment?

Employer: Within retail, employers understand how pressured the work can be. Questions around performance will allow you to discover how a candidate copes with challenging situations and demanding customers. You also want to figure out if candidates can work well in a fast-paced environment, especially during busy periods such as Christmas and new year.

Candidate: An ability to juggle priorities and tasks is part and parcel of many retail roles. Candidates should give examples of when they’ve worked well under pressure, alongside how they’ve maintained strong organisational skills to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Tell me about a challenge you experienced in a past role and how you overcame it.

Employer: An answer to a behavioural question around challenges can tell you a lot about what type of person the candidate is, providing useful insight into how they work and react to adversity. Look out for evidence of certain characteristics including resilience, adaptability and a positive mindset.

Candidate: Candidates are encouraged to find examples that clearly demonstrate their competency in relation to the role they are applying for. The best answers to this question usually follow the STAR (situation, task, action, and result) technique, where candidates keep their responses focused and ensure they tick all the boxes for the interviewer.

What is your favourite thing about working in retail?

Employer: It’s important to understand a candidate’s passion behind why they work or want to work in the retail industry and give the interviewee the opportunity to show you a glimpse of their personality, drive and ambition. You want to make sure that the candidate will be a good fit for your team.

Candidate: Working in retail can be very rewarding. A candidate should think about the factors that make them like their job. These can include improving interpersonal skills, the flexibility the industry offers, the benefits leading to a good work-life balance, growth opportunities or simply being able to interact with customers.

Other questions to consider:

  • If the payment machines went down on your shift, what would you do?

  • Tell us about a time you exceeded a customer's expectations?

  • What do you do when your replacement worker fails to show up?

  • Tell me about a time that you demonstrated leadership in a previous role.

Important things to remember

Interviews can be a challenging experience for both employers and professionals alike within any industry, especially retail. Outside of the answers asked and given within the interview, there are other steps that can be taken to ensure the interview runs smoothly and is a good experience for all parties. Here are a few important things to remember during a retail interview:

Do research

In retail, it's important for an interviewee to have a basic understanding of what a shop sells, who the target audience is and the culture the company is trying to establish. On the other hand, employers should consider conducting a candidate background screening process, as this helps streamline the recruitment process.

Interviewee questions

Throughout the interview and beforehand, it's a good idea for candidates to ask questions to the hiring team that will help inform their decision if the role and company is right for them. For employers, this is a great opportunity to sell the company culture and list all the benefits of working for the organisation.

The follow up

After the interview, it’s the responsibility of both the interviewee and employer to make sure any further details and next steps are outlined. For candidates, if writing a follow up email, reiterate gratitude and ask any relevant questions about when a decision will be made by. Employers should take the time to reach out to the shortlist whether successful or unsuccessful.

If you are looking for the next top professional for your business or looking for your next role, ​​get in touch with one of our expert consultants today.

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