Updated on August 17th, 2018 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Question 1 of 20
You are scheduled to leave at 6 pm. Your replacement worker doesn't show up. What would you do?
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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."
Entry Level Example
"It's important to me that I have reliable coworkers so this type of situation would not happen frequently. If this were to happen, I would be sure to stay at the store until they showed up. It's important to be a team player."
"Circumstances happen, people are late, or even an emergency may occur. As a retail manager, I am always prepared to step up and take an extra shift or offer up overtime hours to another teammate. You have to be able to roll with the punches in this industry."
What makes you LOVE your career in retail? The interviewer would like to know what keeps your fire lit, on a daily basis, even on the toughest of days. Your reply should be happy, confident, and enthusiastic. You can also ask the interviewer this question in return! Asking them what their favorite part of this job might be, will start a great conversation and give you further insight into this role and the workplace culture.
"There are many things I appreciate about working in retail; however, my number one pick would be the fact that I get to meet new and interesting people every day. I am a social person so working with the general public is very fulfilling for me."
Entry Level Example
"I think what I will like most about working in retail is the fact that I will be able to work with all of your beautiful products, and sell them to other people! I am a huge fan of your store, and what you stand for, and I look forward to introducing other people to your products. I would love to know - what is your favorite part of working here?"
"I enjoy leading a team and training new employees on customer service values, upselling, and negotiations. Teaching comes naturally to me, and there are so many opportunities to do so, in a retail environment."
The interviewer would like to understand what is driving you to a career in retail. Perhaps the hours are great for your current situation, or you have a genuine passion for sales and customer service. Whatever your reasoning, be sure to show the interviewer that you have a real interest in working for them and their store.
For example "I want to be in retail because I love being in a fast-paced, customer-service based role. It's a thrill to me to help, and meet, so many different personalities in one day!"
"I want to be in retail because I love being in a fast-paced, customer-service based role. It's a thrill to me to help, and meet, so many different personalities in one day!"
Entry Level Example
"I want to be in retail at this time because the work, location, and hours, are a perfect fit for me while I complete my 4-year arts degree. I like the flexibility offered in a retail environment and the fact that every day will be different. I am not one to enjoy a 9-5 type of gig where I am sitting in a cubicle. I want to be walking around, helping people, and making sales!"
"I started working in retail out of an interest in sales. The hours work well for me, and I like the social aspect of the job. As a retail manager, it is very satisfying to train people newer to their careers, and help them to create healthy work habits from the start."
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."
Entry Level Example
"I am new to the retail industry but have researched a great deal in regards to customer service and sales. I am currently reading 'Brilliant Selling: What the Best Salespeople Know, Do, and Say" by Tom Bird and Jeremy Cassell. I feel that this book, and my other research, will ensure that I have a strong start with your company."
"My experience in retail spans over ten years. Starting as a floor salesperson, I have worked my way into a Management role, and am now ready to explore District and Regional Management opportunities, such as yours. Over the years I have taken a great deal of training including courses in negotiations, dispute resolution, loss prevention, and recruitment and selection. I am a top sales performer in every role that I take on, and currently, hold the #1 spot in my company for sales performance. I look forward to bringing these same results to your organization."
On a scale of 1-10, how well do you handle customer complaints?
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Do you feel that you are as good as can be when it comes to dispute resolution, or do you have room for growth? This question could be a tricky one as nobody is always 100% perfect in situations involving conflict. Answer to the best of your ability and back your reply by speaking about any formal training you may have received when it comes to complaints and dispute resolution.
"I put a heavy focus on listening and problem solving when it comes to my customers, as well as in my personal life. Because I strive for complete understanding in times of conflict, I will rate myself as a 9/10. My skills are solid."
Entry Level Example
"Although I have not had experience in customer service based conflict situations, I am confident in the fact that you offer strong training opportunities on this topic. I understand the non-verbal cues that people give and would also apply the type of treatment that I appreciate as a customer. I would rate my current skill level in dispute management a 7/10."
"When it comes to customer disputes, I have a great deal of formal training spanning the past seven years. I would rate myself as a 9/10 as there is still room for improvement, but my skills are strong enough that I could effectively train others on this topic."
6. Are you a people person? This question should be pretty simple for you to answer. If you want to work in retail, then the answer is YES - you are a people person! A people person is someone who does not find it draining to be around others all day. Someone naturally helpful and approachable. Does this describe you? If possible, give the interviewer an example of a time when your people skills were impeccable. Here is an answer example: "Yes, I am certainly a people person. I love being around others, meeting new people, and helping where I can. I have been in customer-facing roles for a few years including my time as a bartender. I have always proven to be a friendly face to my customers." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am 100% a people person! My friends and family know that I am a social butterfly and have never been shy. I look forward to delivering excellent customer service to your customers and being a friendly face for them." Here is an experienced answer example: "To be in retail, you have to be a people-person. I demonstrate this by being helpful and taking the time to get to know my customers. I also dedicate time to the success of my team through mentorship and coaching opportunities. It's important that those around me are set up for success. I genuinely care about other people."7. How often are you late for your responsibilities, such as school or work? The interviewer would like to gauge how important being on time is, to you. Your answer should be that you are NEVER late! But we do know that, truthfully, some of us fall behind from time to time. Let the interviewer know that you are known for being responsible, and reliable. Express that; if you were to be late, you would handle the situation with the utmost professionalism. Here is an answer example: "Timeliness is important to me, and I do everything in my power to always be 10 minutes early for my shifts. My previous employer will attest to the fact that I am very punctual." Here is an entry level answer example: "I have been late to school a couple of times, but generally due to a snow storm or city transit running behind. In those instances, I am sure to let someone know my whereabouts and ETA. I am on time if not early, 99% of the time!" Here is an experienced answer example: "I ask my team members to be about 5-10 minutes early every day for work, and I hold myself to that same standard. Being late is not an option for me and, should extenuating circumstances occur, I will let the appropriate parties know my whereabouts."8. 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. Here is an answer example: "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." Here is an entry level answer example: "If I were to dislike a company rule, but it wasn't hurting anyone, I would choose to leave the situation alone. I am new to my career and know that there is always a bigger picture present. Rules are in place for a reason, and I would respect that." Here is an experienced answer example: "Disagreeing with the rules will happen from time to time, and I would only interject if the new policy or rule were hurting my staff. A couple of years ago, the company I worked for, tried to enforce mandatory overtime. This new policy disregarded many of our carefully crafted human resource policies. At that time, I did stand up for my team and asked for change. With that said, I remained professional and respectful throughout the entire situation. You can disagree but remain respectful."9. Describe a time when you had to sacrifice quality to complete a job. This question is a bit of a trick question because your answer should be that you would never sacrifice the quality of your work, right? To answer this question, discuss a time when you were under a tight deadline and at risk of not completing a job on time. Rather than sacrificing quality, talk about something else that you sacrificed 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. Here is an answer example: "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 so that we could hit our inventory deadline. He even let me leave early that Friday to enjoy a half day off." Here is an entry level answer example: "I do not think that quality needs to be sacrificed to complete a job. Likely, if this situation were to occur, it would mean that I did not apply my time well enough. I am firm in my time management skills. All of my school assignments have been on time, if not early, and I plan my days very well." Here is an experienced answer example: "I have been asked to perform quick turnarounds when it comes to the store's merchandise, for instance, or on days when I need to receive new stock. In these situations, I will work very fast but will enlist someone to help me, so that I can ensure the work is still solid. I would never put out a product that I wasn't proud of."10. What do you like least about working in retail? The interviewer would like to know the areas of retail employment that do not interest you so much. When giving your reply, avoid complaining about parts of the job; instead, discuss what you do to make the best of an unpleasant situation. You also do not want to seem nit-picky or like a complainer who plays the "woe is me" part. Choose something relatable that is not too serious. Here is an answer example: "woe is me" Here is an entry level answer example: "I think that the part about retail that I would enjoy the least is dealing with a customer dispute. I know that with the appropriate training, I will be great with this kind of task; however, right now, the thought is a bit intimidating because I am so new to my career. I am confident in my ability to pick this up quickly, though." Here is an experienced answer example: "What I like least about being a manager in retail is the high turnover of staff. Not necessarily because people are quitting but because they leave to return to University or retail just isn't in their long-term career plans. To combat this a bit, this year, I have started screening my candidates better and choosing people that I know will stay for at least 1-2 years. My new interviewing methodology has been working quite well, and I have increased our employee retention rate by 35% this year."11. 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 the reference towards that experience as well.
Some ways that your references may describe you:
- Accepting of feedback
- Results-driven Here is an answer example: "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." Here is an entry level answer example: "My references include my two top professors and my career advisor. All three of these references have recently commented on the fact that I am self-driven, motivated to achieve and, honest. I agree that these are my top traits when it comes to my personality and character." Here is an experienced answer example: "My references would describe me as entirely reliable, results-driven, and focused on company goals. I have some wonderful references who will attest to my dedicated personality and character in the workplace."12. 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
- Communicative Here is an answer example: "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." Here is an entry level answer example: "Although I am new to my career and do not have any solid customer service training, I am very in tune with the needs of others. I can listen carefully and problem-solve based on the information provided to me. Being a naturally friendly person, I can make quick connections with others." Here is an experienced answer example: "My customer service skills are first-class! I love to make the connection between what my customer is missing and the product or service that will best suit them. It's important to me that every customer leave the store with something that will make their life easier and happier."13. 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 are great with 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 Here is an answer example: "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." Here is an entry level answer example: "I would like to work at your store because my best friend has worked here for the past two years and she always talks about how amazing the workplace culture is, and how much she loves the team and customers. I appreciate her referral on my behalf, and I look forward to delivering exceptional experiences to your clients." Here is an experienced answer example: "Your store is an industry leader in the XYZ retail space, and I see many career growth opportunities for me here. The fact that you have 15 locations, worldwide, shows me that your organizational structure is strong and I look forward to bringing my existing industry experience to work for you."14. How do you expect to make a difference at our store? The interviewer would like to know how having you there will benefit their business and their team. Think back to the significant achievements and contributions that you have made to your current, or most recent, employer. Discuss with the interviewer the ways that you will implement those activities to your new job. If the interviewer has discussed with you their current pain points, be sure to bring up the ways that your work ethic and experience will benefit them in that area. Here is an answer example: "I expect to make an immediate difference in your store by being the reliable manager you mentioned that you need. I am always on time, I lead by example, and can set high expectations for my team members while gaining genuine buy-in from them." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am newer to my career and very keen to learn when it comes to customer service and product knowledge. I will make a difference by being an eager addition to the team and being an example to your other employees." Here is an experienced answer example: "I have thought of a 30, 60, and 90-day plan in regards to the impact that I would like to make for your organization. I have a great amount of experience in recruitment and selection so part of my impact will be to build a strong team, as you have mentioned that you need. I would also like to incorporate incentives like awards for hitting sales targets."15. What is your best personal trait? Personal traits differ a bit from your workplace traits. If you have never taken a personality test, it's a great idea to do a free one like the one on www.16personalities.com. A tool like this will generate some fresh thoughts for you on the personality traits that you may bring.
Some personality descriptive words are:
- Sensible Here is an answer example: "I believe that my best personality trait is the fact that I am a sensible person. I can think clearly and see all sides in a situation. This trait helps me a great deal when it comes to customer dispute resolution." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am fond of a few of my personality traits; however, my top trait would be my exuberant spirit. I have a lot of contagious energy, which I bring to the workplace. My friends and family often mention that they appreciate my brand of excitement for life!" Here is an experienced answer example: "I would best describe my personality as amiable. I am a friendly person, and this trait lends itself well in a customer-service focused environment such as this one. I am a pleasant person to work with, and cordial at all times."16. 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. Here is an answer example: "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." Here is an entry level answer example: "I am sure that you have the policy to follow for a situation like that. My first instinct would be to let the customer know that we value their business and if they were willing to take out cash to pay for their purchase, we would give them a small discount to offset the bank fees and inconvenience." Here is an experienced answer example: "The last thing we would want, in a situation like this, is for customers to walk out of the store without a purchase, because of the credit card machine. If possible, and in alignment with store policy, I would use the manual credit-card imprinter, making a carbon copy of the credit card and later submitting it to the bank. I would give options for the closest cash machine, and I would suggest putting items on hold with the customers' cell number so that I could call them the moment the machine was back up and running."17. What is your favorite product or service, from our store? The interviewer would like to know that you have familiarized yourself with the offerings of their store. Before your interview, you should visit the store, make a purchase, and also run through their online e-commerce experience if they have one. Comb through their social media accounts, as well. Choose one product or service that jumped out at you, and discuss a few reasons why it is your favorite. Show enthusiasm throughout your answer and, if you want to take your reply a step further, you can also ask the interviewer what their favorite product or service is. Here is an answer example: "My favorite product from your store is product ABC. It's a unique concept, and the design is very sleek. I have had mine for about six months and recently gifted one to my best friend. I am very enthusiastic about your products and look forward to bringing that enthusiasm to my work here." Here is an entry level answer example: "I recently discovered your store while shopping with a friend and picked up product A, B, and C. I love them all! I appreciate that each item is handmade and handpainted, from local artists. Which is your favorite product?" Here is an experienced answer example: "I am thrilled with all of the services your store offers. The positive customer experiences that I have personally had are what led me to apply here. It is obvious that you have a robust staff training program. I would say that my favorite experience was back in June when your rep, Candice, walked me through your services. She went over and above her job for me, was passionate about her work, and genuinely wanted to help. That experience has remained with me for some time!"18. What do you know about our store? The interviewer is interested in knowing how much effort you have put into getting to know their company before attending your interview. It's essential that you visit their social media platforms, website, and physical store if possible. Gather information regarding how long the company has been in business, how many people they employ, their customer demographic, and perhaps their sales numbers, if that information is public. You can also discuss their advertising or workplace culture. Here is an answer example: "I know that your store has been a staple in this community for the past fifteen years. You have a few locations across the state, and - what I like most, is that you spend a lot of time and funds giving back to local charities. This community involvement is one of the reasons I applied here." Here is an entry level answer example: "I have visited your store a few times and liked your product. You train your employees well, and my customer service experiences have always been fantastic. Your products are high-end and something that I can stand behind and easily sell with enthusiasm." Here is an experienced answer example: "I have worked for a competing business for some time and have studied your company's products as a result of that competition. Your store knows how to attract a significant and loyal customer base, which I appreciate. I have read many online reviews stating that you're one of the top places to work when it comes to retail in this city. I cannot wait to learn more!"19. 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. Here is an answer example: "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. This situation recently happened where I saw a teammate losing her patience a bit. 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. I later discussed with her the ways that she could have handled the customer more professionally." Here is an entry level answer example: "There is no reason to be rude to a customer so, if I saw a co-worker being rude to one, I would jump in if appropriate, and let the co-worker remove themselves from the situation. Of course, if the customer were upset, I would apologize and do everything in my power to rectify the situation." Here is an experienced answer example: "I have terminated staff in the past for being rude to customers. This behavior is something that I do not tolerate. Retail employees are hard to come across at times, but I believe there are passionate and dedicated people out there with a true interest in being a positive representation of your company. There is no reason to keep negative people on the team."20. 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 would respond in benefit to the company if asked to steal. Theft can include the theft of product, trade secrets, customer information, or falsifying timecards. Talk to the interviewer about the steps you would take if asked to assist in fraudulent activity. Give an example if you have had this experience in the past. Here is an answer 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." Here is an entry level answer example: "I once had a classmate ask to copy my work for a paper I had turned in the year before. I was disappointed in that person's behavior, and the fact they thought I would agree with helping them cheat. I declined but also encouraged them to believe in their abilities and not sell themselves short when it came to the assignment. If a co-worker wanted my help with being dishonest, I would challenge them to be a better version of themselves. If the situation were severe, I would let my boss know." Here is an experienced answer example: "I had a coworker have the audacity to ask me to falsify their timesheet and include overtime hours they did not work. As the manager, I took note of the situation, reported it to human resources, and the person lost their job. As a manager in retail, an industry that sees a high amount of theft and loss, I feel a personal responsibility to protect my company from bad employees and their damaging behavior."
Author of Retail Answers and Questions
Rachelle Enns is a job search expert, executive headhunter, career catalyst, and interview coach. Utilized by top talent from Fortune companies like Microsoft, General Electric, and Nestle, she helps professionals position themselves in today's competitive digital marketplace.
Rachelle founded Renovate My Resume and Executive Resume Solutions, two companies focused on helping job seekers get their edge back. She helps everyone from new graduates looking for their first placement, to CEO's who want more out of their career.
Rachelle coaches students to executives on how to master the toughest interview questions and how to handle the most bizarre interview situations; all with confidence and poise.
Rachelle trains other career coaches, recruiters, and resume writers, globally. A big part of her job is also spent coaching HR professionals on how to bring the human touch back into their interview and hiring process.
First written on: 11/13/2014 Last modified on: 08/17/2018
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