How to Prepare for a Retail Job Interview
by Kristin Vegh
After lots of preparation and research, you've finally gotten called in for a retail interview. Your thoughtful cover letter and engaging resume made a great first impression on the hiring manager. Now the anxiety sets in. What types of questions will they ask? What should you bring to the interview? What will you wear?
Don't sweat it too much. There are steps you can take to prepare for the big interview and ease your fears. Start by reviewing common interview questions to see the kinds of questions you might face. Then follow these retail job interview tips and you'll be ready for whatever comes next.
The first step in making sure your retail job interview goes well is to plan for the big day:
- Sharpen up your appearance. Remove any chipped nail polish, get a fresh haircut, iron that shirt. In short, clean up your act.
- Review your resume. Take a second look at your resume and scan it for any typos or information you need to update or tweak. Once you're sure it's up to par, print out enough copies to go around in the interview. The reason you'll want to do this is because you want every interviewee to have easy access to your list of skills, experiences and accomplishments during the interview. Also, keep a copy of your resume for yourself. If you get stuck for an answer, you'll have it handy for inspiration.
Finally, collect any other materials the hiring manager may have requested. Put these materials in a folder along with your resume copies, and place in a spot that's easily visible (so you don't forget the folder when you're heading out the door to the interview).
- Know your route. What time of day is your interview? Will there be traffic? Are you driving or taking public transportation? Make sure you give yourself plenty of time for unexpected delays that traffic and public transportation might cause, as well as parking. Plan to arrive around 15 minutes early to explore the retail store and familiarize yourself with the products and environment (if you haven't done so already). Knowing the products and retail environment will certainly come in handy during the interview.
Dress for success
First impressions really do matter. Your appearance impacts how you'll be viewed by the people you meet. For a retail position, you probably don't need to wear a full suit. To get a better feel for what you should wear, go into one of the company's stores and see how their employees dress. You can also reach out to current employees, do some online research, or follow tips like these:
- Keep it clean and simple. Whether you're interviewing for a job at the local hardware store or a high-end boutique, you need to make a good first impression. Trade jeans for pressed trousers and a collared shirt or a practical skirt or dress. Unless the working environment calls for it, avoid bright or funky outfits and cover any tattoos. Ditch the flashy jewelry, as it could be distracting. And be sure to display proper hygiene–use mouthwash, deodorant, and downplay the perfume or cologne, since the interviewer could be allergic to the scent. Showing pride in your appearance lets the retail hiring manager know you take both the interview and the prospective position seriously.
- Be yourself. Make sure that whatever you choose to wear, you feel comfortable and confident. Your outfit might look great, but if you're uncomfortable, you won't be able to focus on answering questions and persuading the interviewer you'll be an asset to their business.
Interviews can be intimidating. If your natural response is to retreat and get tight-lipped when under stress, make it a point to remain calm. Think of ways to keep yourself centered if you get off-topic or intimidated. This can be as simple as taking a deep breath or repeating a question out loud in order to find a little more time to respond.
Your cover letter may have exuded confidence and boasted your superb people skills, but the hiring manager wants evidence that you'll be similarly outgoing in person. Strong interpersonal skills are crucial to working as a customer service associate. A position in retail requires you to be an outspoken ambassador for the products and services your company provides.
Practice interviewing with a friend or family member to get comfortable with the process. Check out our common interview questions and answers to get a head start on your prep. Once you've answered questions a few times you'll feel much clearer about how you'll go about answering them if they should be asked in person.
Also, make sure you bring a few questions of your own to the interview. Asking questions about the job and the company in an interview is perfectly normal and acceptable. In fact, not preparing some questions to ask could count against you and lessen your chances of snagging the job. Taking the initiative to ask questions demonstrates your interest in both the job and the company.
Still have pre-interview jitters? Channel that nervous energy into your enthusiasm for the job. The hiring manager will appreciate how invested you are, and that'll give you a better chance of landing the retail position you want.
After the interview, check out advice for a follow-up. A thoughtful post-interview email or note can convince the hiring manager that you're the right candidate for the job.
You'll likely be looking into more than one retail position, so be sure to customize your resume and cover letter to each retail job interview. Our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder will help you create professional narratives tailored to the specific positions you're applying for, and hopefully secure you not just one, but several dream interviews.