Retail Job Interview Questions and Best Answers

The Best Answers to Give During a Retail Interview

This illustration features retail interview questions including "What is good customer service?", "Do you work well with people?", "What would you do if your replacement doesn't show up?", and "What hours are you available?"

 Julie Bang / The Balance Careers

Although interviewing for a job can be stressful, it doesn't have to be. Careful preparation can strip uncertainty out of the experience and ensure that you present yourself in a confident, competent way.

This is especially important when you’re interviewing for a job in the retail industry. You’ll need to show the hiring manager that you have the interpersonal skills to provide optimal service to your customers.

Before the big day, make sure you have a few appropriate interview outfits to choose from and that you have done your homework. That means researching the company you are applying to and reviewing your responses to likely interview questions.

In addition to helping you sell yourself to the interviewer, your communication skills will also help you excel in a retail position.

Typical Questions Asked in a Retail Job Interview

Let's dive into 10 typical questions that are asked in a retail job interview. By having awareness of the questions and perfecting your responses, your chances of success will greatly improve.

1. What Is Good Customer Service?

What They Want to Know: Interviewers are eager to find out if your definition of customer service matches the company's definition. For brick-and-mortar stores, providing a memorable, positive experience for customers is essential to success.

To me, the heart of good customer service is accommodating customers. That means greeting them cheerfully and having the knowledge to answer their questions. I always give customers a smile and greeting and try to get to know store inventory as well. This ensures that if a customer has a question about sizing or fit, I'm ready with an answer. 

2. Do You Work Well With People?

What They Want to Know: Retail work is often collaborative. Interviewers want to know if you will be able to get along with your fellow employees. Some interviewers may also be watching for signs that an employee will be too social at work, so be thoughtful in your response. Go beyond "yes" in your response to this question—provide examples or talk about how your colleagues would describe you in order to expand on your response.

I believe I work well with others. It's an ability that's really important in retail, where it's essential for every person on the floor to seem like they're part of the same team. I am always thinking of others and putting myself in their shoes, which helps me see things from the perspective of others.

3. What Hours Are You Available?

What They Want to Know: Interviewers need to know which shifts you'll be available to work. Be honest in your response, but also be aware that interviewers are likely to want to hire people with flexible schedules. If your availability is flexible, mention that in your answer. The more flexible you are, the better your chances are of being hired.

Since I'm in college, I'm not available during class hours. For me, that's Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, as well as early on Friday morning. Other than that, I'm available to work any shift you have available—and I'm eager for hours, so nights and weekends are fine with me.

4. Why Are You Applying to Work Here?

What They Want to Know: Your answer to this question will reveal if you feel positive (and even passionately) about the company and its products, or just want any job. Obviously, interviewers know you need a job. You'll have to express other reasons you are applying to work for their company in particular. The best responses are specific and focused on the company (not you).

All my life I've been a big reader. That's a solo activity mostly, but I love to make recommendations to friends and family. I'd love to work at ABC Bookstore to be able to help customers find books—whether it's a specific title they can't find on the shelves or a just-right title for a celebratory occasion.

5. What Would You Do If Your Replacement Didn’t Show Up?

What They Want to Know: Leaving your spot is not the right answer. Interviewers are looking to see that you know maintaining coverage is more important than your personal plans. This question is also a way to demonstrate your problem-solving skills and commitment during times where your replacement didn't show.

My first step would be to reach out to my replacement, to get a sense of the situation. I'd want to know if the person is a complete no-show or just stuck in traffic. Then, I'd find my supervisor and let her know about the situation, so we could figure out options together. 

6. If Hired, How Long Do You Plan on Working Here?

What They Want to Know: The hiring process and training of new employees is time-consuming and expensive for employers. Interviewers want to get a sense of whether you'll be sticking around or just taking the job for a few months. If you are planning on a very short-term stint, you do not need to mention it.

If hired, I'd like to work with ABC Company on a long-term basis. I'm in school for the next four years, and eager for a consistent role and to be part of the team here.

7. The Credit Card Machine Is Broken. What Do You Say to Customers?

What They Want to Know: Technological and other glitches can happen when you work in retail. Interviewers are looking for a glimpse of your problem-solving and communication skills in your response to this question.

The sooner that people know the machines are down, the better. So first, I'd make sure my manager was aware of the situation. Then, I'd suggest putting up a sign to inform customers that the machine is down, so they can run to the ATM before getting to the cash register. As customers pay, I'd apologize for the inconvenience and thank them for their understanding.

8. What Is Your Greatest Strength?

What They Want to Know: Interviewers want to know if your strengths match the company's needs. In your response, emphasize relevant skills that will benefit the company and help you on the job.

My greatest strength is my ability to communicate. Having strong communication skills means that I can work well with other team members, and that I am also very comfortable interacting with customers. I tend to think of myself as a real people-person, and I genuinely enjoy interacting with customers and helping them find the items they're looking for.

9. Why Do Customers Shop at This Store? 

What They Want to Know: Interviewers want to assess your understanding of the company's brand and the shopping experience the company seeks to provide. This is your opportunity to show off any company research you've done, so if you've visited the store and noticed something meaningful, share it in your response.

It's all about the experience. For instance, at my local store, there's always a candle burning. Other branches I've been to have fresh flowers. And I've noticed how the clerks give me a cheerful greeting and personalized recommendations. No one ever seems like they're aggressively selling to me. From start to finish, I think customers enjoy the experience of stopping in at ABC Company—it's like a treat.

10. How Would You Handle an Irate Customer Asking to Speak to a Manager?

What They Want to Know: Not everything goes smoothly all the time. Interviewers want to assess how you'd deal with a stressful situation.

When I speak to customers, I always try to be empathetic and truly understand and fix the issue. But sometimes, a problem isn't fixable or a customer is just in a truly bad mood. If a customer asked to speak to my supervisor, I'd agree, and also apologize for not being able to resolve the situation. Then, I'd grab my supervisor as fast as possible, and explain the circumstances so my supervisor would be prepared to deal with the customer. Afterwards, I'd probably ask my supervisor for feedback, in case there's anything I can do to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Sample Math Questions

To assess your skill with numbers, you may be asked to do a few math questions relevant to retail. The interviewer wants to know that you have the basic math skills that are required for the job. Here are a few examples of common math interview questions for retail employees. 

  • The customer's purchase totals $13.93. She gives you a $10 bill and a $5 bill. How much change do you give her?
  • Each pot of coffee holds 6 cups. We usually sell 10 cups of coffee every 15 minutes. How many pots of coffee will you need to make during our two-hour rush?
  • Potato chips are on sale at half price. They sell for $1.19. How much is 50% off?
  • $8.50 x 4% = ___

How to Answer Retail Job Interview Questions

During a retail job interview, your interviewer’s goal will be to get a sense of your personality and work style. That’ll help reveal if you're a good fit for the company.

Answer questions about yourself honestly, but be mindful of creating the best possible impression. 

You’ll also likely get questions about your customer service abilities since retail jobs involve being around many people each day. Look for ways to show in your responses that you will prioritize the customer and provide strong customer service (even if customers are demanding or difficult). Keep your interviewers in mind while giving your responses. What do they want to hear? Your responses should cater to that.

How to Prepare for a Retail Job Interview

Interviewers will be looking for candidates who would fit in on the company's sales floor. If you can, spend some time in the store before your interview. Watching how employees interact with customers can provide helpful insight.

You should be knowledgeable about the products sold in the store and have a sense of the company’s brand.

Visit the store’s website and read the “About Us” page, and look at the company’s social media accounts as well to get a sense of the company’s identity.

This research, along with preparing your responses to common retail interview questions, will help you ace the interview.

Questions to Ask the Interviewer

One of the questions you may be asked during a job interview for a retail position is, "Do you have any questions for me?" Remember that interviewing works both ways, and asking questions is an opportunity to be sure the job is a good fit for you. 

Have a list of questions ready to ask that will clarify the job requirements, your schedule, the flexibility of the position, and anything else that would help you decide whether you would want the job if it were offered to you. Only ask questions that have not already been addressed during the interview.

  • How many hours per week do you expect that I would work?
  • Do you schedule people for primarily the same hours every week, or do they vary greatly?
  • How many sales associates are on the floor during a shift?
  • Will I be part of a team or be working primarily independently?
  • Can you describe for me a typical day in this position?
  • What do you like best about working here and least about working here?
  • When should I expect to hear from you?

How to Make the Best Impression

Dress Appropriately: Select an appropriate interview outfit to make a good impression with your interviewer.

Keep it Positive: When your interviewer greets you, make sure to smile and give a good handshake. You'll want to be upbeat and have high energy during your interview. Both of these characteristics are desirable in retail employees.

Get Ready in Advance: Come prepared for the interview. That means having basic knowledge about the company and its products, as well as practicing your responses to the interview questions above.