retail interview questions and answers sales associate

Retail Sales Associate Interview Questions
  • What do you know about our company and products?
  • If you had to pick only three words to sum up our brand, which ones would you choose and why?
  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • Why do you think you’d be a great fit for this position?
  • Have you ever worked in retail before?

So you’ve got an interview coming up for a retail position. Whether you’re an experienced sales associate who could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves or you’re just looking for a first job with a flexible schedule, you’re probably wondering what to expect in that retail interview. Or maybe you’re getting plenty of callbacks for retail positions but you’re not getting hired, and you suspect your interviewing skills could use some work.

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You’re in luck: I spent a decade as a retail hiring manager for Limited Brands (L Brands), Ann Taylor, and The Buckle, Inc., and during that time I gained a lot of insight into what makes a candidate stand out to retailing hiring managers and recruiters. I’ve got advice for answering the 10 most common retail interview questions, plus insider info on the unwritten rules you should be aware of while job hunting and a few bonus tips for acing your interview!


How do you handle customer complaints?

Sales associates work with different types of customers and sometimes encounter complaints. An appropriate answer focuses on de-escalation and finding a creative solution for every case. It helps to use STAR model to approach an aggressive client. Heres how to use the STAR model:

  • Situation: Provide a background for your story
  • Task: Explain what you need to do in the situation
  • Action: Discuss the steps you take to address such a situation
  • Result: Tell the interviewer what the outcome of the situation was
  • Example: “I once had a client who returned shoes that they had worn for a few days. She claimed the shoes were very uncomfortable. However, the state of the shoes would make them hard to resell. The customer started yelling and insisting that they were still new. I consulted my manager, and we helped her find a pair that fit well at a discount rather than giving a full refund. We sent the shoes back to corporate headquarters for repair, and they came back in the best shape for sale.”

    Are you available to work on holidays?

    Businesses that need sales associates may need additional staff on overtime hours or during the holidays. Some companies also need sales associates with a flexible schedule. The employer needs to know your availability to be able to create a reliable and effective work schedule.

    Example: “Im available to work from Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. but can pick up extra shifts on the weekends during busy periods.”

    What is your sales strategy?

    Hiring managers want to see if your sales strategy and approach align with the company culture. Emphasize the essential aspects of a sales interaction, such as understanding your customer needs or problems. This also helps to show that you are an active listener.

    Example: “First, I always listen to understand my customers needs. Alternatively, I initiate the conversation to be welcoming and get to discuss their needs. After that, I offer a product or support that can help fulfil the needs theyve just expressed. I always encourage repeat business by making a personal connection with customers.”

    6 Sales Associate Interview Questions and Answers

    As a sales associate, what is your experience meeting regular quotas?

    Sales associates are often required to close a certain number of transactions per day, week or month. It is helpful for the applicant to have experience hitting quotas. It shows their determination and ability to sell products efficiently. The ideal candidate will understand the importance of reaching goals in the workplace and have the drive to surpass their target number.

    What to look for in an answer:

    • Sets goals for themselves and self-motivates
    • Has experience achieving sales quotas
    • Understands the importance of meeting required tasks in the workplace

    Tell me about a time when you handled a situation regarding a customer who was upset about a shortage of a product they wanted to buy.

    In retail, there are times when popular items go on sale and they practically fly off the shelves. In such situations, customers who traveled a long way to the store might be upset because they planned to purchase the product. The applicant’s response to this question allows you to gauge how well they handle stressful situations and their ability to solve problems.

    What to look for in an answer:

    • Calm demeanor under pressure
    • Good communication skills in times of conflict
    • Ability to provide out-of-the-box solutions to problems

    What is your experiencing using POS systems as a sales associate?

    In the retail industry, it is essential for a sales associate to understand how to operate point-of-sale systems. Many different types of devices are used to finalize a transaction. The applicant’s answer to this question will allow you to assess what equipment they have used when closing sales as well as their basic math skills. Does the candidate have experience with the same systems your company uses?

    What to look for in an answer:

    • Experience with POS systems
    • Ability to perform basic math
    • Computer skills

    How do you respond when a customer asks you a question about a product that you don’t know how to answer?

    Sales associates should be knowledgeable about their merchandise; however, there may be times when they might not know how to respond to a client. In your company, you want someone who does not make false promises. The ideal candidate will know how to look for solutions that they don’t initially know rather than just make up an answer.

    What to look for in an answer:

    • Ability to follow up with customers
    • Knowledge of where to research answers about your products
    • Avoids making false promises

    Describe how you would sell the same product to two different types of customers.

    Sales associates should have a strong understanding of all of their employer’s products, allowing them to emphasize different features based on what is most relevant to each customer. They should understand that some people respond to better certain sales strategies, so they need a plan for determining which style to use. This question helps the interviewer assess a candidate’s ability to vet a customer and adjust their sales approach based on their feedback.

    Successful answers will feature:

    • Observation skills
    • Flexibility
    • Strategic thinking

    While there are many situations the candidate could come up with, here’s one potential answer:

    What methods do you use to determine if a product is right for your customer?

    When a potential client is searching for a new product, it is important for the sales associate to know whether or not an item is ideal for that individual. By explaining the specific steps that they would take, the applicant shows awareness for the customer’s needs. The candidate’s response allows you to determine how detail-oriented they are along with their critical thinking skills.

    What to look for in an answer:

    • Awareness of customers’ unique needs
    • Detail-oriented sales pitches
    • Critical thinking skills to consider the best product choices for each customer

    What Are Hiring Managers Looking for in Retail Employees?

    When I was hiring retail employees, I looked for five key traits that prospective employees needed to thrive in our fast-paced environment. They were:

  • Reliability: Managers want to know that you will show up on time and ready to work. This is especially important for seasonal workers since the holiday season is often both the most profitable and hectic time of year for retailers.
  • Relatability: To succeed in retail, you need a combination of sales skills and soft skills. Most of the former can be taught. What I can’t teach you is how to be relatable. To excel as a salesperson, you have to be able to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and show genuine empathy for each of their individual situations. When you understand and value your customer’s needs, you build trust, and trust is the bedrock of customer loyalty. The best brand ambassadors and salespeople know how to make a customer feel validated and valued.
  • Meticulousness: As a hiring manager, I love detail-oriented people. These are the team members who are going to learn the inventory inside and out, follow best practices to the letter, and make sure our displays are always on point.
  • Ability to multitask: Retail often requires you to meet customer expectations while processing freight, running numbers, or changing displays. Poor multitaskers rarely succeed in retail.
  • Grace under pressure: Sometimes the amount of multitasking retail requires can make you feel like you’re working in a pressure cooker. I need to be confident that you won’t “boil over” by being rude to a customer or coworker or storming out, both of which reflect poorly on the brand.
  • Here are 10 questions you might get asked to find out if you have these traits and if youre the right person for the job:

    Why Do You Want to Work for [Brand]?

    This question is a way to ensure that you have done your homework. Hiring managers want to see that your understanding of the brand aligns with their internal vision for employees.


    What are the 10 most common interview questions and answers for retail?

    Common interview questions for retail
    • Have you worked in retail before? …
    • Why do you want to work here? …
    • What does good customer service mean to you? …
    • Do you work well with other people? …
    • How long do you intend to stay in retail as a career? …
    • How would you handle a difficult customer? …
    • Do you work well in a busy environment?

    What questions do they ask in a sales associate interview?

    The most common sales associates interview questions include:
    • How do you handle customer complaints? …
    • What is your sales strategy? …
    • How would you describe excellent customer service? …
    • Have you ever surpassed customer expectations? …
    • How versatile are your skills and competencies? …
    • Are you available to work on holidays?

    Why should we hire you as a retail sales associate?

    Sample Answer

    “I was drawn to this position because of my passion to deliver excellent customer experience and my great interpersonal skills. I like interacting with customers and assisting them to make purchases. I also have a year of sales experience and it meets the requirements for this position.

    What questions will they ask in a retail interview?

    Be prepared to answer some of the most common interview questions that make a general assessment of an applicant, such as:
    • How did you hear about this position?
    • What do you know about our company?
    • What do you hope to gain from this position?
    • Where do you see yourself in five years?
    • Why did you leave your last job?

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