How to Answer Retail Interview Questions

The interview process for retail jobs tends to be relatively straightforward. It’s helpful to discover which questions will be asked for the specific position you’re applying for in addition to the qualities needed for the job. Learn how to answer retail interview questions and demonstrate that you have the necessary interpersonal skills by taking a look at these interview questions and sample answers.

Why do retail employers ask tough interview questions?

Retail employers ask tough interview questions that some applicants may not expect when applying for a job that’s traditionally viewed as something easily attainable. The reason is they want the position to be filled by someone who not only has the necessary skills but the willingness to commit to a job that has high turnover.

Tough questions help draw out details about who you are as a person and as an employee. Asking you to give a detailed description of yourself isn’t exactly something you can do briefly, but there are interview questions that can draw out the same information. Additionally, employers will seek to understand your thought processes and experiences. Interview questions will challenge you to think logically and quickly or force you to solve problems on the fly regarding hypothetical situations.

Common retail interview questions

When preparing for a retail interview, it’s important to think of the most common questions and the variety of scenarios that can be applied to the work environment. 

Here are some of the common retail interview questions you should be prepared to answer:

Why do you want to work in retail?

Retail as an industry isn’t something that everyone is capable of succeeding in, as the work is mentally and physically challenging. This question is designed to discover whether or not you’re aware of the challenges and up to the task of meeting them, so make sure your answer demonstrates knowledge of the retail environment and details how your skills can lead to success.

Example: ‘I enjoy the challenge of working in a fast-paced environment and as part of a team. Interacting with others comes naturally to me whether they be customers or coworkers, so retail is an industry where I can let my personable approach thrive for both the customer’s and the company’s benefit.’

How do you work with people?

Interacting with others is an integral aspect of retail work, and whether it’s with coworkers or customers, you’re expected to have communication skills that can drive quality customer service practices. Describing yourself as too social could be a red flag for an interviewer since it indicates that time could potentially be wasted talking to your coworkers about matters unrelated to work, so your answer needs to highlight both your approachability and professionalism.

Example: ‘Working with others is one of my greatest strengths. I’ve found that proper service is achieved by clear communication for everyone involved. That means I have to communicate ideas clearly to others, and I also have to listen to others share their ideas with me. At the end of the day, customers and coworkers alike just want to be treated like human beings. Working with a coworker should focus on accomplishing tasks or solving problems. Working with a customer should focus on maximizing the quality of their shopping experience.’

How would you handle a difficult customer?

Hypothetical questions like this are designed to be challenging as they force you to think on your feet to demonstrate logic and problem-solving skills. It’s helpful to draw on past experience to answer this question, but if you don’t have any, you can always invent a scenario before giving your answer. Answering with an example will offer greater insight into how you would operate as an employee, and that’s exactly what the question is designed to do.

Example: ‘Remaining calm is the most important aspect of dealing with a difficult customer. People often act irrationally in an attempt to provoke a reaction, so if you deny them that, it may lead to a more reasonable exchange. Of course, I would do my best to solve the problem as well. Let’s say a customer is being difficult because an item they thought was on sale isn’t actually discounted to the extent they thought. The first step would be showing them the specifics of the sale sign. If they remain difficult, I could see if we had a coupon available for the item. If all else fails, I would ask to simply give them the discount, after clearing it with management, since any potential loss on the item wouldn’t be worth as much as creating negative experiences for the other customers in line.’

Even some of the most common interview questions can be challenging to answer during the moment, so it’s important to prepare as much as possible. The first step is to get in touch with other people in the retail industry to discover what kind of questions they were asked and what answers they gave. Finally, don’t be afraid to take your time when answering. It’s completely acceptable to ask for a moment to think of a thoughtful answer to retail job interview questions.