Retail Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Esteban Gomez | July 20, 2021

It is important that you put people on your team that will drive brand loyalty and repeat customers.

Hiring for retail employees is no easy feat. The retail industry has its own set of unique challenges when it comes to hiring…high turnover rate and hiring volumes, a great deal of competition, and a record number of interview no-shows.

Sometimes you find candidates with a great deal of retail experience, but they lack the ability to connect with your customers. Or you find yourself with a candidate that is incredibly personable but doesn’t have the can-do attitude to drive sales.

So how do you find the best retail employees? By asking the right retail interview questions. Your retail employees are the face of your brand so it is important that you put people on your team that will drive brand loyalty and repeat customers.

What Makes a Great Retail Employee?

In preparation for interviews, you need to begin by assessing what traits or skills make an ideal retail employee. As you choose your retail interview questions to ask candidates, these top traits are what you want to keep in mind:

  1. Desire to make others happy: this trait is the most important to possess when working in retail. Your employees are working directly with your customers and employees that don’t care about making sure customers’ needs are met are not a good long-term fit.. 
  2. Quick learner: retail is fast paced with constant new information to learn. Your retail employees need to know all the information to meet the needs of the customers. 
  3. Patient: retail work can sometimes be hectic. Your employees need to deal with angry customers, demanding customers, kids running around the store…and they need to address it all with a smile on their face. Patience can be learned, but it will make your life easier if your retail employees are patient from the start.
  4. Friendly: retail employees need to talk to strangers regularly. A naturally welcoming and friendly retail employee will stick with the job much longer than one that is not naturally friendly. 
  5. A good multitasker: an ideal retail employee needs to have the skills to talk to a customer and fold clothes or stock a shelf at the same time. As noted, retail is fast paced and your employees will need to be able to multitask on a daily basis.

Tip: Once you have chosen traits or skills to focus on, use on-demand interviews to assess your applicants for these skills before moving them on to a live video or in-person interview.

Top Five Interview Questions for Retail Employees

Once you have identified which traits you are looking for in your retail employees, you can select the interview questions needed for you to find the best retail employees. We have put together a list of five retail interview questions that focus on the traits above. These questions will help you find the strongest retail employees in your applicant pool:

  1. What does customer service mean to you? Retail jobs are centered around customer service. Happy customers are repeat customers, therefore, you need retail employees that want to create happy customers. The way your candidate views customer service will give you insight into their behavior on the job. You can also follow up with a behavioral question, like “Tell me about a time you were able to help someone and it brought them joy?”
  2. Provide us with an example of a new skill you had to learn in a previous job. Don’t include the word “quickly.” You want to use probing questions to discover if your candidate will be able to catch on quickly to all the learning demands of retail. Asking them if they are a quick learner does not give you evidence to support their answer. 
  3. Tell me about a time your patience was tested at work and how you handled it. Situational-type questions help you get a better understanding of how your candidate would solve problems in the job they are applying for. This question measures a candidate’s patience and how they have used it to solve problems. Retail employees will have their patience tested often so you need to ensure it is a strong trait your candidate possesses.
  4. Do you consider yourself to be a friendly person? Andy Lansing, President and Chief Executive of Levy Restaurants noted in an article that he begins every interview with the question, “Are you nice?” Part of the reason he asks this is that it catches many candidates off guard. Nice is very similar to friendly.  You want your candidate to answer with an anecdote from a previous position  in which they demonstrated friendliness. In retail, friendly employees are a necessity.
  5. What is the secret to successful multitasking? Multitasking is heavily emphasized in retail and new hires need to understand the importance of prioritization. There is no right or wrong answer here, but you will get a sense of the candidate’s ability to prioritize and if they can excel at completing all the tasks the job requires.

Hire the Best Retail Employees with interviewstream

Retail has vastly changed over the last fifteen months. As the world begins to open up and we get back to normal, you need retail employees with the traits that will keep your consumers spending money in your store or on your website.

This begins with your hiring process (and the right interview questions). Great retail associates are out there. They are looking for great retail employers. So craft your interview questions well, and know that in retail, the traits they hold will often make them stronger team members than the prior experience they may or may not have.

Learn how you can leverage interviewstream’s video interviewing platform to fill your team with the best retail employees by talking to an expert today.

About The Author

Esteban Gomez is a marketing consultant with interviewstream. He loves learning and has a passion for traveling, having visited many countries including China, Colombia, Italy, and Peru.


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