If you have a love for fashion and interacting with different types of people, a retail sales associate position might be right for you.
Sales associates are typically found working for retailers who sell clothing items, jewelry and accessories, office supplies, sporting goods, household products, and more. These types of roles can also be referred to as sales floor associates or retail salespersons.
Retail sales associates are typically responsible for greeting and interacting with customers as they shop in the store. They may be nearby to answer any questions that might surface or they could help customers one-on-one to find their shopping needs. They also handle returns, refunds, and customer complaints.
Retail sales associates are a public face to the retail store or retail chain which means that they must be personable and engaging. Since they are responsible for both customer inquiries and complaints, these individuals must also be patient and accommodating, maintaining pleasantries even if the customer is stand-offish.
They must also be able to retain a variety of information, usually about the company, its products, services, and specific policies.
So, what can you expect when interviewing for a retail sales associate position? Because so much of this job is responsible for working closely with customers to understand their needs and answer questions, you will likely be asked questions to determine how you’ll behave in that type of environment.
You may be asked to sell one of the company’s products to the interviewee or answer questions regarding their specific products, so make sure you brush up on company knowledge before the interview begins.
The first step to preparing for any job interview is to look over the initial job posting again. Search for any key responsibilities or keywords that you can carry into your interview.
It’s important to remember that the potential employer has already looked at your resume and skills and assumed that you could be a good fit for the job. The in-person interview is the place that you will drive your value home.
The next thing to consider is the store and what it sells. Do some research or interviewing to try and better understand the specific product that store sells and what need it fills for the customers who shop there.
Typically, a retail store will have a website that you can access to better understand and search through what they offer to their customers. This is great knowledge to have in an interview as you can sprinkle it in through your responses and even ask your potential employer questions about certain things.
Also, consider your attire. Depending on the job you are interviewing for, you should be able to identify the proper type of attire. If you’re working in a retail chain that sells household products such as a grocery store or a home improvement store, you can likely dress a little more casually for your interview.
However, if you’re working in a more boutique retail store in a mall or that sells high-end clothing, you’ll likely be required to dress a little more formally. A good trick is to get your outfit from the store you’re applying to and wear it to the interview. Your interviewer will likely notice and give you bonus points for effort.
The last and most important thing you can do to better prepare yourself for a retail sales associate interview is to review potential questions that may be asked during your interview.
This is important because practicing your answers to the common questions will help your answers be more easily articulated and fill you with more confidence as you enter your interview.
Remember that the questions you are asked will vary depending on the company and specific store for which you are applying. Your answers should also match the specific type of store for which you are applying, so be sure to do your homework on the types of products your store sells and the specific clientele it serves.
Below are some sample common questions for retail sales associate interviews, as well as some suggested answers.
Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a client. The employer is looking for you to define spectacular customer service by using specific examples. They’ll want to know how you define “above and beyond” service for a client.
They may be looking to see how you’ll treat clients who tend to spend more money or how you may treat an unruly client. Whatever the case, make sure you use specific examples in your answer and highlight your key skills.
“I have absolutely gone above and beyond for individual clients to ensure their specific needs were being met. We had a client in the last retail store I worked at, who was an elderly woman who would visit us every week. Every week, we would pack up her order and have it ready for her when she came.”
“Then, we would walk her back to her car to pack up her order, just to make it easier on her. She continued to be a regular client until I departed that job. I try to approach customer service to ensure the customers leave satisfied, even if those tasks supersede my basic job duties.”
How do you define customer service? This can be a tricky one, but ultimately the interviewer is looking to understand your basic understanding of customer service and how you view your role.
This will always depend on the specific context in which it is asked, but essentially, good customer service is a commitment from the retail employee to provide value and attention to each customer that enters the store.
“Good customer service is subjective from person to person, but I believe it means providing impeccable service to each customer that walks through our doors. This can mean anything from answering difficult questions to guiding them through the store floor to more easily find what they need.”
Tell me about a time you handled a dissatisfied customer. Retail will have its share of ups and downs. Eventually, it will be inevitable that you’ll need to interact with a client who may be upset or dissatisfied.
Your potential employer is looking to see how you might respond in this type of situation and how you view them. If you have a specific example to share about a time when you effectively navigated a tumultuous situation, this is the time to share it.
“At my last job we sold out of a specific brand of perfume on a sale day within the hour. One angry customer entered the store a few hours later demanding we fulfill his request for the perfume. I told her to come back the next day when we were getting a new shipment so that she could buy it at a discounted price.”
How do you respond to questions that you don’t know the answer to? Sales associates are required to have an abundance of knowledge under their belts at any given time.
This means product and store knowledge, company knowledge, protocols, processes, and more. It’s impossible to know everything, so there may come a time where you’re unable to answer a question.
You don’t want to make false promises or make up an answer. Instead, gracefully tell the customer you’ll need to find the answer elsewhere. Your potential employer is looking to see how you’ll respond to these types of situations to see how you think on your feet and how good of a problem solver you are.
“Whenever I meet a question I don’t know the answer to, I always assure the client that I will find the answer for them before they leave the store. If not, then I will always promise to follow-up via phone or email to respond to their inquiry. I will do my best to problem solve and find the answer myself, but when that’s not possible, I will seek the answer out from others and come back to the customer once I have the correct knowledge.”
You may also be asked these common questions below. Think about your responses to these specific questions and be sure to practice before your interview.
Tell me about the product you are most excited about in our store. How about the one you are least excited about?
Have you ever used any retail software before?
If a customer stole something from our store, what would you do?
Pretend to pitch one of our products to me.
How do you let customers know of specific discounts the store may be running?
Imagine a customer enters the store looking to purchase a gift. Walk me through how you would assist them.
Imagine an unruly customer came into the store. How would you intervene to ensure they have a satisfactory experience in our store?
How do you greet customers when they enter the store?