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Sales Associate Interview
Questions

32 Questions and Answers by
| 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 32

What does good customer service mean to you?

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Sales Associate Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    What does good customer service mean to you?

      Great customer service is directly attached to sales success! For this reason and many more, the interviewer wants to know that you have the ability to deliver great service if you are hired for their Sales Associate position. Good customer service means bringing your problem-solving skills to work, meeting your customer's needs, actively listening, maintaining a positive attitude, and possessing strong knowledge of the products you are selling. If you have experience as a Sales Associate, you can give an example of how you've used these service elements to deliver an exceptional customer experience. If you are new to your career, you could describe a time when you received excellent customer service and highlight what made the experience so memorable.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I truly believe that providing good customer service is crucial to success in sales. To make this happen, I create the best experience possible for my customer. This action includes knowing my products inside and out to recommend products for them based on my knowledge. I also ask a lot of thoughtful questions and actively listen before making a suggestion. I want my customers to be satisfied with their purchase and come back frequently."

  2. 2.

    Describe a time when a customer wasn't happy. What did you do to fix it?

      The way you respond to this question will allow the interviewer to determine whether you will be a good representative of their company when serving their customers. The interviewer wants to know that you are ok with dealing with confrontation and that your customer service skills are up to par with what they are looking for. Show that you know how to effectively problem solve and use these skills to retain customers.

      Think to a specific time when you dealt with an unhappy customer, yet you created a positive outcome. First, describe the scenario. Then, talk about the actions you took to fix the situation. If the outcome of the situation led to the customer becoming a returning customer, even better as this shows that you solved the initial situation, you created a relationship and built trust with the customer.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I recently worked with a customer who was incredibly upset when they believed that we overcharged their account. I took the extra time required to walk the customer through every line item until they fully understood each item. The call was about one hour total, but it was worth the time to smooth over an important customer-related situation. Rest assured, I take customer satisfaction seriously and never shy away from a chance to make a great impression on behalf of my employer."

  3. 3.

    What is your greatest weakness? What are you doing to improve it?

      This is a tough question you should prepare for ahead of time. Weaknesses can be tough to talk about, but it's important to remember that your answer should focus on what you are doing to improve in one particular area of choice. Focus on a weakness that is related to you professionally, not personally. The weakness you choose to discuss should be important yet not detrimental to your success as a Sales Associate. Describe how tackling this weakness has helped you grow professionally.

      The interviewer wants you to be honest about your weaknesses and, at the same time, they want to see that you are proactive when it comes to improving yourself. Perhaps you are watching YouTube tutorials to gain skills in a particular area. Maybe you are reading the latest-and-greatest books on the skills you wish to improve, or perhaps you are taking an online workshop to bridge a skills gap. When discussing your most significant weaknesses, you must display your interest in professional growth. Be sure to maintain a positive tone, show confidence in your ability to improve, and demonstrate a desire for improvement.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "My greatest weakness is that I tend to try to please everyone. I sometimes help my coworkers before helping myself. I have been working on making sure I put my needs first, then helping my coworkers. It is something I stay conscious of and am continually trying to improve on."

  4. 4.

    Do you have any experience selling the products we offer?

      If you are familiar with selling similar products to the hiring company's offering, talk specifically about your experience. You could discuss:

      - How long you sold these products
      - What specific brand(s) you sold
      - The location you sold the product (malls, trade shows, fairs, kiosks, etc.)
      - Whether or not you had to meet sales goals in the past
      - Any accomplishments you have achieved while selling this particular product.

      If you are not familiar with selling similar products, let the interviewer know what you are familiar with. Perhaps you have not sold related products, but maybe you are well experienced in sales or understand how they work from being an avid consumer. Show that you are confident and you have the skills required to be successful in this retail role.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I have sold similar products for the past four years. When I worked with Company XYZ, I helped open a new location in our local mall. At that time, we introduced similar new cell phone and gaming models to many excited customers. Since that initial introduction, there have been many improvements to these products, and I am continually excited to represent ever-changing tech products. I consistently exceed my sales target of 200 sales per month and am eager to do the same with Company ABC."

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I have been an avid consumer of tech and electronics for many years. I often read reviews on TechRadar and GadgetReview, which help me to make smart buying decisions. I am confident that my knowledge of your products' most popular specs and features will translate very well with your customers. With some training in closing a sale, I believe that I can quickly become a top-performing retail associate at Company ABC."

  5. 5.

    What do you see as the key skills in closing?

      A significant part of your role as a Sales Associate is closing deals. Depending on the product you are selling, the sales process may be quite competitive, and the stakes could be high. For instance, if you are working as a Sales Associate for a car dealership or a jewelry store, it will be imperative that you know how to close a sale. Show the interviewer that you understand 'the art of the close.'

      Some factors to closing a sale:

      - Avoid reacting adversely to the word 'no' from a customer
      - Probe into your customers' challenges and focus on a solution
      - Ask discovery questions that help you to understand your customers' priorities
      - Secure true buy-in from your customer by collecting 'yes' responses
      - Never try to prove your dominance, and always listen with an active ear

      Rachelle's Answer

      "It is important to stay calm, remain patient and be personable while closing a sale. I like my customers to feel like they're receiving the most personalized service possible by connecting with them on a personal level. Customers should feel comfortable, not like I am forcing them to buy something they don't want or need, to serve my own agenda. My customers should always feel that I have their best interests at heart. I like to ask discovery questions to figure out the customer's wants and needs and create a sense of urgency. The customer must know they are receiving a great product for the best price and that it fits with their needs."

  6. 6.

    What do you think are the most important skills in succeeding in sales?

      This strengths-based question has a dual purpose. First, the interviewer wants to know the factors you believe are important to succeed in this role. Next, they want assurance that you possess these skills yourself. To prepare for this question, spend time studying the job description. It will have clues that tell you the skills and strengths that the hiring company is seeking. Also, take time to single out the strengths that you believe are a match and help you succeed in this role. Elaborate on why you think these skills are so important and how you will apply them on the job when you are hired.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "After reading the job posting and doing my own research on sales success, I believe the most important skills are clear communication, active listening, and diligence. I clearly communicate by asking the right questions and never assuming that I entirely understand the message I am being told. Active listening should go hand-in-hand with clear communication. I actively listen to my customers and mirror them, repeating back what they tell me to ensure that I am interpreting their needs correctly. Next, diligence is important. Many customers will say no before they say yes. I have been trained to see 'no' as starting a negotiation rather than the end of a negotiation. I enjoy the challenge of selling and will not give up on a customer the first time. I believe these strengths are a large reason I am a top sales associate in my current company."

      Anonymous Answer

      "To succeed in sales, confidence, good persuasion skills, and self-assurance are as important as being resolute and determined."

      Rachelle's Answer

      These are essential skills, for sure! Next, try pairing down your list to the top 3 and then discuss the ways that you currently deliver, or plan to deliver, these skills in the workplace. I have provided a starter for you, below.

      "I believe the most important skills for succeeding in sales include confidence, persuasion, and determination. I exude confidence in sales by...(discuss how you portray confidence). I am persuasive by...(give a story example). Lastly, I am determined and never give up. For instance...(tell a brief story of determination)."

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (1) or No (0)
  7. 7.

    Are you able to work overtime, weekends, and holidays?

      It's imperative to answer any scheduling-related questions with full transparency. If you were aware that overtime, weekends, and holidays were a requirement for this Sales Associate role when you first applied, and you can accommodate, give a concise answer. If you have some scheduling restrictions such as class times or parenting expectations, use this question as an opportunity to tell the interviewer what days/times you are available. If you were not aware that overtime, weekends, and holidays were a requirement, you ask what the schedule or rotation looks like and then continue the conversation. It's important to show flexibility where you can while maintaining a professional stance on your personal needs.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "Yes, I am happy to take any hours that are given to me. I have a flexible lifestyle and am aware that the hours may be unconventional from time to time."

      Anonymous Answer

      "Not over time because I have night classes too. I can definitely do the weekends and holidays."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Rather than focusing on what you cannot do (starting a sentence with a negative is an interview killer), try to talk about what you can do. I have offered a revision, below.

      "I can work on weekends and holidays. My school schedule includes night classes, so I have some limitations when it comes to overtime."

      Was this answer helpful? Yes (1) or No (0)
  8. 8.

    You are scheduled to leave at 6 pm and your replacement doesn't show up. What would you do?

      When answering this scenario-based question, you want to show your dedication to your job and the fact that you are flexible at work, within reason. If you have encountered this situation in the past, you can tell a brief story of how you handled the situation.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "If the Sales Associate meant to take over the next shift did not come to work, I would first report the situation to my manager. If the best solution was for me to stay and I was approved to work overtime, I would cover the shift. In my current position, this situation has occurred a couple of times. Both times I stayed late to cover the shift. Last week, I went to work on my day off to assist with staff shortages. I am always happy to help when I can."

  9. 9.

    In your current position, how much time do you spend each day communicating directly with prospects?

      The interviewer wants to know how much face time you have with your prospects. Express an interest and commitment to relationship-building and business development activities. Show that you nurture the sales process and your prospects. This activity is especially essential when working as a Sales Associate for higher ticket items such as jewelry, vehicles, art, and furniture. You can answer by describing what percentage of your day is spent prospecting and reaching out to your potential customers. Describe your method for reaching out, as well. Take the interview through your sales journey!

      Rachelle's Answer

      "In my current position, I start each day with 30 minutes of phone calls to customers I met in the two weeks prior who did not purchase on their original visit. Then, when the doors to our store open, I focus solely on helping the customers who walk in. I am sure to be present with them, ask about their needs, and take their contact information if they are on the fence about a purchase. At the end of my day, I put these prospects into my database and enter them into my follow-up sequence. Since implementing this prospecting approach six months ago, my sales have increased by 27%."

  10. 10.

    Name one challenge you see our industry facing this year. How will this challenge impact you as a Sales Associate?

      This question requires you to have a strong understanding of the hiring company's industry. Spend time conducting research on the hiring company, its primary industry, and its target customer base. Show the interviewer that you are knowledgeable of the industry and that you keep up with changes. Mention one challenge that you foresee in the next 12 months. Rather than focusing your response on the challenge, focus more on potential solutions. These ideas don't have to be revolutionary. They can be simple suggestions that will compound to good habits and positive change. The way you approach this question will show your critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I understand that Company ABC deals in the retail industry, primarily in the beauty sector. One challenge that I foresee in the next year is beauty colliding with technology. Beauty companies are introducing AI and features such as skin analysis tools. Although very exciting, it will be critical for retailers in the beauty industry to remain on top of these trends since they are getting stronger rather than going away, which some industry pros felt would be the case. To help pivot I believe it would be advantageous for larger retailers such as Company ABC to start partnering with leaders in tech to create their own unique tech-based offering to its customers."

  11. 11.

    Describe a situation where you negotiated terms with a tough customer.

      Scenario-based interview questions that begin with 'Describe a situation...' are best answered using the STAR method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Organizing your response using this framework will ensure that you provide the interviewer with the right amount of information and detail to form a compelling answer. Think back to a time where you had to deal with a tough customer, and the outcome was successful. Describe the situation, your thought process when dealing with the customer, how you negotiated, and of course, the positive outcome. Assure the interviewer that you stuck to company policy and discussed the terms with your superiors or management if needed. Demonstrate that you are a professional that knows how to conduct yourself with any type of customer.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "In my current Sales Associate role at Car Dealership ABC, I face negotiations every day. Often, I have guidelines to follow, but there are also times when situations call for creative solutions to meet customer needs and budgets. Last week I had a customer come in who wanted to purchase a new truck. The ticket price was $36,000; however, their budget was only $29,000. We went back and forth many times, and it was clear that this person had formal negotiation training. We agreed to a partial cash downpayment and a final ticket price of $33,599. It was fun to have the challenge of negotiating with a knowledgable customer."

  12. 12.

    How do you adapt in a constantly changing environment?

      Change is prevalent in the workplace today, and the interviewer wants to know that you can embrace change rather than become thrown off by it.

      Think of a story-based example that you can share with the interviewer where you faced change but the result was positive. Perhaps your job duties shift, or there is a significant revision to store policy. Maybe you will have to welcome a new manager you're not particularly fond of, or your company is acquired by a competitor. These situations make great examples to draw on to showcase your ability to be adaptive in the workplace.

      If you do not have previous work experience to draw from, think of an example from school, volunteer work, or a sport you are involved in. Highlight the fact that you are able to adapt quickly to changes while still being able to meet the primary goals and tasks that are in front of you. Describe skills that you have that allow you to adapt to change, whether you are good at keeping calm under stressful situations, you are a quick learner, or you have excellent problem-solving skills. The interviewer should be confident that you are open to challenges or even thrive off of them.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I adapt well to change and even welcome changes since they cause me to learn new skills and become more flexible in my profession. Last year our company was sold to a competitor, and a lot of our management team changed hands. It was a lot of change to handle in a short time, especially being unsure of who to report to ahead of others. I am resilient, though, and have made the big changes work by keeping my head down and delivering great work, no matter who it goes to in the end."

  13. 13.

    How would you handle a situation where your co-worker was being rude to customers?

      Your answer should show a balance between abiding by company regulations and working harmoniously with your co-workers. You could express that you would disagree with the co-worker's attitude and not come across as a 'know-it-all' in the workplace. This question is a great opportunity to show empathy, thoughtfulness, and excellent critical thinking skills.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I worked as a server in a busy pub a few years ago. While serving one of my tables, I overheard another servers' table complaining about how terrible their service had been so far. Obviously, my co-worker wasn't feeling a connection with that table and was feeling overwhelmed by the volume of work. I approached my co-worker and offered to take the table off her hands as she seemed very busy. She happily agreed. I approached the table positively, apologetic for their needs not being met, and assured them that I was going to take care of them. I paid close attention to their table for the rest of the evening. This was a win-win solution because the customers left happy, and my co-worker felt I was helping, rather than judging her behavior."

  14. 14.

    What do you think are the most important characteristics of a great Sales Associate?

      The interviewer wants to know the attributes that you value most in a Sales Associate. They also want to know that you possess these characteristics yourself. Discuss what you believe to be the most important characteristic for a Sales Associate to have, why you believe it to be true, and then talk about how you embody that characteristic.

      Some ideas to get you started:

      - Trustworthy
      - Accountable
      - Committed
      - Results-oriented
      - Detailed
      - Driven
      - Strong Negotiator
      - Reliable

      All of these attributes are valuable in a sales setting!

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I believe that a Sales Associate needs to be a good listener and a solid communicator so they can ask the right questions of their customer and make truly educated product and service suggestions. I have been working to hone my skills in verbal communication and have educated myself on asking great questions that lead to a sale."

  15. 15.

    Are you familiar with cataloging, inventorying, stocking of merchandise, and other sales-related responsibilities?

      If you are familiar with inventory duties or other tasks related to product inventory, talk about these tasks and how they play a role in your current or previous positions. These details could include how often you are required to count inventory, how many SKU's you track, whether you divide inventory responsibilities with other team members, or a specific system you used for maintaining inventory.

      If you do not have related experience, be transparent about this fact. Rather than leading with an 'I do not have...' statement, try leading with what you do offer. Perhaps that includes excellent organizational skills or a superior ability to track items in Excel spreadsheets.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "In my current position I help lead our inventory count every month-end. We use a basic Excel spreadsheet to track our inventory count and then we submit the count to our head office through our internal retail POS system. Proper counts are very important and I see great value in maintaining accuracy every day to ensure that month-end and other merchandise and stock responsibilities are completed seamlessly."

  16. 16.

    How good are you with targets and deadlines?

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  17. 17.

    What attracts you to this Sales Associate position?

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  18. 18.

    What do you enjoy most about working as a Sales Associate?

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  19. 19.

    What do you know about the products and or services we offer our customers?

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  20. 20.

    How do you handle stressful situations?

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  21. 21.

    Why have you chosen to work as a Sales Associate?

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  22. 22.

    Do you enjoy socializing with customers?

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  23. 23.

    How do you move forward from a string of rejections?

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  24. 24.

    Have you ever walked up to a stranger and started a conversation? If so, tell me about the experience and your overall approach.

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  25. 25.

    As a Sales Associate, what do you see as your top goals within a company?

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  26. 26.

    What do you enjoy most about the selling experience?

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  27. 27.

    Do you have any prior experience in the field of sales and customer service?

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  28. 28.

    Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

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  29. 29.

    Why should we hire you?

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  30. 30.

    Do you work well on a team? How would you define teamwork?

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  31. 31.

    What is your greatest strength?

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  32. 32.

    How do you typically like to engage a customer?

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