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Retail Interview Questions and Answers

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

Store based or field role? Got you covered!

Now, before scrolling all the way down to the bits that you want to know - I see you, I understand your need for fast information.

But before you do this, I want to let you know the following information will also and it is worth taking the time to read through this so that you can truly master the interview process; especially if you are wanting to land that next-level, ideal role.

Interviewers are busy people. Retailers are one of the hardest working private sector groups on the planet, in my opinion.

Let's face it - most people are busy pretty much all the time!

Why does this matter?

It matters because when you understand the sense of urgency that an employer has around filling a critical role, you can start to pivot your approach from the limiting mindset of 'I need to get this job' to 'they have the issue and I am the solution'

Literally say this to yourself before stepping into your retail interview.

Interviewers are busy people - if you have passed the initial screening round then you are in with just as much chance to secure an offer as much as anyone else.

The primary role of any candidate is to make sure the interviewer is blown away by relevant competencies and that they feel completely happy and secure that you will do a great job. Security is one of the core values we hold as human beings and this shows up in all aspects of life - a secure job, secure home, secure finances and more.

If the interviewer can feel secure in your presence and equally energised, I can tell you this - the job is yours!

To make this article super easy to navigate, I've divided the retail interview questions and answers into sections, so you can skip ahead to the bits that are relevant - go on, I know you want to. Take a screenshot, write them down and get practicing on personalising your answers, in your style of communication.

During your retail interview, please consider that 80% of communication is non-verbal, meaning how you deliver your answers is actually more important. Hold yourself in an open body language, use gesticulation, friendly facial expressions and an adapted tone of voice.

All of these softer skills matter hugely - think of it as a performance, but you are the star.

The interviewer wants to get to know you, this is why small talk is extremely important, you can win the interview straight away if you nail that part!

Over the last 20 years I have interviewed thousands of candidates from all over the world. A retail interview can last from 30 minutes upto an hour - do make sure the outfit you choose is a true representation of you in the job - meaning, how you dress at interview is how you would dress in the role.

There is no point arriving suited and booted if the retailer is a lifestyle brand.

Of course, rocking up in the latest tracksuit would not be appropriate (it could be seen as far too casual) but you could certainly be seen as a great candidate if you wore their trainers with a smart pair of jeans and block coloured long sleeve top for example.

Smart outfit choices all add strength to you as a candidate, the better you prepare, the better the outcome!

Retail interview questions and answers for store based employees

Q. Why did you choose to apply here

A. I've been a huge fan of the brand for a long time, so when I saw this vacancy came up I felt compelled to apply immediately. I realise being a fan of the brand and working here are different experiences but I believe when you are already passionate about the product, selling it to potential clients will be easier

Q. What do you think great customer service looks like?

A. To me, great service makes you feel good. At all area's of the store, so no matter where you are as a client (fitting rooms, cash desk) you are made to feel appreciated and valued. This can be achieved through open body language, maintaining a friendly persona and always listening to customer queries before advising. Great service is when a person manages to understand the client needs and successfully takes them to their solution. I aim to give exceptional service to everyone visiting the store.

Q. Can you tell me about a time where you worked as part of a team to accomplish something?

A. During new season launch, we needed to re-pack all of the unsold products from sale, being careful to correctly manage the units to avoid discrepancies. In order to accurately complete the work, we were assigned specific tasks and were entirely accountable for the completion of that one element. I took care of all re-packaging, cross-checking product descriptions and quantity which were then double checked by my Supervisor. Every season we had very few errors and the back of house was continually recognised as the best in the region for it's organisation standards

Q. What do you really enjoy about working in retail?

A. The fact that I get to talk with new people each day and help them to discover the brand or style the client when they're feeling uninspired. I find it very motivating when a client trusts my advice. I love that no two days are the same and that element of surprise is exciting

Q. Do you have any development opportunities?

A. I do aspire to be in management within the next 2 years so I would like to learn more about retail operations and how managers prioritise their daily workload

Q. Tell me about a time where you had to work under pressure?

A. Usually peak events such as Christmas or Summer Sales time. Footfall usually triples during this time and customers can be very demanding. I see this as an opportunity to work smarter, work with speed and simply make sure product availability is correctly prices and ready to take off the rails. I handle pressure well and because I'm team spirited, I'll always have my teammates back if they look to be overwhelmed

Q. Your shift is ending, but you see the shopfloor is really busy and all your team members are engaged with customers. What do you do?

A. I would ask my supervisor if they would like me to stay a while longer. I am flexible and I understand that sometimes, this might be expected

Q. Do you take direction well?

A. Yes, I do. I am always looking for ways to improve my service offering or create better displays. I have great listening skills so once the direction or feedback is given, I take note and get to work on improving that and delivering what needs to be done

Q. How would you ensure stock security in the store?

A. I would make sure I understood the policies and best practices first. I would then ensure that all product is correctly counted in and out of the fitting rooms, I would be diligent at checking items at the cash desk, making sure no products were hidden inside of each other or in pockets and I make sure that every customer in my zone is well looked after, because usually if a person knows someone is watching, they are less likely to steal something

Q. How would your current line manager describe you in a few words?

A. Energetic, eager to learn and very friendly

Retail interview questions and answers for field based employees

Q. Why are you applying for this brand?

A. Having followed the expansion of the brand and recently seeing the appointment of (insert director/head of/other) I feel really excited about the possibility of joining. This brand has been a staple item in my wardrobe since forever and the moment I saw the role, I jumped to apply immediately

Q. What qualities can you bring to the area?

A. I am a real people focused person. Now, I know you may have heard this from the other candidates, so what sets me apart? Well, I want to let you know that my style of leadership is actually to be led. Let me explain. I am a true servant leader, meaning, I always check how my people are feeling, what is on their mind, what is bothering them about the business. This helps me to extract core opportunities and lead them into better outcomes. People are truly the heartbeat of any organisation and I find people skills come naturally to me.

Other than this, I am highly results driven so you can often find me analysing commercial reports, collaborating with key stakeholders to ensure key sites are receiving the best support and I always seek to spotlight the underdogs too. You know, the teams who never really get to be in the limelight because of their location or smaller turnover, but they keep their heads down and run a really tight ship. I appreciate those team massively and often, they can teach the flagships a thing or two about operations.

Q. How do you engage your teams and ensure they execute great work, even when you're not there

A. Thank you for asking this! I like to create group management chats in whatsapp. 3 times a week I send a short video message or a motivational message with key metrics to focus on. They like this and it often creates a great conversation afterwards. I don't crowd my teams and I want them to feel they can execute without me messaging or calling 5 times a day. I make sure my visits are meaningful and impactful to the managers so I arrive with a pre-set list of must do's and leave time for open coaching which gives the manager room to extract whatever they need from me.

I ask each store to send me a close of business summary and if anything strikes me as fantastic or concerning, I'll be on the phone first thing to talk it through.

I ensure teams do great work through continued support and appreciation, which is shown through newsletters, awards, monthly pulse check meetings and more personal gestures when I see something good happening.

Q. How do you decide when someone is under-performing?

A. I can spot early on if something is amiss. I've seen over the years how peoples attitudes can change toward a job and it's usually related to a process changing or radical changes in teams. I'm not one to hide behind policies, so firstly I would hold an open, light conversation to see what is going on. We never know what may be happening outside of work so I always give people the benefit of the doubt, at first. If the poor performance then continued, it would come as no surprise if I were to initiate a formal process. Together with HR, I would make sure the performance metrics are smart and that reviews were booked in ahead of time. For me, exiting someone is always the last option. I would always try to turn the situation around first and we shouldn't be quick to act if someone is simply experiencing a dip in themselves. I am a huge advocate of mental health and highly sensitive to peoples experiences at work.

Q. How do you like to be Managed yourself?

A. I appreciate trust and space. Equally, I do enjoy a weekly in-depth 1:1 with my line manager so that I can update him/her on key area activities and performance. Like many, I enjoy knowing my work is valued, however I do not crave public recognition. It's important that my line manager and I have an open, honest space for communication because this really forms the foundation for longevity and business success.

Q. What is the one thing you are simply brilliant at?

A. Getting the most out of my people. As I said earlier, people leadership is my natural ability and I really really enjoy motivating, coaching, developing people into better versions of themselves. I had a fantastic mentor in my early career and they said half the battle in life is convincing yourself of your own worthiness. Instead, seek to serve others and the battle is already won.

Q. What has been your biggest achievement as a Regional Manager?

A. During 2018 I led all launch activity of 8 new sites. Together with operational support, I ensured the countdown to launch framework was entirely completed including the RACI which I constructed myself. Each month I would hold key stakeholder meetings to discuss progress. This included finance, IT, merchandising, marketing and HR. I held recruitment days and on-boarded teams into model stores 2 months prior to opening to ensure full training and immersion was a success. There is nothing worse than bringing someone in a couple of weeks before opening, this is a disservice to that new employee. Once stores were open, I arranged for our senior managers to work shoulder to shoulder with those sites 3 times per week for the first 2 months. The results were incredible - every store hit budget, not one staff member left and the overall retail operation was exemplary.

Q. What are you biggest weaknesses?

A. Cake. Ok joking! In my last appraisal it was noted that I sometimes get defensive of my teams and this comes out in trade meetings. Personally, I didn't see this as a weakness but I recognised the way in which I would defend my teams could come across as a little aggressive perhaps. I took that feedback and decided to work on my own self-awareness. I think the best self improvement is self awareness and it's often so hard to do this as we don't like to look at our own weaknesses - but we all have them and I hope this hasn't put you off.

Q. Once you have mastered this role, what is next for you?

A. As an ambitious person, I am looking to climb the corporate ladder so I naturally see my next step as a Country Manager or Head of Retail. I haven't put a timeframe on those goals and believe that with hard work and passion, those things will come at the right time.

Retail interviews will largely blend competency based questions together with culture fit. Retailers want to know if you will compliment the store culture and add a good energy into the workplace or area.

Critical point - when asked a question, do try to only answer that specific question. Over giving and expanding too much may take you off track.

Do make sure that your pre interview research goes much deeper than brand history, whilst it is impressive to deliver a few decades worth of brand growth, it is far more valuable for a candidate to demonstrate knowledge on current affairs - for example, wellbeing, diversity, sustainability, business mission and values.

Get to the heart of current hot topics and this is where the best connection is formed with the person sat opposite you.

During a retail interview be ready for the unexpected too, it is not uncommon to be asked unusual questions to draw out how a candidate responds to stress.

Retailers often face high pressure, stressful situations - almost daily in fact. The interviewer may ask for examples of where you have faced stress and how you responded to that. Examples to recall could be deadline related, sales targets approaching month end, multi-tasking pre senior leadership visit, the launch of a brand new product without having sufficient training, pressure from management and more.

Ultimately, he or she who is hired is not necessarily the best person for the job, but they knew more about how to get hired!

If you would like a 1:1 coaching session on self development in this specific area of your career, to set yourself up for maximum success, you can book a session with Kayleigh directly here

I wish you all the success with your retail interview!

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