Interview Questions and Answers for Retail Job Roles

How to answer retail interview questions

Interviews for retail jobs can be tough. You need to show you’re friendly and helpful, that you’re a good team player and can also deal with difficult situations. What’s more, you might be interviewing in a group of other applicants, especially for retail jobs with more of a sales focus.

The key to doing well in a retail interview is, of course, preparation. By taking the time in advance to think of answers to common interview questions, you’ll be able to answer quickly and easily and come across as confident and polished.  Those questions will generally fall into two areas: generic questions about retail and questions relating more specifically to the role.

If you’ve worked in retail before, you’ll have plenty of examples to draw on in the interview. If this is you first retail job, it’s going to be important to think up relevant examples from elsewhere in life. Perhaps you were good at maths at school – this is always helpful on the tills. Or maybe you’re great at organising things – this will be useful when it comes to doing stock takes and shelf-stacking.

We’ve put together a list of some of the most common types of interview questions for retail jobs, as well as some of our top interview tips.

Types of retail job interview questions

Let’s look at some specific examples of shop assistant interview questions and answers to see how you could respond.


Questions about your previous retail roles

Example question: “Your last job was at a garden centre – that’s quite different from working at a record store. Will you be comfortable working in a different environment?”

What the interviewer is really asking: They want to find out what transferable skills you have from previous roles.

Example response: “While there are some obvious differences between the jobs, there are also many similarities. For example, customers would often ask for help finding specific plants in my last position – which is much like how customers will ask for information on where to find certain music genres. The important thing for me is learning the layout of the store so I’m ready to offer help to customers as soon as they need it.”


Questions about teamwork

Example: “Your colleague has failed to turn up to replace you on the next shift. What would you do?”

What the interviewer is really asking: This is an example of a challenging situation – they want to see how you take responsibility and how you think.

Example response: “My first response would be to call the individual and find out where they were. If I couldn’t get through, I would talk to the shift manager to arrange a solution. I’m a flexible person, and as long as I had no other pressing engagements, I’d be very happy to stay on until an alternative was found.”


Questions about your ambitions

Example: “Where do you expect to be in five years’ time?”

What the interviewer is really asking: They want to know if you hope to grow and progress at the company, or move on as soon as something better comes up. It’s not always a bad thing to have different plans, but for some roles they’ll want people to stay long-term.

Example response: “I really enjoy working in retail and have a true passion for music and film. I’d be really keen to continue working for your company long-term, and once I have the experience, would like to step up to a management role.”


“I will be going to university next September so I expect that I will have to leave this job then. However, I will continue working part-time while I am a student and would love to keep working for your company’s branch in my new city if there is any opportunity for a transfer.”


A challenging customer

Example: “A customer says a colleague has been rude to them and is becoming irate. How would you handle the situation?”  

What the interviewer is really asking: They want to see how you deal with conflict.  

Example response: “I would intervene and ask the customer to talk to me in a different part of the shop. I would then ask them to describe what the problem was, and try and come up with a solution that would satisfy them. If necessary, I’d ask my colleague to apologise.”  


Problems with colleagues

Example: “You discover a colleague has been giving his friends a staff discount. How do you respond?”  

What the interviewer is really asking: They want to find out how honest you are, as well as whether you can be diplomatic.  

Example response: I would first approach the colleague in question and ask him if he’s really allowed to do that. If he acknowledged it was against the rules and said he wouldn’t do it again, I would leave it. If he told me he didn’t think it was a problem or to mind my own business, I would approach my manager in confidence.”


Proof that you know about the business

Example: “How are record stores reacting to online music streaming?”  

What the interviewer is really asking: They want to see if you understand their business and how it works – this shows you have a genuine interest in the company.  

Example response: “The massive growth in online streaming of music has obviously hit record shops. However, by diversifying the kinds of goods they sell – including things like merchandise, music tickets, vinyl, record players, posters and even hosting gigs in-store, record stores can make themselves relevant and offer unique experiences you couldn’t get online.”

With that advice on board, you should now be feeling confident and ready for your next interview. While you wait, why not get more interviews lined up! Find more retail jobs and read up on our expert interview advice.