Sometimes going through an interview for a retail job can seem as stressful as moving house or getting married. From the initial online application to the phone interviews, tasks and even possible presentations, it’s a process that can be really confusing. So to make it a little easier, we’ve made you a checklist of the things you should be doing before, during and after the interview, aren’t we good to you?
No matter how you get interviewed for your retail job, over the phone, face-to-face or in a group, use these simple tips and your next job interview could be stress free…ish.
Before the interview
In preparation for the interview you should
- Read the company's website — It’s time to do some digging around the company you want to work for. Some organisations like the Arcadia Group will own more than one company, so after looking at their official website, be sure to look at their corporate site too, it can be hard to find so you might have to play detective. Once you find it, read up on the business, the more you know about them, the better prepared you’ll be.
- Re-read the job description — Have a clear idea of what the job calls for and think about how your skills relate to the job. Give your cover letter a glance over, it’ll refresh your memory about the experience and skills you can elaborate on.
- Read trade publications and retail news — Trade association sites, such as the British Retail Consortium and Skillsmart Retail, have a ton of information to help your research.
- Visit the store — If they have a store nearby, go check it out. Observe how the staff interact with customers and how they sell their products, it’ll be worth mentioning at the interview.
- Pick smart, appropriate clothes — A messy appearance is the easiest mistake to make and is also the most avoidable. Wear an outfit that reflects the company, so if it’s a fashion job, wear something fashionable, simple. If in doubt, you can’t go wrong with a classic suit or black skirt and blouse, effortlessly smart.
- Plan your trip — The chances are you’ve never been to the location before, so plan it well in advance. Check your journey and leave with plenty of time to spare, better to be early than late.
Questions to prepare
It’s a question you’re bound to get asked, “Have you got anything you’d like to ask us?” It’s always a good idea to have some questions ready to ask, but amongst the nerves it’s natural to draw a blank, so here are some suggestions:
- When you compare yourself to your competitors, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What have been some of your most successful initiatives?
- What opportunities are there for advancement and training?
During the interview
If you’ve done your research, turned up on time and looked presentable, that’s half the battle won, now you have to impress the interviewer. Retailers want to employ people who not only work hard but that can get on with their colleagues and customers . Here is how you can create a good impression within the first few minutes of the interview:
- Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet from the security guard onwards. Of course it’s never advisable to be rude, but you can never be sure who will have an input into the selection process.
- Use positive body language — Make eye contact with the interviewer as soon as you enter the room, shake hands firmly and only sit down once you’re asked.
- Make an effort to address your comments to everyone if it's a panel interview.
- Don't risk telling any in-jokes. There's every chance they've heard them all before and it just makes you look a bit cheesy, and no one wants to hire a bad comedy act.
- Use specific examples — Wherever possible illustrate your answers with examples, it’ll give the interviewer a better understanding of your skills and accomplishments. For example, if they ask you how you would deal with an unhappy customer, talk about how you’ve dealt with it in a previous job.
- Ask about next steps — Don't forget to ask what happens next and when you can expect to hear if you have made it through to the next stage in the process
Common questions you may be asked
Interviewers like to throw a spanner into the works and occasionally ask you tricky questions, but don't be put off by them. If you have followed our tips so far and prepared well, you’ll be able to handle it. Here are some common tricky questions you might get.
Why do you want this job?
It's the natural next step for you, and this is the right company for you to further your career. If you've got any previous retail knowledge, show it off, don’t be afraid to promote what you know, especially if it's about their company. You’ve worked hard preparing for this interview, make all that research worthwhile.
What are your strengths?
You'll always be asked this so make sure you have some clear answers that are relevant to the job. For example, an ability to handle tricky situations may be relevant for a customer service role and being a great team player will be useful for many roles in retail.
You've worked for several different retailers in the past few years. How do we know you will stay with us?
Don't be defensive if you have changed jobs frequently. It's fairly common in retail jobs and nothing to be worried about. Explain that great opportunities came your way to work with different companies but now you’re looking for solid career opportunities. Let them know that you intend to stay with them and are serious about the role.
You've never worked in retail. Why should we take you seriously?
If they’ve offered you an interview, they’re obviously interested in you, so don’t panic if you haven’t got a lot of experience, everyone has to start somewhere. Make sure you tell them about any relevant sales skills, customer service experience or knowledge of the retail sector.
After the interview
Phew, the interview is over, and you’re absolutely exhausted right? Good news: that’s the hard bit over, but there are still some things you can do.
- Evaluate — Sit down somewhere quiet for a few minutes to think about the questions you were asked and how you might improve your answers next time.
- Send a thank-you note — Manners cost nothing, so when you get home send them a quick email thanking the recruiter for their time. It might sound pointless, but you'd be surprised where being polite can get you.
- Follow up — Not heard from them yet? If it’s been a while it doesn't hurt to ring or email the recruiter. Use a little common sense though, don’t just ring the next day, you’ll end up annoying them, and you don’t want that. If you didn’t get the job, you can still ask for feedback, it’ll help you for next time.
This may sound like a lot to remember, but interviews get easier each time you do them. Now go and have a cup of tea and a biscuit, you deserve it.
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