The retail interview: How to ensure success

It’s great that you have decided to work in retail – Often flexible hours, store discounts and the opportunity to engage with different people every day.  But before you get excited, it is time to smash the interview. It is vital that you fully prepare for this interview in order to stand out from the crowd.


We have included advice from our dedicated retail consultant team here at Detail2 and all of our consultants have previously worked in the retail industry so they are fully equipped with the knowledge and advice needed to succeed in the retail sector.

Don’t worry if you’ve never worked in retail before, we’ve put together this post to ensure retail interview success!

1. What do you ask retail candidates to do to prepare for an interview?

The first thing each member of the retail team said was to visit 2-3 of the sites and conduct a SWOT analysis on the company. Our consultant Nigel also added “if going for a store management role then three including the store they are applying for”.

Secondly, an insight into the history of the company and some current key facts is fundamental during an interview. Our consultant Lance added that this information is “always good as an ice breaker for interviewers and an opening question is often “what do you know about us?”.

Our Senior Consultant Nigel also mentioned to “read any press releases about the client or their competitors to find out what is happening in the market place and to look at the latest annual report”.

Our retail team also stated the importance of gaining an insight into their competition and figure out what they are doing better. By doing this, you can suggest ideas for the future that may be valuable to the company or even comment on bad things they are doing as a warning of what not to do.

Finally, our Senior Consultant Mick added that “if you’re one of the few who *don’t* then you’re setting yourself up to fail. The important thing is what you do with this prep advice... It’s all well and good knowing that the company was formed in 1936 and that you visited a couple of sites... but you need to talk about this in a passionate way and have a genuine interest in the news which you’ve found out and the store visit which you’ve done. If you don’t display this passion, then you might as well have not done the prep”.

2. Are there any common questions candidates ask?

The list of questions could go on and on but here are a few that our retail team deemed to be the most common...

  • “What shall I wear?”

This depends on the type of role you are applying for... If you are going for a more senior role, it is important to dress in casual business attire. You want to make a good first impression and let the interviewer know you take pride in your appearance. You don’t need to dress formally, but you do need to be neat and tidy. However, depending on the brand, you can dress for that brand. For example, if you are applying for a sales assistant role at a fashion brand, it would be appropriate to dress for that brand and reflect their style.

What type of retail interviewer wouldn’t love to see you dipped head to toe in their clothes? It shows you have thought about what you are going to wear and should hopefully make a positive impression.

  • “Who is conducting the interviews?”

There is not much personal information that can be giving away about the interviewer but our consultants can tell you a bit about the interviewer’s professional background and what role they have within the business you are being interviewed for. This should give you a rough idea about who you are going to face on interview day.

  • “Who else/how many other candidates are they seeing?”

Our retail consultants would be able to let you know if you were down to the final 5, for example, but they couldn’t tell you the names of these candidates because quite frankly, they wouldn’t know! (Unless our retail team managed to put forward all the candidates for the role).

3. Do you have any interview tips for retail candidates?

Here is a list of our consultant Nigel’s top tips for a retail interview!

  • Review your CV and ensure you note how you made your achievements happen – not just the top line.
  • Keep calm there will always be a point during the interview where you feel under pressure – they are also nervous about getting the interview right!
  • Think of 5 of your strong points (not I am a firm but fair leader) and 5 development areas (not I am a perfectionist).
  • Remember it’s good to be nervous – it shows that the interview is important to you.

Secondly, here is our consultant Mick’s advice for retail interview... “If you’re already a manager and have experience in interviewing yourself, have a think back to the people who you’ve interviewed. I’m sure that there are a number of people who you’ve interviewed in the past who you weren’t expecting to hire, but still got the job.

It’s not because you’d miss-read the CV (probably) but rather because they came into the interview with a positive attitude and won you over with their personality and drive. Often candidates – especially for jobs they really want – can try to seem so serious (in an attempt to show the gravitas) that they lose all personality. They’re afraid to smile or make a joke for fear of looking flippant.

Enjoy the interview. Yes, BE PROFESSIONAL, but if you have fun in the interview then you’re more likely to be successful”.

Finally, if the above tips aren’t enough, here are a few more retail interview tips from consultant Lance...

  • Purchase from the store/site and get a real life customer experience (it is expected)
  • Prepare factual replies (2 or 3) around each of the key requirements
  • Know your CV inside out as they will be referring to it in the questions that they ask
  • Be on time!

After reading this post, we’re sure that you’ll perform to the best of your ability during your interview!

If you are thinking of a new job in the retail industry or thinking of a career change, take a look at our latest retail opportunities here.

Why not also take a look at our previous posts on how to use interview feedback to your advantage or how to learn to love your new job.

Don’t forget you can also sign up to our newsletter to keep up-to-date with any more interview tips and tricks!


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