Top 25 Retail Interview Questions (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

Retail jobs can be excellent opportunities. For some, it’s a logical entry into the workforce, a place where you’ll build up your customer service skills and gain experience. It can also be the foundation of a career. After all, there’s room to advance, reach management ranks, or even go corporate.

But, the weird thing is, it can be surprisingly hard to nail a retail interview. There can be a ton of competition, for one. If a handful of candidates all end up interviewing for the job, you can’t rely on cliché responses or arrive unprepared. Your goal is to shine like a diamond, not fade into the background like a pebble in a gravel driveway, so you need to bring it.

For another, you’re probably going to face some unexpected questions. Even if you’ve been through the process before, don’t assume that the interview questions on retail that will be coming your way are the same ones you’ve faced previously. It’s a big mistake if you do.

Now, don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to be your most radiant self when you meet the hiring manager.

How to Answer Retail Interview Questions

Nailing your retail interview is important; there’s no doubt about that. But how do you set yourself up for success? It’s simple…with proper preparation, of course.

Getting ready means not just being familiar with retail interview questions, which we’ll dive into in a second, but also with how to answer them.

So, it’s strategy time!

Retail hiring managers need to make sure you have the fundamental skills for the job. In most cases, this means customer service, communication, and cash handling skills.

Additionally, they’ll be looking for candidates with specific traits. For example, can you imagine a retail worker being successful in their job if they weren’t patient? What about if they weren’t calm under pressure (aka, when a customer isn’t happy and wants a retail worker to fix their problem)? Yeah, we can’t either.

So, how do you show the hiring manager that you have the right skills and traits? By combining the STAR and Tailoring Methods.

We’ve covered the STAR method in detail before. But, if it’s new to you, here’s a quick overview:

As you may have guessed, STAR is an acronym. The letters stand for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. To put it simply, it’s a way to structure a story. And, during an interview, stories are your friend, especially for behavioral interview questions.

How can a story help you shine like the diamond you are? Because a story is compelling and engaging. The approach is more narrative, making it much more interesting than a list of skills, traits, or facts.

As you prepare answers to common retail interview questions, begin by setting a scene. Let the hiring manager know what the situation was; give them context.

Next, summarize your responsibilities in regards to the scene. Then, discuss the actions you took, including details about why you made certain decisions or went in a particular direction.

Finally, wrap it all up with a strong closing that showcases how things turned out.

Mike's Tip: When you’re telling a story, it’s easy to get long winded. You might be thinking, “More detail is better,” but that isn’t true. Instead, you need to be concise. How do you hit the right balance? By limiting yourself. Use only one sentence for the S, T, and R, parts of the STAR Method, and no more than two for A. That way, you’ll stay focused on what’s really important to the narrative.

Okay, so now you can tell an effective story. That’s it, right? Wrong. It just means it’s time to take it up a notch; it’s time for the Tailoring Method.

The Tailoring Method really is about what it sounds like it should be. It’s all about customization, ensuring your interview answers concentrate on the retail company’s needs, preferences, and priorities. You want to position yourself as a solution to any problems the hiring manager is trying to fix by bringing in a new employee.

Essentially, you want to present a tantalizing value proposition. You want to make sure that the hiring manager is doubt-free when it comes to hiring you.

How do you pull that off?

With success stories, of course.

When you select the stories you’re going to share, choose accomplishments that speak directly to the prospective employer’s needs. Make sure your answers are all about what you can do for them and not what they can do for you. If you do, you’ll be speaking the hiring manager’s language, and that helps you stand out.

Top 3 Retail Interview Questions

Alright, you have a reliable strategy for tacking retail interview questions and answers. Now it’s time to see some examples.

But first, it’s crucial to understand that some of these questions might seem really challenging. That’s actually a good thing! Employee satisfaction actually goes up when interviews are a 4 out of 5 on the difficulty scale. So, you should actually be worried if the questions are too easy, not the other way around.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a look at the top three retail interview questions and answers:

1. If a disgruntled customer tries to make a return but isn’t eligible to do so because of company policy, how would you handle the situation?

This question actually serves two functions. First, it lets the hiring manager learn about how you would handle an upset customer. Your answer gives them insights into your personality and skills in regards to navigating a common challenge.

Second, it shows whether you would be respectful of the employer’s policies. Retail companies have policies that dictate how tons of scenarios have to be managed, and knowing you’ll follow them is important.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“I believe that empathy is important, so I would acknowledge their frustration and apologize that they aren’t happy with the product. Then, I would let them know in a calm and professional manner that, unfortunately, the purchase is outside of the company’s return window or is ineligible, providing an overview of the portion of the return policy involved. If that did not fully resolve the issue, and I did not have any other company-approved options to present to the customer, I would offer to get a supervisor to address the issue further.”

2. If a customer’s total is $16.42, and they give you a $20, how much change is owed. How do you give them their change?

While cash registers usually let retail employees know exactly how much change to give a customer, there may be times when that information isn’t available. You never know when a technical issue might arise, such as a broken register screen.

However, a cash register usually doesn’t tell you what bills or coins to hand over, so you’ll need to know how to pick the right options. Additionally, you need to be able to present the change properly, ensuring the customer knows immediately that they have the right amount. This question lets the hiring manager know that you have cash handling, math, and customer service skills.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“If they gave me a $20 and their total was $16.42, then the customer would be owed $3.58 as change. I would pick up three $1 bills, two quarters, one nickel, and three pennies. Then, I would count out the change into the customer’s hand or onto the counter, one bill or coin at a time, keeping a running total as I do. That way, the customer and I can confirm the change is correct.”

3. What would you do if, when it came time for you to leave at the end of your shift, a replacement employee had not yet arrived?

Many retail stores can’t function well if they are shorthanded. The hiring manager wants to know that, if your relief doesn’t show up, you aren’t automatically going to clock out and leave at the end of your shift.

EXAMPLE ANSWER:

“First, I would speak with my supervisor and ask if they needed me to stay in order to maintain the proper coverage. It’s possible they were aware of the situation and made other coverage arrangements or that the missing employee is only minutes away, so I would only remain clocked in past my schedule time if my supervisor requests it. If they do need coverage, then I would discuss the situation with my supervisor to determine what available options could solve the problem and how I could be part of the solution.”

22 More Retail Interview Questions

Here are 22 more common retail interview questions that you may face when you meet with the hiring manager:

    1. Tell me what good customer service is in your eyes.
    2. Can you describe a time when you went above and beyond for a customer? Why did you go the extra mile, and what was the outcome?
    3. What’s your availability? Are you able to work nights, weekends, holidays, and special events like Black Friday?
    4. If you had a choice between working the floor and working the register, which would you choose and why?
    5. Tell me about a time you dealt with an upset customer?
    6. What would you do if, while you were helping a customer, a second customer approached you and asked for your assistance?
    7. If you noticed a coworker was stealing, what would you do?
    8. If you spotted a shoplifter, how would you handle the situation?
    9. While retail environments are often fast-paced, there can be downtime as well. If the store was slow and you didn’t have a specific assignment, how would you make the most of that quieter time?
    10. Are you comfortable with upselling / pitching the store credit card?
    11. If you witnessed a customer being rude or aggressive toward a coworker, what would you do?
    12. If you say a coworker being rude or aggressive toward a customer, what would you do?
    13. Do you believe the customer is always right? Why or why not?
    14. If a customer asks you a question about a product or service we offer and you don’t know the answer, what would you do?
    15. Have you ever been a customer at this store? What was your experience like?
    16. If the debit / credit card reader suddenly goes down, what would you do?
    17. If a customer wants to pay for a large order entirely with change and there’s a line of customers waiting behind them, what do you do?
    18. Imagine you found out that an employee is letting all of their friends and family members use their employee discount. What would you do?

5 Good Questions to Ask at the End of a Retail Interview

Once you reach the end of your retail interview, you’ll usually have a chance to ask some questions yourself. This is an opportunity to learn more about the job and decide if it’s the right one for you. If you aren’t sure what to ask, here are some options.

    1. Can you describe what a typical day looks like for a person in this position?
    2. Will I have the same schedule every week, or will it change? How far in advance is the schedule posted?
    3. Is there a specific number of hours or shifts that I should expect to work?
    4. Are there any events or situations, like Black Friday or inventory days, that come with mandatory shifts or attendance?
    5. What is the most popular product in the store? What about the least popular?

Putting it All Together

It’s true that heading to any interview can be anxiety-inducing. But, if you’re properly prepared, you can handle any retail interview questions the hiring manager tosses your way. Just focus on your strategy, practice your answers, and have great examples at the ready. You’re an excellent candidate. Make sure the hiring manager knows it.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.