Ah, the dreaded retail interview! It's like stepping into a battlefield, armed with your resume and an unsteady smile, ready to conquer the army.
So many questions whirling around your mind, like...
Are they going to value my experience
Will they see my potential
Are they going to actually like me
Will they want me to expand and give examples
Well dear friend, we at The International Retail Academy are ready to help sharpen the tools in your toolkit
Fear not, fellow warriors!
We've gathered the ultimate arsenal of retail interview questions and answers to help you slay the competition and land that dream retail role
Retail is a giant hub of connection - it's a fantastic industry to work in
Especially if you want to be a business leader one day
Working in retail you'll get to master social skills, communication styles, you'll get to understand finance, KPI's, operations and if the brand you work for really care about their employees you'll probably enjoy many coaching and development opportunities.
Buckle up and let's get ready to navigate the retail interview jungle with finesse, influence and of course, a dash of style!
Often it's not the person who knows the most about the role but the person who knows how to get hired
Over the last 20 years or so, our founder Kayleigh Fazan has interviewed thousands of candidates from all over the globe
For retail roles from the shopfloor, to area management to corporate functions. Kayleigh once embarked on a 9 stage interview herself (yes, that was for 1 role)! So...we know a thing or 2 about getting through the process and landing great offers.
We have distilled the core competencies into 3 main pillars to help you prepare for your interview
Typically, in a store or field based retail role, you will be asked questions around these 3 main pillars:
By the way, these pillars can be applied to most corporate support functions with some nuance
There are sub-categories under each of these talking points, which may include:
b) stock movement
c) store controls
d) stock controls
e) back of house
h) rhythms & routines
a) motivating others
b) handling conflict
c) development & succession planning
d) onboarding - offboarding
e) training approach
f) performance management
g) celebrating success
a) historical KPI's
b) team size
c) monthly hours/payroll budget & spend
d) gross profit margin (cash & %)
e) audit scores
f) shrinkage %
g) stock on hand
h) trade reporting
aaaaand under each of these there are also more possibilites!
Look, I didn't say it was going to be easy...but I will make damn sure you are set up to succeed. No-one should go into interviews not knowing what to expect or worse, scared stiff at the panel sat in-front of you
They are human
Just like you
They were once where you're going to sit...so relax, it's a conversation (remember that the day of your meeting)!
Your interview will likely be a blocked hour, during that time you can expect an experienced, professional interviewer to set out the time like this:
The first 10 minutes will be small talk (your journey there, how you are etc)
The next 20 minutes; getting to know your relevant skills with examples
The next 20 minutes; getting to know your motivations & career goals
Final 10 minutes open Q&A (you get to ask powerful questions & leave a great impression)
You'll be looking at 7-10 questions during that timeframe, depending on context, rapport and general flow
So what you will see below are the typical 'go-to' questions that you'll be asked pretty much at any stage you're at.
Ready? Let's go!
Question: "Tell us about yourself."
Ah, the classic opener, where you're expected to summarise your life story in two minutes or less. While you're tempted to spill your deepest, darkest secrets, remember to keep it professional. Save the thrilling tales of your cat's adventures for another time.
Answer: The last (insert years) I've been building my career in the field of (insert 2-3 keywords). I'm a normal person from (insert town) and I'm finding my place in this industry. I love this industry because it's varied, I get to meet so many people and help people improve their lives through what the beautiful products we offer (notice the word 'we' you're acting as if you already work there) This shows confidence and passion for the brand.
Question: Why did you choose to apply here
Answer: 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 customers walking through the doors will be easier than say someone who just applied to a hundred brands. The store is incredible, I can see myself being very happy here.
Question: How would you handle a difficult customer?
Answer: Ah, the joy of dealing with difficult customers! Seriously though, in the retail world, we become experts in diplomacy. So, when faced with a raging customer, I always try to channel my inner Gandhi and diffuse the situation with patience and a dash of empathy. The customer isn't always right, but they are still the customer so I'll do anything I can to appease them and instil confidence again
Question: What is your weakness? (by the way, this question is dreadful but many interviewers are poor at asking effective questions...)!
Ah, the trick question that's designed to make you sweat. It's time to embrace your inner superhero, my friend. Transform your weaknesses into learning opportunities being careful not to mention anything that may conflict with the role in hand.
Answer: I'd really like to work on my analytical skills. The last role I had it was only Snr Managers that assessed commercial reports. In order for me to grow into my desired retail management/leadership roles I'd like to learn and support in that discipline. Besides this I'm a total sucker for a nutella doughnut (only say this if you have a good rapport...it's a vibe)
Question: How do you handle multitasking?
Answer: Ah the art of juggling a million things at once. You could compare me to an octopus, gracefully handling customers, stocking products, and preventing price tag disasters, all while working the sales floor with a genuine smile on my face. I know many people will say they work well under pressure but I don't think that is healthy all of the time. I know myself well enough to understand when to move faster and switch up the pace and when to pay attention to details in quieter trading times
Question: Tell me about a time where you had to work under pressure?
Answer: 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 optimised, correctly priced and ready to take off the rails or shelves. I handle pressure well and because I'm team spirited, I'll always have my teammates back if they look to be overwhelmed
Question: Why do you want to work in retail?
Answer: I see retail as an industry where you can grow into a multitude of roles. As I'm early in my career I want to be around professional people in this iconic brand so that I can understand which path I'll take next. Besides this, retail is a great environment to meet new people and I'm very eager to hear peoples stories and help them find a perfect product
Question: What would you do if you noticed something unusual in the store?
Answer: If I saw a customer acting strange I would alert my collegues through whatever our policy is and if I saw something odd in regards to stock mismanagement for example, I'd flag it with my Manager together with a solution as to how it could be improved. I see myself as solution orientated and very hands on when it comes to organisation.
And there you have it, brave job seekers!
Armed with these answers, you're now better equipped to conquer the retail interview battlefield.
Remember to keep your sense of humour intact, along with your retail expertise
You see, when you make people smile or laugh you set off their feel good, happy hormones. They are far more likely to connect - like you and in retail, people hire people they can work with.
Go forth, dazzle your potential employers, set their world on fire and embrace the retail adventure ahead with a twinkle in your eye.
Make no mistake - upto 90% of how you communicate is in your non-verbal queues
Above all, pay good attention to your body language, softening your facial expressions, using hands at appropriate moments, amplify certain words through your tone and remember to pause....give space for that key message to land
Want help mastering your interview technique?
We've got you!
With our interview impact coaching session you will learn how to show up as your very best and be the candidate of choice
Our services are continually rated 5* and our clients have been employed by incredible businesses including Gucci, Patagonia, Adidas, Rituals, Gymshark, Lush, BMW, Apple, Cartier and so much more
Invest in your career and increase your chance of success by booking your session here
We look forward to helping you nail that interview!