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Top 40 Retail Interview Questions

20th April 2023

The Top 40 Retail Interview Questions (And The Best Answers)

Prepping for the big interview? Here are the questions you’re likely to face, with some tips on answering many of them.

How to use these questions and answers

We don’t have a crystal ball. We can’t predict exactly what your interviewer is going to ask you. But we do know the sort of things they’ll ask. We know that because, when we speak to our candidates post-interview this is what they tell us.

Use these questions as a guide. Think about how you would answer them and use our suggestions as a starting point, but every answer will be better when you give it your own personal spin.

Then, be prepared to tweak and adapt your answers in case the question takes a slightly different approach to the ones featured here. Rather than being asked ‘why do you want to work here?’ you might be asked, ‘what appeals to you about our industry?’.

They’re very similar questions and much of the answer you prepped for the first question will apply to the second, but stay on your toes because, while the former question will look to explore the research you’ve done about the company, the latter will want you to show you’ve looked wider.

Top retail interview questions: About you

    1. Would you like a glass of water?

      ANSWER: Let’s not overcomplicate this: a simple yes will do, even if you don’t really want one.

    2. Did you find us easily today?

      ANSWER: Avoid doing your best impression of a satnav or telling your interviewer about the roadworks on the M1. This should do just fine: “No problem at all – thanks for the directions; they made finding you easy.”

    3. Tell us about yourself

      ANSWER: This is not an invitation to tell your interviewer about that time you broke your arm when you were seven. It’s an invitation to hit them with your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a quick summary of your ‘greatest hits’. It’s your biggest achievements, your fastest promotions, your most impressive accomplishments, accolades and results, all wrapped up in the time it takes an elevator to travel a few floors (hence the name).

    4. What three words would you use to describe yourself?

    5. How would your colleagues describe you?

    6. What interests you about this role?

      ANSWER: This is less about your skills and experience (which are covered elsewhere). With this question, your interviewer wants to see enthusiasm. Bonus points for being able to double up why you want this role with why you want this role in this company. Here’s an example: “As a shopper, I love stores that make me feel a certain way – stores that treat me as though I’m more than a customer. In this role, I get to be the one who creates those experiences for shoppers and I get to do it with a brand that’s right at the forefront of defining what the shopping experience of the future should look like. I find that really exciting.”

    7. What’s the most important quality you will bring to this job, and why?

    8. What’s your biggest professional strength?

    9. What’s your biggest weakness?

      ANSWER: You probably want to avoid giving a long list here. Equally, we speak to plenty of interviewers who hate the ‘humblebrag’ answer (“I suppose it’s that I’m just too committed”) which wraps up a strength as a weakness in a rather naff way.Our advice would be to pick a single and relatively minor weakness. Be honest about it and go on to discuss what you’re doing to address it.

    10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

      ANSWER: There’s no single right answer to this, but you’ll want to show a degree of ambition and confidence in your own ability. If you’re applying for a department supervisor role, for example, you might reasonably aim for a store management role within five years.

    11. Why are you leaving your current job?

      ANSWER: Your reason might be entirely practical (“I’m moving 100 miles north and I need to find a role that will give me new experiences and opportunities”) . If it isn’t, you’ll want to say something along the lines of relishing a new challenge, needing to progress or wanting to develop new skills. If the actual reason you want to move on is because you can’t stand your old job or its people any more, avoid any badmouthing and stick to talking about challenges, opportunities and development.

    12. You’ve had a number of jobs in the past few years? Why so many?

    13. What were you doing during DATES (a period you haven’t accounted for in your CV)

      ANSWER: Evidence suggests it’s better to account for time out of work on your CV rather than hoping it won’t come up at interview. It also ensures you avoid potentially awkward questions.For example, there’s no reason not to explain on your CV that your break from work was to raise your children, care for loved ones or give you time to recover from illness. Such items on your CV are unlikely to warrant a question, whereas gaps may prompt questions that force you to discuss them. 

    14. Why should we hire you?

      ANSWER: Another opportunity to revisit your elevator pitch. Sometimes, this question will be phrased in comparison with someone else, which means your answer should explore the things you can bring that no one else can. 

    15. I see you enjoy X in your spare time. Tell us what you love about it.

      ANSWER: Pastime questions can be tricky, but our advice would be to lead with passion. Whether you love paddleboarding, yoga or singing in a band, this is a chance to show that you care about something enough to commit to it and get better at it.

    16. Tell me about someone you admire and why

      ANSWER: There’s no single right answer to this – as long as you can justify the answer it’s effectively a free hit. The worst thing you can do with this question is to be boring or cliched so avoid the obvious (sorry Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Barack/Michelle Obama and Greta Thunberg).

      Top retail interview questions: About the company

    17. Why do you want to work here?

      ANSWER: The worst possible response you can offer here is something bland and generic that would fit virtually any applicant and any retailer. Be specific. Demonstrate that you’ve done your research into the business. And pick a single reason that you feel genuinely enthusiastic about.

    18. What can you bring to the business?

    19. What one thing would you change about this company?

      ANSWER: This is an opportunity to show you’ve done your research and that you’re capable of critical thought. Avoid direct criticism and ensure you answer constructively, for example:“There’s lots the company is doing to act sustainably, but I’ve noticed that competitors X & Y are championing initiative Z. It feels as though they’re leading the space and I think there’s an opportunity for the company to be more aggressive and assert itself in the sustainability space.” 

    20. Do you have any questions for us

      ANSWER: Avoid asking something you could easily find on the company website (or worse still, in your interview pack). In addition, you should avoid asking about money and whether you’ve got the job.You’ll find other interview no-no’s here

      Top retail interview questions: About your experience

    21. I see from your CV that you have experience in X. Can you tell us more about that?

      ANSWER: Your interviewers are going to have read your CV or application form in detail, so it’s probably a good idea that you do too, because the last thing you’ll want to happen is to be surprised by something that appears in your own CV.Ahead of the interview, reread your CV or application and think about what questions an interviewer might asked based on it. In particular, they might want to explore gaps (“You said you achieved X, but you don’t say how?”).

    22. What have you enjoyed most about your current role?

    23. What is your favourite thing about working in retail?

    24. What experience do you have of X?

      ANSWER: When the interviewer digs into the detail – perhaps asking about a piece of IT or a process – it’s an opportunity to share how you’ve applied that IT/process in a  successful way. Use an example to illustrate your point.
      What If you don’t have the specific experience the interviewer mentions? Talk about your experiences which most closely match the interviewer’s request.

    25. What experience do you have problem solving to meet customer needs?

    26. What three words would your last manager use to describe you?

    27. When did you last fail/make a mistake?

      ANSWER: The point of this question isn’t to make you feel bad, but to show your resilience and your ability to bounce back and learn from your mistakes. “I once promised a customer that we would have their order for collection on a  certain day and it didn’t happen. I had made an assumption and I quickly realised that the customer went to a lot of needless effort based on my assumption. Since then, I’ve always ensured that I check the facts before I make promises.”

    28. What do you think the essential qualities of a ROLE are?

      Top retail interview questions: Situational questions

      The following questions are all about the live experience of retail. They’re not hypothetical questions, so your interviewers are looking for real examples. If you haven’t had the experience being asked about, a good way to start your answer is:
      I haven’t had that experience, but there was an occasion when…” and pick an example closest to the situation being asked about.
      Alternatively, say, “I haven’t had that specific experience, but if I did come across it I would…” and then answer the question as though it was a real example.

      For each of these questions, the interviewers are testing your ability to:

      • Work under pressure
      • Follow rules and set procedures
      • Make objective and sometimes difficult decisions
      • Balance competing views; and
      • Where possible, to reach win/win compromises that keep staff, colleagues and customers happy while addressing underlying issues
        With all of these, you want to avoid giving the impression you are someone who:
      • Makes snap, ill-thought-through decisions
      • Sweeps things under the carpet
      • Makes promises you can’t keep
      • Runs away from difficult decisions
      • Presents a risk to the company’s reputation 
    29. Can you think of a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer/customer complaint? What happened, and how did you resolve the situation?

    30. Can you think of a time when you didn’t know the answer to what a customer was asking? What happened, and how did you ensure they received the help they needed? 

    31. Can you think of a time when you’ve suspected someone of shoplifting? What happened, and how did you respond? 

    32. Can you think of a time when you’ve had to go above and beyond the usual levels of service? What happened?

    33. Can you think of a time when you’ve had to go above and beyond the usual levels of service? What happened?

    34. Can you think of a time when you’ve had to overcome a personal challenge? What was it and how did you overcome it?

    35. Can you think of a time you’ve faced conflict at work? How did you deal with it?

    36.  Can you think of a time when you’ve had to display leadership? What was the situation? What did you do and what was the result? 

    37. Can you think of a time when you had to complete a task as part of a team? What happened?

      For supervisor roles and above:

    38. Can you think of a time when you’ve had to deliver a difficult message to your team? What was it, and how did you manage the situation?

    39. Can you think of a time when you’ve had to resolve a dispute between members of the team? What was it, and how did you manage the situation?

    40. Can you think of a time when you’ve received a complaint of bullying or similar from a member of your team about another member of staff? How did you manage the situation?

    41. Want to put your answers to these questions into practice? Let’s find the right job opportunity for you and get you to interview stage. Get started

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