Interviewing for a job can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Careful preparation takes much of the uncertainty out of the experience, and ensures that you present yourself in a confident, competent way.
This is especially important when you’re interviewing for a job in the retail industry, because you’ll need to show the hiring manager that you have the interpersonal skills to provide optimal service to your customers.
Before the big day, make sure you have a few appropriate interview outfits to choose from and that you have done your homework.
That means researching the company you are applying to and reviewing your responses to likely interview questions. These are some of the interview questions that you may get during a retail job interview.
Typical Questions Asked in a Retail Job Interview
1. What is good customer service?
What They Want to Know: Interviewers are eager to find out if your definition of customer service matches the company’s. Keep in mind: For brick-and-mortar stores, providing a memorable, positive experience for customers is essential to success.
To me, the heart of good customer service is accommodating customers. That means greeting them cheerfully and having the knowledge to answer their questions. I always give customers a smile and greeting, and try to get to know store inventory, as well. This ensures that if a customer has a question about sizing or fit, I’m ready with an answer.
2. Do you work well with people?
What They Want to Know: Retail work is often collaborative. Interviewers want to know if you will be able to get along with, and work smoothly with, your fellow employees. Some interviewers may also be watching for signs that an employee will be too social at work, so be thoughtful in your response. Go beyond “yes” in your response to this question—provide examples or talk about how your colleagues would describe you in order to expand on your response.
I work really smoothly with others. I think that’s really important in retail, where it’s important for every person on the floor to seem like they’re part of the same team.
3. What hours are you available?
What They Want to Know: This question is fairly straightforward: Interviewers need to know which shifts you’ll be available to work. Be honest in your response, but also be aware that interviewers are likely to want to hire people with flexible schedules. If your availability is flexible, mention that in your answer. The more flexible you are, the better your chances are of being hired.
Since I’m in college, I’m not available during class hours. For me, that’s Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, as well as early on Friday morning. Other than that, I’m available to work any shift you have available—and I’m eager for hours, so nights and weekends are fine with me.
4. Why are you applying to work here?
What They Want to Know: Your answer to this question will reveal if you feel positively (and even passionately) about the company and its products, or just want any job. The best responses are specific, and focused on the company (not you).
All my life I’ve been a big reader. That’s a solo activity mostly, but I love to make recommendations to friends and family. I’d love to work at ABC Bookstore to be able to help customers find books—whether it’s a specific title they can’t find on the shelves or a just-right title for a celebratory occasion.
5. What would you do if your replacement doesn’t show up?
What They Want to Know: Leaving your spot is not the right answer. Interviewers are looking to see that you know maintaining coverage is more important than your personal plans. This question is also a way to demonstrate your problem-solving skills.
My first step would be to reach out to my replacement, to get a sense of the situation. I’d want to know if the person is a complete no-show, or just stuck in traffic. Then, I’d find my supervisor and let her know about the situation, so we could figure out options together.
6. If hired, how long do you plan on working here?
What They Want to Know: The hiring process and training new employees is time-consuming and expensive for employers. Interviewers want to get a sense of if you’ll be sticking around—or just taking the job for a few months. If you are planning on a very short-term stint, you do not need to mention it.
If hired, I’d like to work with ABC Company on a long-term basis. I’m in school for the next four years, and eager for a consistent role and to be part of the team here.
7. The credit card machine is broken. What do you say to the customers?
What They Want to Know: Technological and other glitches can happen when you work in retail. Interviewers are looking for a glimpse of your problem-solving and communication skills in your response to this question.
The earlier people know the machines are down, the better. So first, I’d make sure my manager was aware of the situation. Then, I’d suggest putting up a sign to inform customers that the machine is down, so they can run to the ATM before getting to the cash register. As customers paid, I’d apologize for the inconvenience and thank them for their understanding.
8. What do you see as your greatest strength?
What They Want to Know: Interviewers want to know if your strengths match the company’s needs. In your response, emphasize relevant skills that will benefit the company and help you on the job.
Having strong communication skills means that I can work well with other team members, and that I am also very comfortable interacting with customers. I tend to think of myself as a real people-person, and I genuinely enjoy interacting with customers and helping them find the items they’re looking for.
9. Why do customers shop at this store?
What They Want to Know: Interviewers want to assess your understanding of the company’s brand and the shopping experience the company seeks to provide. This is your opportunity to show off any company research you’ve done—so, if you’ve visited the store and noticed something meaningful, share it in your response.
It’s all about the experience. For instance, at my local branch, there’s always a candle burning. Other branches I’ve been to have fresh flowers. And I’ve noticed how the clerks give me a cheerful greeting and personalized recommendations. No one ever seems like they’re aggressively selling to me. From start to finish, I think customers enjoy the experience of stopping in at ABC Company — it’s like a treat.
10. A customer becomes irate with you, and demands to speak to your supervisor. How do you handle the situation?
What They Want to Know: Not everything goes smoothly all the time. Interviewers want to assess how you’d deal with a stressful situation.
When I speak to customers, I always try to be empathetic, and truly understand and fix the issue. But sometimes, a problem isn’t fixable or a customer is just in a truly bad mood. If a customer asked to speak to my supervisor, I’d agree, and also apologize for not being able to resolve the situation. Then, I’d grab my supervisor as fast as possible, and explain the circumstances so my supervisor would be prepared to deal with the customer. Afterwards, I’d probably ask my supervisor for feedback, in case there’s anything I can do to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Interview Questions About You
- Who was your best boss? Why? – Best Answers
- Where do you see your career in five years? – Best Answers
- What has been your greatest accomplishment? – Best Answers
Customer Service Interview Questions
- What is customer service? – Best Answers
- A customer wants to pay for $15 worth of merchandise in quarters—do you accept it?
- A customer wants to return a package of food that is open and half gone. What will you do?
- A co-worker is rude to customers. What would you do?
- You discover one of your co-workers giving free merchandise to his friends. What would you do?
- If a customer leaves without paying for gas, what would you do?
- What is most important—a good product or friendly, fast service?
Sample Math Questions
When you’re asked math questions during a retail job interview, the interviewer wants to know that you have basic math skills. Review these tips to help you know how to confidently answer math questions during an interview.
Then, practice your responses by reviewing this list of common math interview questions for retail employees.
- The customer’s purchase totals $13.93. She gives you a ten-dollar bill and a five-dollar bill. How much change do you give her?
- If one bottle of soda costs $0.99, how much do three bottles cost? How much do they cost with 5% tax added on?
- Each pot of coffee holds 6 cups. We usually sell 10 cups of coffee every 15 minutes. How many pots of coffee will you need to make during our two-hour rush?
- Potato chips are on sale at half price. They sell for $1.19. How much is 50% off?
- A customer buys $27 worth of gas. He gives you a $50 bill. How much change do you give him?
How to Answer Retail Job Interview Questions
During a retail job interview, your interviewer’s goal will be to get a sense of your personality and work style. That’ll help reveal if you’re a good fit for the company.
You’ll also likely get questions around your customer service abilities, since retail jobs involve being around many people each day. Look for ways to show in your responses that you will prioritize the customer and provide strong customer service (even if customers are demanding or difficult).
How to Prepare for a Retail Job Interview
Interviewers will be looking for candidates who would fit in on the floor of the company. If you can, spend some time in the store before your interview. Watching how employees interact with customers can provide helpful insight.
You should be knowledgeable about the products sold in the store, and have a sense of the company’s brand.
Visit the store’s website and read the “about me” page, and look at the company’s social media accounts as well to get a sense of the company’s identity.
This research, along with preparing your responses to common retail interview questions, will help you ace the interview.
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
One of the questions you may be asked during a job interview for a retail position is “Do you have any questions for me?” Remember that interviewing works both ways, and asking questions is an opportunity to be sure the job is a good fit for you.
Have a list of questions ready to ask that will clarify the job requirements, your schedule, the flexibility of the position, and anything else that would help you decide whether you would want the job if it were offered to you.
- How many hours per week do you expect that I would work?
- What are the typical shifts covered by this position?
- Are weekend/evening hours required?
- How flexible are the hours and the schedule?
- Do the hours vary weekly, or stay the same?
- What are your busiest times during the day?
- What is the busiest day here?
- Do you schedule people for primarily the same hours every week, or do they vary greatly?
- Are there extra hours available during the holidays?
- How far in advance is the schedule posted?
- How many sales associates are on the floor during a shift?
- Is there a supervisor on during all shifts?
- Who does your displays?
- What is your biggest selling item?
- Do you offer commission?
- Are the performance reviews done by the store manager, or does a regional manager come in?
- Does this company have a policy of promoting from within?
- How many full-time employees does this store employ?
- What kind of atmosphere among the employees is there at this store/shop/boutique?
- What kind of growth do you expect to see from this company over the next five years?
- Will I be part of a team, or be working primarily independently?
- Will I have the opportunity to interview with the supervisor of this position?
- Can you describe for me a typical day in this position?
- How would you describe your company’s management style?
- Is there an opportunity for growth within the company?
- What do you like best about working here?
- What do you like least about working here?
- Would you change anything about this department?
- If I’m offered this position, how soon would you like for me to start?
- How many applicants are you interviewing for this position?
- Is there a dress code? What would I need to wear to work?
- When should I expect to hear from you?
This is a lot of questions! Do not feel like you have to ask them all. Jot down the ones that are important to you.
Only ask questions that have not already been addressed during the interview.
How to Make the Best Impression
Dress Appropriately: To leave your interviewer with a good impression, start by dressing professionally. Here is advice on how to select an interview outfit.
Keep it Positive: When your interviewer greets you, make sure to smile and give a good handshake. You’ll want to be upbeat and have high energy during your interview. Both of these characteristics are desirable in retail employees.
Get Ready in Advance: Come prepared to the interview. That means having basic knowledge about the company and its products, as well as practicing your responses to the interview questions above.