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Retail sales associate positions are some of the most common jobs in the workforce.  Whether the company’s products are clothes, home goods, or coffee, great customer service and the ability to deal with many personalities is still key to flourishing in the role.

If you’re trying to land a job in the retail sector, make sure you’re prepared by knowing how you will respond to these top interview questions for retail sales associates:

How would you describe the differences between our company and our competition?

This is a loaded question.  It shows how well you’ve done your research in understanding the company and what distinguishes their brand from the competition.  And, how you describe those differences can showcase your own enthusiasm for working for the company and how you make those distinguishers selling points to a customer.

Describe a time where customer wasn’t happy and what did you do to change it?

There’s no doubt that working in retail you will encounter an unhappy, disgruntled, or difficult customer.  Learning to hold in your personal feelings, addressing empathy for customers, and representing the company well in order to keep customers coming back are all important skills recruiters will look for when assessing how you deal with uncomfortable situations.

How do you adapt in a constantly changing environment?

Products, store layouts, and personnel tend to change constantly in a retail environment.  Hiring managers are interested in candidates who can easily adapt to change and help keep their stores running smoothly.  Make sure to supply specific examples of your ability to succeed in such an environment.

How would you go about greeting each customer who comes in the store?

If you want bonus points, make sure you address each side of this tricky two-part question.  The first part is addressing how you make sure you greet each and every customer who enters the store, giving them personal attention.  And the second part is how you would actually greet them–what would you say to them?  Would you alert them of your newest products, ask if they’re looking for anything in particular or need guidance while shopping, or alert them to who they can reach out to if they require any assistance in various departments?

Describe a time when you noticed someone stealing. What was the situation? What did you do? What was the outcome? If you haven’t witnessed someone stealing, how would you deal with such a situation?

Theft is a huge problem in retail.  Most stores have specific policies on how theft is handled.  There’s no one right answer here, but there are a lot of wrong ones.  The interviewer wants to be sure they are hiring a person for their team who is honest, speaks up, and takes into account the safety of themselves and others.

How do you go about familiarizing yourself with the products you sell?

Retail products often change seasonally.  Can you quickly update yourself on all the new information so you can be prepared to sell the new inventory to customers as soon as it lands on the shelf?

You are scheduled to leave at 6 pm. Your replacement doesn’t show up. What would you do?

Whatever your answer to this question, the company is looking for a team player who can step up and work with managers and their teams to ensure proper store coverage and deliver a great customer experience.

What does good customer service mean to you?

If you don’t know what customer service means to you, retail is probably not the right industry for you.  Try to avoid too general or generic answers.  Be honest and enthusiastic and if you can, offer examples to back up your explanation.

A co-worker is rude to customers, what would you do?

A retail environment requires team players who create a positive customer experience to keep them coming back.  Know how you would react to this situation. Perhaps its talking to your team mate and encouraging positive interactions or speaking with a manager about your observations.  Maybe you go a different route and reach out directly to the customer to correct the situation and make sure they leave feeling good about their interactions while in the store.

What is most important – a good product or friendly, fast service?

This feels like a trick question, and in essence, it is.  The real purpose of the question is to see how you think and for the interviewer to gauge your response to the question in how honest you are and how you support your answer.

Be prepared to answer additional questions pertaining to the company’s products or service offerings, as well.  Make sure you do your homework and research them prior to the interview.  And, if the organization offers a store credit card, don’t be surprised if you’re asked how you might entice customers to sign up for it.

Don’t leave your interview up to chance.  One of the best ways to approach a job interview for a retail sales associate is to know how you want to be treated when you enter a store and put yourself in the associate’s shoes.  Go into your interview with confidence and show the hiring manager that you have what it takes to keep customers coming back.

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