Retail Interview Tips: Using Hard Skills to Land the Job
by Bonnie Dewkett
When most people consider working a retail job, they think about assisting customers, needing lots of patience for dealing with difficult ones, and spending long hours on their feet. But to be successful in a retail environment, you’ll need more than that.
You’ll also need to master crucial hard skills (also known as technical skills). Hard skills are learned abilities you acquire through specific training and experience. Hard skills for a retail job often involve using technology, from checkout machines to accounting software.
Think about how you can best apply your hard skills on an interview. These skills are what make you stand out from the sea of applicants. Explain how you’ve applied your unique hard skills to previous experiences, and the impact this had on sales.
Follow these tips to leave a lasting impact on the hiring manager:
Understand the point of sale systems
Point of Sale (POS) systems come into play when a customer makes a purchase. A POS system can consist of multiple devices and configurations, including:
- Cash registers
- Scanning devices
- Credit card machines
- Square readers and other smartphone devices
Hardware and software vary by store. This means new retail employees need to learn that organization’s POS technology when they come on board. Some stores even have various types of POS technology under one roof. For example, many systems allow a sales associate to process transactions on handheld devices throughout the store in addition to the traditional checkout registers.
Even if you don’t have experience with the specific system the store you’re applying to uses, demonstrate that you’re familiar with POS systems. You can expect retail job interview questions regarding POS, so be prepared.
Brush up on your product knowledge
Employers will require you to have extensive product knowledge, either in your particular specialty or the business in general. If you’re interviewing for a new position in a similar retail environment ― such as an outdoor recreation store ― be prepared to answer questions that highlight your product knowledge.
Sales associate interview questions are often intended to assess your level of product awareness and the ability to match them to target customers. If you’re applying to a new retail environment, express your willingness to learn.
Display an eye for merchandising
Merchandising refers to the way stores display their products and goods to generate sales effectively. While this may seem like a soft skill, it’s actually quite technical. The merchandising staff must analyze data to determine which products to feature, what areas of the store attract the most traffic, and how to create a winning combination to drive profits.
While merchandising can also include daily tasks such as stocking shelves, much of it is more scientific and requires a unique skill set. Highlight your ability to make the best decisions for utilizing high-value areas of the store such as endcaps, display mannequins and front window displays. Express the importance of planograms in creating an inviting, user-friendly shopping environment and quality signage that sells the merchandise.
Sharpen your accounting skills
One of the most technical skills required for a retail job is accounting. Retail managers and sales associates are trusted to:
- Maintain accurate records
- Pay employees
- Maintain the facility within a set budget
Depending on the size of the store and the level of your position, you may not be responsible for these tasks. If you are put in charge of any of these tasks, you’ll need to learn how to use accounting software like QuickBooks. As you gain experience in your retail career, keep track of the software you’ve learned. Even if the job posting doesn’t mention these advanced skills, they may make you more attractive to a hiring manager.
Prep for management
If you’re taking the leap into retail store management, list out your hard/technical skills and expect to validate these during a retail job interview. Use quantifiable information (i.e., numbers) as often as possible to demonstrate your abilities as a potential retail manager. Instead of saying that you improved sales during the holiday season, provide metrics that show your value:
By utilizing handheld POS devices throughout the store, I was able to check customers out more quickly and increase sales by 22 percent during the month of December.
Do your research
Depending on the retail environment and area to which you’re applying, you may be competing with many candidates for a handful of retail positions. Demonstrating your understanding of retail industry trends shows you’ll make a productive, valuable employee. You should also plan for your future by continuing your education. Seek out classes and seminars to develop your technical skills, leadership and business acumen.
Whether you’re applying for a position in retail management or looking for your first retail job, you need a resume and cover letter that highlight your technical and hard skills as well as your experience and soft skills. Our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Templates will walk you through each step of the process, from organizing your skills to writing a professional summary.