5 Questions to Expect in a Retail Job Interview

Written by Kate Lopaze

you’ve turned in a rockin’ retail resume, showing that you’re a mature, responsible, personable individual. the you-on-paper is looking better than ever. but you’re not done—if they like what they see, it’s time for the next stage: the interview. what can you expect there?

what’s your experience?

the interviewer is going to know what kind of retail experience you have—or, if you’re new, what your relevant experiences are. as a starting point, your resume has the outline of your answer here. in the interview, it’s your job to flesh those out. here’s where you’ll want to fill in some context about your previous jobs:

  • what kinds of environments have you worked in?
  • how big were your previous stores/employers, and what were the daily operations like?
  • what were your past responsibilities?
  • do you have specific stats to illustrate your past jobs? (sales figures, concrete growth, any awards or recognition)
  • did you progress/take on increasing responsibility/get promoted during your time there?

how do you serve customers?

the customer may or may not always be right, but one of the top things a retail employer will want to know is what kind of service you provide. specific anecdotes work great here. do you have a knack for converting medium interest into an actual sale? how have you handled difficult customer situations or angry customers? how did you take company policy and best practices to resolve challenging customer situations? how do you approach customers? again, use real stories from your experience, preferably ones that highlight good customer outcomes, examples of you thinking fast on your feet, and/or ones that show you enhancing your store’s brand.

what do you know about the industry?

it’s important to know how store operations work. retail jobs can call on you to be a jack-of-all-trades when extra hands are needed in a variety of departments, so an interviewer may want to test your versatility. be prepared for questions on things like handling sales/money, inventory, point-of-sale (pos) systems, security, and loss prevention.

what makes you a great salesperson?

an unavoidable part of working in retail is working with the public. the unpredictable, not-always-pleasant public. the interviewer is going to want to make sure you’re enough of a people person to provide a good customer experience, and stay cool in a variety of situations. if you get a question like this, be sure to emphasize your personal qualities, like good teamwork, positivity, the ability to work independently on projects without constant guidance, and the ability to work under supervision and take direction just as well.

what are your expectations?

retail is an industry that’s famous for unpredictable hours and shifts, as well as for requiring working nights, weekends, and holidays. during the interview, it’s important to be up front about your schedule and availability—the more flexible, the better. you may also be asked about what you expect for compensation. your best bet is to do a little legwork ahead of the interview, and research what similar jobs are making. hourly wages? commissions based on sales? then in the interview, you can give reasonable ballpark figures if asked, and you can also ask more specific questions about how compensation will work in this job, once the interviewer opens that door.

if you organize your interview prep around these areas, you’re well on your way. be ready to provide specific stories that back up your resume bullet points, and don’t forget to emphasize your next-level customer service skills. good luck!

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About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.