Interview questions for retail: everything you should know
Retail store jobs can be a great side hustle, entry, or return to the workforce.
You’ll likely be relatively active and interact with many different kinds of people throughout the day, helping you avoid boredom.
Many entry-level retail jobs accept applicants with no previous experience, which gives you a great way to learn on the job and work your way into supervisory or management positions.
No matter what level of retail experience you have, you’ll likely need to participate in an interview with a hiring manager to demonstrate your qualifications for the role. In this article, we’ll cover the most common retail interview questions and answers to prepare you for your next interview.
What are retail managers looking for in employees?
Let’s start by understanding what kinds of skills and qualities you’ll need for a retail job. Then, when we cover the interview questions for retail jobs later on, you’ll be able to customize your answers based on how you demonstrate these abilities.
With more than 15.6 million people employed in the retail industry, there is a lot of diversity in the types of people working in retail. In general, though, you’ll need skills like customer service, communication, and teamwork to do well in a retail job.
Retail managers may also ask about relevant experience you have in merchandising, inventory management, or with the brand in general.
Some major retail brands, such as IKEA, may have some particular qualities that they value in their employees, such as someone being “willing to go the extra mile.” Knowing this can help you understand what your hiring manager may be looking for.
When you answer interview questions for retail, you’ll want to provide examples and anecdotes demonstrating these qualities and skills in action.
Common interview questions for retail store jobs
Hiring managers will likely ask about your experience, motivation, and some logistics like availability during your interview. Here are some sample questions.
Many job interview questions begin with discussing your previous work experience in that industry. In a retail setting, you’ll find some like this:
What is your previous experience in retail work? Summarize your previous jobs and responsibilities in retail, highlighting any special knowledge.
Do you have any other relevant experience? Talk about experiences from any industry in customer service, teamwork, or management, as well as experience relevant to that store’s product offerings.
What is your experience with our brand? Be honest. If you’ve been a longtime customer, feel free to mention it. If you were attracted to apply for other reasons, highlight those.
In very brand-forward retail stores, you may be asked about why you want to work there and how your values align with their brand.
For instance, Trader Joe’s prides itself on offering a “fun, friendly, and informative” customer experience. Because of this, hiring managers will likely be looking for employees who can demonstrate these qualities.
In an interview for this brand, you might be asked about what draws you to this type of experience. Try to align your answer with the company’s values — this will require you to do some research beforehand.
Hiring managers may be looking for people with specific availability or people who are comfortable taking on extra responsibilities in order to keep the store running.
Here are a few sample logistics interview questions for retail jobs:
What is your weekly availability?
Do you have experience handling store keys or cash?
Do you have reliable transportation to and from work?
Are you comfortable with tasks such as lifting, cleaning, or carrying?
Be sure to be upfront about your capabilities and limitations. It’s important for the smooth, safe functioning of any retail location.
Behavioral interview questions for retail
Behavioral interview questions typically ask you to provide an example of how you handled situations on the job.
These types of questions help hiring managers understand your way of thinking and approaching problems. They also help you demonstrate your relevant skills through a story.
Here are some behavioral interview questions for retail that you can practice ahead of time:
Tell me about a time you had to handle a difficult customer.
Give me an example of how you learn quickly.
What would you do if a customer arrived just after closing?
How do you handle problems with your coworkers? Give an example.
When answering behavioral interview questions, try to think of clear examples of how you’ve demonstrated skills like good customer service or effective communication.
Interview questions for retail store positions
When interviewing for specific retail positions, the hiring manager may have questions about different skills or experiences to make sure they’re hiring someone that’s a good fit for the company.
In this section, we’ll cover interview questions for retail management and retail associate positions.
Retail manager interview questions
For a retail manager job, you’ll need more experience and possibly some specialized knowledge.
These questions show what kind of retail experience you might be asked about in a job interview:
Have you been a shift supervisor/leader, keyholder, or lead cashier?
Do you have experience with this brand/type of retail store?
How knowledgeable are you about our products?
What is your experience with handling cash or other accounting tasks?
Have you ever hired or trained new employees?
Different retailers may have different needs at the management level. For instance, a retail manager at an art store may need different knowledge and experience than a manager at a kitchen supply store.
Interview questions for retail sales associate
Many retail associate positions are entry-level, so you don’t necessarily need previous experience in order to get the job.
As you learn and excel in your retail position, you may learn new skills and take on additional responsibilities.
In a retail associate interview, the hiring manager will ask you general questions about your experience, comfort, and approach to situations you may encounter during a shift.
Here are a few examples:
Do you have experience in customer service or working on a sales floor?
How would you prioritize tasks during a busy time in the store?
What would you do if a customer was rude to you?
Do you feel comfortable pitching the company credit card or rewards program?
Can you operate a cash register or point-of-sale system?
Hiring managers may also ask other common interview questions, such as “what is your greatest strength?”
When answering these questions, be honest about your experience and abilities. Remember to highlight important qualities for retail jobs like communication skills, customer service, and teamwork.
Practice your retail store interview questions and answers
By reviewing these interview questions for retail and thinking through your answers ahead of time, you'll be well prepared for your retail store job interview.
Customize your answers based on your own experience and the precise position you’re applying for. Don’t forget to practice!
For more interview tips and resources, check out the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.