Common Retail Interview Questions with Answers
1. Why would you like to work at our store?
The interviewer wants assurance that you have a keen interest in their store. Show that you are not just applying to any store that will hire you by expressing a few reasons why you are interested in this company, specifically. Be sure to tie in why you would be an excellent fit for them!
Your reasons may include:
- Great workplace culture
- The work hours accomodate your school schedule
- You have read great reviews online
- You have had a memorable shopping experience at their store
- You know someone who works for their company
- Their mission statement resonates with you
"I have shopped at your store often, over the past couple of years. Every experience is better than the last, and so, when it came time for me to start applying for work post-graduation, your store was the first place that came to my mind. I have a true appreciation for what you do here."
2. How would your references describe you?
You have likely given the interviewer a list of references already; however, if you have not, be sure to bring a list with you to your interview. You should provide the names of at least two people who can give you recommendations, preferably individuals to whom you have reported. If you do not have any work experience, you can also refer to professors, high-school teachers, a pastor, a mentor, or even the parent of a friend who may know you well and can provide a character reference. If you have volunteer work, you can point towards that experience as well.
Some ways that your references may describe you:
- Accepting feedback
"In my references list, I have included my three most recent managers. I believe they would all describe me as highly-driven, commission motivated, and willing to help. I put a lot of effort into teamwork, ensuring that my teammates feel supported while we work together to achieve a common goal."
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3. Tell me about your experience working in retail.
The interviewer would like for you to bring your experience to life for them. Take a few minutes to walk the interviewer through your overall experience, being sure to highlight any significant wins, your most substantial sales, or other accomplishments that will make you a stand-out candidate. There is no need for you to go more than ten years into your work history unless the experience applies to the role for which you are interviewing.
"I have five years' experience working in retail. Starting with Company ABC, I was a commissioned sales rep, always landing in the Top 3 for weekly sales numbers. For the past three years, I have worked with Company XYZ as an assistant manager. I have seen great success here; however, I am now ready to jump into a full-time store management position."
4. Describe a time when you disliked company rules in your last job.
The interviewer would like to know how you handle a situation when you do not agree, or are uncomfortable with the rules or expectations on the job. Be sure to show that you are a team player, but will stand up for yourself if asked to do something that is unethical. If you do not agree with a rule because you don't want to play along, that is a different story. Show the interviewer that you have the maturity and wherewithal to understand you will not always agree with your boss, but you will still professionally do your job.
"My last company changed our return policy quite dramatically, and I did not agree with the changes because they did not emulate the great customer service for which we had become known. The changes were from the corporate head office and, having been there for three months; I didn't feel empowered to say anything. I followed the new rules, explained the new policies to my customers, and continued to be a reliable employee for my duration of employment."
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5. How are your customer service skills?
The interviewer would like to know that you understand the importance of fabulous customer service skills when working in the retail industry. Use a few unique words or phrases that will make you a stand-out candidate for this customer-service based role.
Some descriptive words may include:
- Problem-solving focused
"My customer service skills are well-honed as I have had a lot of training in the past. My skills are honest, attentive and geared to problem-solving."
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6. A co-worker is rude to customers, what would you do?
The interviewer would like to know how you would react if you saw one of your teammates mistreating a customer. How you answer will tell the interviewer a lot about your personality, problem-solving skills, customer service skills, and ability to handle conflict in the workplace.
"If I saw a co-worker being rude to a customer, I would approach them and make up an excuse to take over the situation. For instance, I recently saw a teammate losing her patience with a customer. I told her that the manager needed her in the stock room, and then I took over the customer issue. This approach removed her from the situation without being confrontational in front of the customer. Later, we brainstormed ways that she could have handled the situation more professionally."
7. The credit card machine is broken. What do you say to the customers?
This question is situational-based, and the interviewer is looking to see if you have the ability to problem-solve, even in high-pressure situations. Show that you can troubleshoot while remaining helpful to others.
"If we had a broken credit card machine, I would first try to restart the system. A reboot will usually fix a point of sale quickly. If that did not work, I would call the company to see what they could do on their end. In the meantime, I would give customers options on how to pay, or ask to put their purchase on hold until the situation was worked out."
8. You are scheduled to leave at 6 pm. Your replacement worker doesn't show up. What would you do?
The interviewer would like to know that you have no trouble when it comes to filling in, working overtime, or staying a bit late when unforeseen circumstances arise. Give an example of a time when you were a team player, offering assistance if your replacement does not show up for their shift.
"If my replacement did not show up for their shift, I would try to reach them and then find someone else who could take the shift on short notice. I am certainly willing to pull a double in extreme circumstances. Whatever is best for the company is the decision that I will make."
9. Describe a situation when you received a negative customer reaction. How did you react?
The interviewer wants to know that you would continue to work hard to find a solution, despite receiving an adverse customer reaction. Everybody faces bad days and negative customer experiences. What is most important is the way you react to the problem. For this question, give a detailed story-based response outlining a real-life scenario that you have encountered while working in retail. If you are new to your career, you can give a hypothetical example outlining how you plan to react in this situation.
"There was a time that I had to refuse a customer's unreasonable return request due to company policy. To appease the customer, I empathized with their situation and communicated a willingness to help them find an alternative. In the end, the customer agreed to a small store credit rather than a full refund."
10. How would you define good customer service?
When possible, research the company's values online, especially in the areas where customer service and customer experience are mentioned. In general, good customer service involves memorable experiences and the satisfactory resolution of a customer's issue. State your definition of customer service and give a brief example of a great outcome you have achieved through exceptional service.
"I agree with the statement on the company website that good customer service exceeds the customer's expectations in both quality of service and the speed that the service is delivered. Recently, I had a customer who was unhappy and was trying to get a refund. I wanted to make sure that they left our store happy with the resolution I provided. So, I made sure that the customer's concern was taken care of quickly. I apologized to them for their dissatisfaction and gave them a small gift certificate in return for the bad experience."
11. How do you deal with customer rejection?
Being rejected by a customer can be hurtful and frustrating. The interviewer wants to know that you have the maturity, professionalism, and confidence to withstand someone saying no to you. Explain that you realize not everyone will be super friendly, warm, and buy from you right away. And that is okay! Display your maturity level and ability to let situations like this go rather than dwell on them.
"I know not to take it personally when a person doesn't want to purchase my product or service. There are many reasons why they could be saying no. Maybe the item is out of their price range, or maybe they are having a bad day and don't feel like interacting. Onto the next sales opportunity, I say!"
12. Tell me about one of your goals. How are you working towards it?
If the interviewer asks you any general questions about goals, try to focus your answer on something career-oriented. You can incorporate a personal twist but always bring it back to your career goals. Achieving your goal could teach you a new skill and give you valuable experience. Demonstrate that you are proactive and willing to take action to reach your goals.
"My goal is to become a successful sales professional in the luxury retail market. I'm excited about this part-time retail associate job because it offers an exceptional start in the retail industry while allowing me to earn a variety of online professional sales certifications at the same time."
13. If a customer demands to speak to a manager, what do you do?
This situation could happen to anyone, and it doesn't necessarily mean that you've done something wrong. However, your manager's time shouldn't be spent on petty concerns, which is why most retail associates receive training in dispute resolution. Talk to the interviewer about the action you would take in this scenario. If you have training in dispute resolution, this question is a great time to mention your training.
"I make to take my dispute resolution training and do everything on my level before escalating an issue to a manager. I'd apologize to the customer if they were not satisfied and ask if we could come to a resolution at the associate level. My managers' time is important so I would only escalate if it were truly the only option remaining."
14. What would you do if a coworker asked you to help them steal?
The interviewer would like to know that they can trust you and that you'd respond with integrity if you were asked to steal. Theft can include the theft of products, sharing trade secrets, taking customer information, or falsifying timecards. Talk to the interviewer about the steps you would take if asked to assist in a dishonest activity. If you have encountered this situation in the past, this question presents a good opportunity to give a brief story-based example.
"If a coworker asked me to help them steal, I would decline and would report the situation to my supervisor as fast as possible. The effects that theft has on a business can be devastating, and I would never want to be a part of that."
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15. Describe a time when you had to sacrifice quality to complete a job.
This query is a bit of a trick question because your answer should be that you would never sacrifice your work's quality! To answer this question, discuss when you were under a tight deadline and at risk of not completing a job on time. Talk about how you contributed to get the job done, without quality suffering. Perhaps you put in overtime hours, worked off the clock, or enlisted a co-worker to help you out.
"I would never sacrifice quality to get a job done on time. Last week, our store was at risk of not completing the inventory counts on time for head office. To get this task done, I chose to stay late and off the clock for a couple of hours. My boss was very appreciative of the sacrifice that I made to hit our inventory deadline. He even let me leave early that Friday to enjoy a half-day off."
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Sales Associate Interview Questions
Describe a time when a customer wasn't happy. What did you do to fix it?
Do you have any prior experience in the field of sales and customer service?
Describe a situation where you negotiated terms with a tough customer.
What do you know about the products and or services we offer our customers?
How do you typically like to engage a customer?
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Assistant Manager Interview Questions
Name an area you believe you could improve on as an Assistant Manager.
What do your team members think of you as an Assistant Manager?
Tell me about a time you provided honest feedback to a team member.
What qualifies you to become our Assistant Manager?
Do you have flexibility in your work schedule? How often do you pick up shifts to help your team?
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Manager Interview Questions
How do you determine if your team is successful?
What has been your favorite management role so far? What made it so enjoyable?
Tell me about a cost-cutting initiative you created at your last position. Was it effective?
Describe how you like to train new employees.
Do you have experience in corrective discipline and terminations?
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Customer Service Manager Interview Questions
How do you go about requesting feedback from your customers?
What is your favorite management tool, and how does it help you to achieve your goals?
How do you define good customer service?
How do you feel about saying 'no' to a customer with unreasonable requests?
What will you do if an employee is not meeting their goals?
Continue: View All 30 Customer Service Manager Interview Questions
Cashier Interview Questions
What cash handling experience do you have?
Our store is non-stop ringing customers out, can you keep up in a fast paced environment for 4 hours without a break?
What past experiences do you have that demonstrate your ability to work as a cashier?
How will you stay composed if an angry customer wants to return a product but does not realize there is a return cashier for just that purpose?
Here is a scenario question, If a customer asks for a discount on a gallon of milk, what do you tell them?
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District Manager Interview Questions
As our District Manager, you will oversee multiple stores across a broad region. How will you approach managing such a large area?
Walk us through your work history with a specific focus on your leadership and management experience.
We seek to hire individuals of an entrepreneurial nature. Tell us about how you embody an entrepreneurial mindset in your current position.
Discuss your least favorite sales approach, and why you find it to be ineffective.
Discuss the most successful sales technique you have introduced to your current teams.
Tell us about a time when you had to motivate an underperforming team. What was your approach, and what were your results?
Talk about the most prominent struggle you face in your current position. What have you done to alleviate or repair the situation?
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A retail employee usually works in a physical brick-and-mortar store. Retail stores offer goods for sale related to fashion, personal care, food, electronics, furniture, pet care, household goods, and more. Retail associates are often the face of the business, giving customers the very first impression.
Many retail associates get paid on a salary or hourly basis, with others working on a 100% commission basis or a blend of a base salary plus commission. Some retail associates have specialized knowledge. For instance, retail employees for Apple often have expertise in technology and computer science.
What are a retail professional’s responsibilities?
- Acknowledging customers and lending them a hand.
- Offering knowledge of products and services.
- Dealing with customer disputes.
- Selling, cross-selling, and upselling products and services.
- Ensuring the store is clean, orderly and shelves are well-stocked.
- Check customers out using the Point-of-Sale (POS) system.
- Help customers who want to make exchanges or returns.
- Remain educated on store products or services.
- Accepting new inventory deliveries.
- Visual merchandising.
Retail specialties to explore:
- Department Stores
- Electronics/Computers/Mobile Phones
- Fine Jewelry
- Health/Beauty/Personal Care
- Home Furnishings/Housewares/Decor
- Pet Care
- Pharmacy/Drug Store/Health Services
- Specialty Food
- Sporting Goods/Athletics
- Supermarkets/Food and Beverage
How do I get an entry-level retail job?
Most entry-level retail jobs do not require any post-secondary education. Many retailers employ high-school students to work part-time while they are completing their education.
1) Research how retail works. There are helpful resources on YouTube.
2) Read the glossary of terms below and do more independent research.
3) Ask a friend who works in retail to describe their job and responsibilities. Then, learn what you need to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.
4) Learn about inventory and how inventory management works.
5) Teach yourself a bit about the importance of visual merchandising.
6) Read a book about customer service and customer dispute resolution.
7) Brush up on your basic math skills.
8) Watch a YouTube tutorial on using a POS and debit/credit machine.
9) Prepare a 1-page resume. If you don’t have work experience, you can include team sports, volunteer work, or other activities that require dedication, responsibility, and teamwork.
10) Find a reliable reference who will speak highly on your behalf. This reference could include a teacher, coach, or pastor.
11) Apply to entry-level positions with retailers that you know hire employees without experience. These retailers could include grocery stores or seasonal opportunities for busy stores that need help around a particular holiday season.
How do I get a mid-level retail job?
If you have the foundation of an entry-level position and you want to move up in your career (for instance, land a sales or supervisor position), consider doing the following:
1) Track your efforts, achievements, and results and add them to your resume.
2) Offer to take on additional responsibilities.
3) Find a mentor who is a few steps ahead of you in your career and learn from them.
4) Teach yourself about retail KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and other essential metrics.
5) Work on your skills, including sales, customer service, dispute resolution, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
How do I get a management-level retail job?
Once you are ready to flourish in a retail career, you can set yourself up for success in various ways, including:
1) Learn the bigger picture of retail, including supply chain, inventory management, and the buying process.
2) Take courses, workshops, and read books related to people management.
3) Continue perfecting your customer service and dispute resolution skills.
4) Learn the art of hiring, training, and onboarding employees.
5) Engage with a mentor whose career path and approach you admire.
6) Consider branding yourself professionally online and offline.
What are some basic retail terms I should know for my interview?
Average Transaction Size: Also called an ATS, this metric refers to the amount of money each customer spends, on average, in a single transaction.
Cost of Goods Sold: Often referred to as COGS, this term describes the total cost of items sold across a specific time period. COGS helps a retailer to calculate the rate of their inventory turnover.
CRM System: Short for Customer Relationship Management System. A CRM is a platform hosted online or in the cloud that a retailer uses to track their customers’ email and other information, purchase history, preferences, and more.
Deadstock: Think of out-of-season holiday decorations! Deadstock can result from seasons changing, or it can be a result of a trend dying. Retailers will often get rid of their deadstock with blow-out sales. Deadstock, although expected, is not a positive factor and is often a result of poor stock-level planning.
Flash Sale: A flash sale is a limited-time sale offering a significant discount. One example of a flash sale is Best Buy offering a particular TV brand on sale for 40% off. Flash sales typically last only a day or two or until the product sells out.
FIFO: A common term in retail, FIFO is an acronym for ‘First In, First Out.’ Grocery stores and other food retailers use FIFO to manage inventory and avoid stock from spoiling before it sells.
Loss Leader: A loss leader is an item sold at such a low price that the retailer loses money. This sales tactic works to attract customers who buy the loss leader but then purchase other profitable items once they are in the store.
Merchandising: The term merchandising refers to how a store displays its products. Many retailers hire professional merchandisers to make sure their displays are attractive to customers.
Point of Sale: A point of sale system, or POS, is the software used at the checkout process. A Point of Sale system allows retail employees to check customers out, take payment, and record each transaction’s details.
Relationship Retailing: Retailers use marketing strategies under the umbrella of ‘relationship retailing’ to build deeper relationships with their customers. These strategies may include loyalty programs and other customer experiences.
SKU: Stock-Keeping-Unit or SKU for short are the digits used to track inventory and identify different products.
Units Per Transaction: In short, UPT is a metric that tracks how many items are sold in every single transaction.
How many interviews should I expect?
The number of interviews you have may depend on the level of the position for which you are applying.
As an example, a cashier or retail associate applicant may have only one or two interviews. Sometimes retail applicants are even offered a job on the spot at their first interview!
On the other hand, a store manager applicant might go through three or more interviews and a more detailed interview process, including reference and background checks.
What is the interview process like for a retail professional?
When interviewing for a retail position, depending on your level of experience (entry-level, mid-career, or management), you can expect anything from a brief to a thorough and detailed interview process.
After you apply, the interview process may include:
- A brief pre-screen phone call.
- An in-depth first interview.
- An in-depth second interview.
- Subsequent interviews. A retail management position may require your participation in multiple job interviews and even some time job shadowing.
Once you reach the final interview stage, the hiring company will contact your employment references. They may also conduct pre-employment background checks and other steps such as education verification. The last stage of the process is the job offer and negotiation stage.
An aspiring retail professional should expect to answer customer-service interview questions highlighting their depth of experience working with the public.
They should also be prepared to demonstrate an understanding of teamwork and sales.
If interviewing for a retailer with high-end or sensitive goods (luxury, jewelry, cannabis), expect to go through a background check.
What should I wear to my retail interview?
Try matching your attire to the clothing that you see other retails associates wearing inside this specific retail store.
For instance, if you are interviewing at a fashion store that you also buy your clothes from, it’s a great idea to wear an outfit from this particular store or brand.
If you apply for a retail job at a jeweler in the mall, consider ramping up your wardrobe to business casual or a relaxed suit. If you are not sure of the wardrobe expectations, go to the retail store and look for clues based on their current employees’ attire.
What are some retail career path options?
- Assistant Manager
- Customer Service Manager
- Floor Manager
- General Manager
- Merchandiser/Visual Merchandiser
- Regional Manager
- Retail Buyer
- Sales Associate
- Sales Manager
- Store Manager
- Store Stocker
- Wholesale Buyer