16 Retail Job Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

By Chris Kolmar - May. 14, 2021
Articles In Guide

Find a Job You Really Want In

Are you looking for a job in retail sales? The truth is that many retailers are looking for candidates with your experience and expertise.

The retail industry is competitive. For every job opening, there are several qualified applicants vying for the position. So when you land a job interview, you have to nail it.

A retail job interview allows an interviewer to find out if you have the qualifications and professional strengths to drive results. They want to know you can make product move and encourage customers to return to their store. Plus they want to know what sets you apart from other candidates.

Retail hiring managers need to fill positions for sales associates, cashiers, customer service, merchandise displays, human resources, and store management. Knowing where you fit in and being able to demonstrate the value you bring is important.

Below are the most common retail interview questions and tips to help you prepare for the interview.

What Are Hiring Managers Looking for in a Retail Job Interview?

Interviewers are looking for certain traits in their retail employees. It’s not hard to imagine which qualities are essential — just think back on the positive (and negative) retail experiences you’ve had in your life.

Retail jobs involve a few hard skills, like managing point of sale (POS) systems, operating a cash register, and using company-specific software. These skills can all be taught relatively quickly, though.

What hiring managers and recruiters are really looking for are soft skills, which relate to your interpersonal abilities and intangible qualities that make you a great person to be around and work alongside.

Some soft skills that interviewers are looking for in candidates include:

  • Communication. An interview is a great way to put your communication skills to the test. Your ability to speak naturally and comfortably with all sorts of people is key to success in most retail roles.

    Whether it’s explaining a product to a customer or asking for help from a coworker, having a friendly and personable tone will make you an asset in a retail environment.

    Your nonverbal communication is just as important. People feel more relaxed around people who also appear relaxed, so it’s crucial that you keep from fidgeting or appearing too jittery during your interview. It’s also important not to ramble on for too long on any one question — customers and hiring managers alike appreciate brevity and precision.

  • Attention to detail. When customers (and the company) are relying on you to count out change, find specific products, or any other task that reflects on the company’s professionalism, it’s essential to pay close attention to detail.

    It’s a tricky thing to display during an interview, but the best advice to appear attentive is to, well, be attentive. Listen carefully to each question to make sure that you’re answering each one completely. Other than that, prepare a story about how your keen eye for detail saved the day. Major accomplishments help provide context for hard-to-prove traits like this.

  • Multitasking. Anyone who’s ever been shopping around the holidays knows how much is going on in a store when things are busy. Retail employees need to be able to juggle multiple tasks whenever the situation calls for it.

    Again, the best way to show off your ability to multitask is with a brief story about how you successfully managed a professional situation with a lot of moving parts.

  • Ability to handle pressure. Angry customers are part and parcel of a retail job. You’re pretty much guaranteed to end up on the wrong side of some stranger’s bad day at some point in your retail career. Hiring managers want to make sure that you won’t respond in a way that makes the company look bad.

  • Dependability. Last, but certainly not least, retail employees need to be reliable. Schedules change quite often in many retail positions, and managers need to make sure that you’re proactive about showing up for work and requesting off when you’re unable to come in.

How to Prepare for a Retail Job Interview

Retail job interviews typically involve a lot of behavioral interview questions. These are questions about your past behavior in professional settings, and your answers help the hiring manager predict how you’re likely to behave in future scenarios.

Behavioral questions often start with phrases like “tell me about a time” or “give me an example of a time when.” There are also situational interview questions, which are pretty much the same thing, but take on a hypothetical tone. For example, “what would you do if” type questions.

A winning strategy for answering either type of question is to use the STAR method. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. It’s the ideal way to organize your stories into brief, compelling narratives that the hiring manager can easily understand.

Of course, you can’t prepare stories for every possible question. But seeing as this is a retail job interview, you can be fairly certain that questions about the following topics will come up:

The idea is to prepare distinct stories for each category of question. That way, even if the hiring manager doesn’t ask the precise question you were hoping for, you still have a relevant story ready.

Retail Interview Questions on Work Ethic

  1. What work hours are you available? Can you be flexible during peak retail hours such as nights, weekends, and holidays?

    I am available to work full time during the week and nights on weekends. Since my kids are grown and out of the house, I am available to fill in if someone is sick. Long hours don’t bother me. So if you need me to pitch in extra during the holidays I’m game.

  2. If you were in the middle of a task and your shift ended, how would you handle it?

    Last fall I was pulled away from my display merchandising duties to help with creating a big display for Halloween. So I put aside my regular daily tasks to focus on this higher priority. I saw that my shift was ending in 30 minutes, so I spoke with my manager. He told me what tasks I could transition to the new shift that came on. I briefly reviewed what I was working on and who to ask for questions on this project. I was able to get out on time without accruing any overtime. Plus the project transitioned seamlessly.

  3. If your workday is slow and you have finished your tasks, what do you do?

    I love keeping busy. So I ask in advance what good side work jobs are that we can do. It makes the day go by quickly. Plus, it keeps projects moving along smoothly at work.

  4. Retail Interview Questions on Customer-Focused Approach

  5. What other retail experiences do you have?

    I have worked in several retail industries. I worked at a retail superstore that sold groceries, clothing, and other merchandise as a retail associate. I also worked at a jewelry store at the mall in one of the highest volume stores in retail sales.

  6. Give me an example of a time you worked with a difficult customer. How did you resolve the situation?

    An older gentleman tried to walk into our store without a covid-19 mask. I asked him if he could please put on a mask before he entered the store. I offered him a new mask from our supply. He got very agitated and started to yell in a threatening way. I told him if he wouldn’t put a mask on I would call mall security. Then I walked towards the phone to make the call. He left quietly without incident.

  7. Tell me about a time when a customer asked you a question you didn’t know the answer to. How did you handle it?

    My favorite response to that is “that’s a good question. I will find out the answer.” I ask my manager, then share the information with the customer. If the customer elevates the situation I hand it off to my manager, but stay close by to learn the answer. That way, I’m prepared the next time a customer has a similar question.

  8. Retail Interview Questions on Sales

  9. What products and services have you sold in your previous roles?

    I worked in the computer section of Best Buy. There I sold laptops, desktops, tablets, monitors, and computer accessories. Customers always have a lot of questions to help determine the right product to meet their needs.

  10. Give an example of how you engage customers in conversation to understand their needs and desires.

    It starts by asking how you can help them. Once they say what they are shopping for, you can ask more about who it is for and their needs. I ask if they are working with a budget. I find out when they need it. I attentively listen to what they say. Then I add any insights or experience I have regarding that product.

  11. What do you do when sales are slow?

    I love to do customer outreach. I look up what the last item is and mention any new items we have that would complement it. I recommend suggestions for upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, or occasions. I let customers know about upcoming sales.

  12. Retail Interview Questions on Communication

  13. How have you simplified a complex issue to gain understanding from a customer or colleague?

    When our jewelry store started offering lab-created diamonds, customers were very skeptical and had a lot of questions. So I developed some simplified descriptions to explain in. Natural diamonds are made in the ground and take millions of years to create. Lab-created diamonds are made in a lab and take a few weeks to create. Both test as diamonds, because they are real diamonds. Lab-created diamonds are often of higher quality because they can control the growth conditions. Finally, you can get a higher quality lab-created diamond at a much lower price than a natural diamond.

  14. Tell me about a time you had to adjust your communication style for a customer.

    Most people who buy diamonds are excited about the style, look, and meaning of the jewelry. Now and then you get a detail-oriented customer who is looking for a very high-quality diamond. They want to see the diamond under the microscope. They want to understand the grading systems for color and clarity. They want to see a regular quality and a high-quality certified diamond for comparison. It’s all about understanding your customer’s shopping needs and speaking their language.

  15. Do you work well with others?

    Absolutely. For example, if my co-worker has a customer come in for a jewelry inspection, I would offer to look up and mark the paperwork, while they inspect and clean the jewelry. Teamwork makes the job work!

  16. Retail Interview Questions on a Fast-Paced Environment

  17. Do you enjoy working in fast-paced work environments?

    I love working in high-volume retail environments. There is always something going on. The store is buzzing with customers. It’s exciting and I thrive in that environment.

  18. How did you mitigate or reduce the stressful situation?

    During the holidays the store can get jam-packed with customers. One thing that calms down the crowd is greeting everyone and telling them you will be with them in just a minute. Knowing that you have seen them and will attend to them soon keeps them calm.

  19. What is a challenge or conflict you experienced at work.?

    Once I was helping a customer on a Saturday night who was highly intoxicated and flirting with me. He was a big guy and it made me uncomfortable. I brought my manager up from the back office to assist me with the customer. It made me feel safe to know I had backup. The customer left shortly after.

  20. During busy times, how did you handle the stress and pressure?

    When you are experienced working in a fast-paced environment, you can let stress energize you. It moves you into overdrive where you can be more focused and productive. If the stress feels overwhelming, a 5-minute break with a drink of water and a protein bar works wonders to recharge your batteries.

Retail Job Interview Tips

Answering questions the right way is the most important part of the interview, but there are other things you can do to improve your candidacy.

Here are a few ways to impress the hiring manager at your retail job interview:

  • Dress the part. Depending on what sort of retail environment you’re applying to, the definition of “dressing the part” changes. If it’s an office supply shop, you should probably look neutral and professional, whereas a toy store employee should have a bit more pizzazz in their look.

    Pro tip: if you’re applying to a clothing store, wear clothes from that store. It’s a big plus if you’re a legitimate customer who will be able to honestly recommend the brand to other customers.

  • Ask questions. Interviews are not interrogations; they’re conversations. Prepare a list of your own questions for the hiring manager about the company and its products.

    Interviewers love candidates who express genuine curiosity and enthusiasm for the role. Plus, an interview is a great time to learn answers to important questions about a potential job. It might turn out that the way the interviewer describes the work environment and culture doesn’t sound appealing to you at all.

  • Follow up. Always send a follow-up email to the recruiter within a day of the interview. It’s polite to thank them for their time and for considering your candidacy. Not to mention that it keeps you at the top of their mind as they’re reviewing candidates.

Final Thoughts

During the interview, the hiring manager will be looking to see if you have the retail work experience, attitude, and abilities they need. Some of the more important skills you need to demonstrate are a strong work ethic, customer focus, sales success, communication, and thriving in a fast-paced environment.

When you arrive for the job interview, bring your energy and enthusiasm. Confidence makes a great first impression with recruiters. Dress to impress. Give a handshake and make eye contact. Be prepared by having your retail success stories beforehand. Ask if they have any questions for you. Then end strong by asking about the next steps and sharing your interest in the role.

These retail interview questions and answers will serve as an indispensable guide for you whether you are a retail associate, manager, or district manager looking to accelerate your potential and grow your retail career. Take advantage of these expert tips to interview like a pro and stand out in the crowd.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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