Common retail interview questions to ask at a job interview

Whether they’re opening up a new boutique or growing an existing storefront, small business owners of retail shops often have to hire employees for their stores. But even if these potential retail sales associates or assistant managers have resumes with great experience that “looks good on paper”, that doesn’t mean they’ll be a fit for the job.
That’s why it’s important for small business owners to interview candidates. However, interviewing candidates for a retail job calls for having a plan, an interview scoring system, and knowing the right questions to ask. Here are some interview tips and the top retail job interview questions small business owners can ask. Check out our page on acceptable interview questions for a helpful list of what to ask.

7 Retail interview questions to ask the candidate

It’s crucial for small business owners to understand how potential employees interact and collaborate with their co-workers. It’s also important to know the future career plans of each candidate. This helps to provide valuable insight on whether or not the candidate is a good match for the company, especially if the goal of the hiring process is to have long-term employees that grow with the company. Here are some questions small business owners can ask to learn more about the candidates they are interviewing:

1. Why do you want to work here?

The answer to one of the most common job interview questions can reveal the candidate’s true reason for coming to work for a retail shop. Company owners should watch out for red flags, such as vague answers. For example, statements or answers, such as “because it’s fun,” do not provide much insight into the true motivation behind why the candidate is working for the company. It could be a sign that the candidate does not have intentions to stay around long.

2. What can you tell me about your retail experience?

Interviewers should make sure to ask candidates about their experience. This helps them to verify that the information the candidates provide on their applications or resumes is correct. Also, interviewers should inquire about what they enjoyed about achieving that experience.

3. How well do you work on a team? 

Retail stores often involve working in a team environment. Candidates should be able to work with other retail store associates and managers respectfully and in a professional manner.

4. What would your current supervisor tell me about you? 

This question would encourage candidates to describe what type of person they are in the eyes of their current employers. It will help reveal how they perceive themselves as a worker and encourage them to provide an honest answer in case the interviewer does check their references.

5. Where do you see yourself five years from now?

This question helps reveal the career goals of the candidate. Listen for answers that demonstrate that the candidate wants to grow with the company. For example, an ideal answer to this question is that the candidate wishes to master his position and hopefully move up in the company.

6. What has been your greatest accomplishment? 

Candidates should be able to discuss a problem they’ve had to overcome at a previous job and why they consider it to be their greatest achievement. This shows potential for how candidates solve problems.

7. Are there any additional questions? 

By asking this question, hiring managers can get an idea if the candidate is truly interested in the position for the long haul. Most candidates who are interested in working with a company long-term will have more questions about career growth within the company, expectations of the job duties, or what benefits the company offers.

Other personal interview questions you can ask:

Depending on personal preference, business needs, how the interview is going, or other reasons, there are a multitude of other common retail interview questions you could ask to learn more about your candidate:

  • What do you do in your free time?
  • What type of merchandise have you sold the most?
  • What was the best experience you’ve had at work?
  • What was the worst experience you’ve had in retail?
  • What do you consider to be your greatest weakness and strength?
  • What was your favorite thing about your last job?
  • How did you hear about this role?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What part of the job description was most appealing to you?
  • Did you have any concerns before applying?

5 Strong customer service-related questions you should ask

Customer service is at the foundation of any retail job. Thus, it’s important for hiring managers and small business owners to ask questions related to customer service to evaluate a candidate’s communication skills. Some critical customer service questions to ask include:
  1. What does good customer service consist of? This question is aimed at having candidates define “next-level” customer service. It helps the interviewer understand the candidate’s perception of good customer service.
  2. How should customer returns without a receipt be handled? This question helps the interviewer determine how the candidate potentially handles conflict. Hiring managers should listen for answers that align with their company’s policies and values to determine if the candidate is a good match for the job.
  3. How do you handle irate customers who demand to speak to the manager? The ability to handle customer conflicts without the help of a manager can save time for everyone involved. It also demonstrates leadership skills. Thus, it’s important to inquire about how potential candidates address irate customers.
  4. How do you find items for customers that contact you over the phone? Even if the candidate is primarily expected to work on the floor, there will be times when they may have to answer the phones in the store. Thus, it’s important to determine if they have critical soft skills and interpersonal skills to ensure they create an enhanced customer experience. Look for answers, such as letting the customer know what they are doing, asking for permission to place them on hold, or advising them who they will transfer them to so that they are speaking to the right person.
  5. What products from the store would you recommend to a customer? Use this question to see how the candidate addresses helping the customer find the right product based on their needs. This question is also helpful to determine if the candidate did any research on the company, which can be helpful for assessing research and customer service skills.

Retail candidate questions and answers you might need to know

Every job interview should leave room for questions from your potential new team member, so you should be prepared on how to answer them. Here are some questions your interviewee might ask and the best way to respond:

  • Why is this retail position open? There are many possible reasons you’re recruiting a new team member, so it’s a very reasonable question. Whether there was a previous employee who was promoted, moved, fired, or quit, you should always be honest in your reply. If you are simply expanding your team you can even present this as a sign of growth in the company.
  • What are the biggest challenges in this role? Retail employees often have to face difficult customers and other stressful situations, and anyone with retail work experience will know that all too well. That’s why you shouldn’t sugarcoat the challenges of working in the retail industry, but instead, focus on how you help alleviate this stress and even help employees gain new skills from adversity.
  • How do you promote teamwork? Teamwork is one of the greatest strengths to building a positive work environment, which an employee with a lot of experience will know. Be prepared to explain how you foster camaraderie between your employees and how it translates into day-to-day work. 

Final Thoughts

Interviewing candidates to be a part of a retail store’s team is an important step for small business owners to take to ensure they are building a team that fits the business’ goals and can help the business grow. By asking the right questions from the start, small business owners can find ideal retail workers that are a fit for their business.

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