Retail interview questions |

Looking for a role in retail? Here’s how to put yourself in the shop window… 

Starting a career in the retail industry is about more than simply being a people person. There are a number of necessary skills you’ll need to get ahead – including everything from adaptability and working well under pressure, through to being able to maintain a positive attitude and answer whatever questions come your way.  Which means bringing these skills with you into an interview will be vital to help show the employer that you’ll be a great asset to their store or their department. 

We’ve created a retail CV template, and talked about what jobs you can do in retail. To take this one step further, here are some retail interview questions you may be asked – particularly for face-to-face roles – and examples of how you should (and shouldn’t) answer them… 


Retail interview questions


How would you describe good customer service?

The employer may ask this question because they want to be sure that your idea of good customer service matches theirs.

Remember: working in retail is more than just selling, it’s also about delivering a positive experience that the customer remembers and encourages them to shop with the retailer again. 

To answer this question well, reference a time where you gave or received good customer service. That way you aren’t just showing you understand the dictionary definition of  good customer service, but that you also know how to actually put it into practice.


Good answer: “I believe good customer service is making customers feel welcome and relaxed while shopping with us. I always greet people coming into the store with a ‘Hello’ and a smile, but make sure not to make them feel pressured into a purchase right away. It’s also about giving people what they need, whether this is answering a question they have on a product or showing them where something is in store.. In my previous role in a department store, I had a customer ask me a question about an item from a different department. Although it wasn’t in my area of expertise, I quickly phoned someone from the other department who could help out. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll always try and find a colleague who does.” 

Bad answer: “It’s when you pretend the customer is always right (even though they’re usually wrong)”  

Customer service interview questions



What hours can you work?

One of the most common questions that comes up for retail roles will be around your availability. 

The job you’re interviewing for may require you to work set shifts. Employers need to know if you can work these hours, or if not, what hours you can work. However, they may also be looking for someone who can pick up additional hours, if the opportunity comes up.  So it may be that the more flexible you are, the better your chances are of being hired. 

The most important thing to remember here is to simply be honest. Employers will understand you may have other commitments, so being upfront from the outset is something they’ll respect. And if you can allude to any additional hours you may be able to help out with, it’ll act as an added bonus.  


Good answer: “I’m available to work on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8 am to 3 pm. If you’re able to give me some notice, I can work some weekends as well. I’m keen to get as many shifts as possible.” 

Bad answer: “Not sure. It changes from week to week, to be honest”

Full-time hours vs. part-time hours: What you need to know



The card machine is broken, how do you explain this to customers? 

OK, so it’s no secret that shoppers often prefer to pay by card as it’s more convenient than having to carry cash. Something which has also increased during the pandemic. But what do you do when the card machine fails?

The employer is likely asking this question  to see how you react to situations that are out of your control, and how you communicate with customers in stressful situations. 

Informing your colleagues, as well as your customers, in a timely fashion is a good approach here. It’s also a great opportunity to show how you can think creatively to come up with a solution – even if it seems like an awkward situation at the time.


Good answer: “Firstly, I’d inform my manager so they can arrange for the card machine to be fixed or replaced. I’d also suggest putting announcements out over the tannoy system, if there is one, so that customers are aware that payment can only be made by cash. As I’m serving customers, I’d apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused, and also direct them to the nearest cashpoint if they needed to find somewhere to withdraw cash” 

Bad answer: “I’d probably let my manager handle it… ” 



What products do we sell? 

This question is all about showing off your research skills. How much do you really know about the brand? And what do you really think about the range it has on offer?

If you’ve visited one of its stores before, or if you’re a regular shopper, open with this. And always be specific. What was it you liked about the store? What made you come back?

Finish by mentioning a product or two that you like, and you’ll show you’re not just a great candidate. You’re also someone who is passionate about the brand.  


Good answer: “You’re one of the nation’s favourite houseware retailers. In fact, I recently visited a store local to me, and I was impressed by the range of household and garden furniture and accessories you sold. The manager of the garden department was very friendly and helped me choose an outdoor dining set.”

Bad answer: “Dreams?”

How to research a company before you apply



Tell me about a time you exceeded a customer’s expectations?

Retailers want every customer to have a positive experience with them, as it builds trust and encourages shoppers to buy from them in the future. 

The thought behind asking ‘tell me about a time when you exceeded a customer’s expectations’ is to gain an understanding of your motivation and willingness to do more than you’re expected. 

In your answer, include an example of when you went above and beyond to help a customer, and explain how the customer felt about this. 


Good answer: “In my previous job as a Sales Assistant, an elderly couple came into the store to buy their shopping. They had a trolly full of groceries. The trolley was heavy and I could see they were struggling to push it. I offered to push it to their car for them and I also helped load their shopping into the boot of their car. The couple were extremely thankful for my help; they now always come up and say hello to me whenever they come back into the store.” 

Bad answer: “Pass” 

Good customer service examples



More interview questions

We covered interview questions that are retail-specific, but these may not be the only questions you’ll be asked. Individual questions we’ve also covered include:

We’ve also got advice on how to answer different types of interview questions.  

So whether you’re looking for tips on answering career goal, competency or character questions, want to find out some of the latest emerging interview questions, or you just want to prepare for the most common questions that could come up, we’ve got you covered.



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