So you’ve decided to work in retail. Great! The hours are often flexible, the people watching is off the hook, and you might even get to snag some store discounts.

Before you get excited, though, you still need to get the job. More specifically, you need to kill it at the job interview. So what do you do if you’ve never worked in retail before and, aside from your love of the mall, have nothing else to offer? First off, don’t panic.

Here’s how to answer retail job interview questions.

Q. Have you worked in retail before? 

Let’s assume you haven’t. Yes, you might want to just run from the store with your hands on your ears, but in reality, all is not lost. If you look back on your life, it’s likely you have sold something to someone before (like convincing your parents that you’re totes going to the library when you’re on your way to a party). If not, you have most likely been in situations that closely mirror a retail sales scenario, like a presentation at school. That’s not something you’ll want to share with your interviewee, but it should be enough to make you feel confident enough for the role.

When it comes to answering the question, focus on the job’s necessary skills. Use the job posting’s own wording as a guide here, with a summary of experience that touches on the requirements they’ve included in the description of the role.

A. I haven’t yet, but I think my interests and personality line up well with the role. I am a social person, and am very comfortable approaching people. I’m also a fashionista in every sense of the word. I follow all the latest fashion press and blogs, and try to stay up to date on the latest trends. I feel like that’s given me a good sense of color and style – most of my family and friends come to me to help them decide what to wear. I also know a lot about fabrics and fit; I’ve been sewing my own clothes since 9th grade.

Q. Can you work for a minimum of 16 hours a week?

This question is clearly dependent on the job’s demands, and your situation. Are you looking for a full-time job? Or do you want a side-gig? Still in school? All of these will factor in to your answer. Be honest and realistic with what you really want and can handle, but keep in mind that they’re gauging not only your availability, but also your level of interest and dedication. No one wants to hire a flake.

If there is any reason why this might be an issue, try to frame your answer to make yourself look as good as possible:

A. During the summer months I’m looking for full-time hours, but once the semester starts again in September I’d have to move to a part-time schedule. School is very important to me, but I take all my commitments seriously and would be happy to work around whatever schedule is available.

Q. Can you work shifts? Late nights and early mornings? Weekends?

Similar to the question above, they want to know just how serious and committed you are. More importantly, they want to know if you can be counted on when things get busy. Again, this is about knowing what you want and being honest (with the interviewer and yourself). Is working on the weekend going to send you into a pit of depression? Do you equate waking up early with a form of torture?

Think long and hard before you commit to something.

A. I have no problem with working shifts, but I have a bit of a long commute, and I’m more of a night person, so I’d prefer nights over early mornings. I can also work on weekends if needed, but my preference would be for weekdays.

Q. Why do you want to work in retail/at our company?

Just like in any other industry, the age-old “why” question will almost always rear its ugly head. It’s especially pertinent for retail jobs because despite all the aforementioned perks of the industry, working retail can be challenging. You’re on your feet for long periods of time, and you’re usually at the mercy of your clientele’s whims and quirks. It is, to put it mildly, not for everyone.

To hit this question out of the park, focus on either the company itself, an aspect of the role, or any learning opportunities.

 A. I’ve been a fan of the brand and its designs for a long time, and it’s important for me to work for a company that I believe in. Your company has always done a great job with merchandising and I’d love to get the chance to learn more about that. 


B. I want to work in retail because I like the people aspect of the business. Shopping makes people happy when they find what they like and I’d like to be a part of that. 

Q. Why should I hire you?

Hopefully, by the time you get to this point, your interview will have already answered this question, but in case it hasn’t, take this opportunity to provide a summary of your resume. If you have experience, this is the time to flaunt it, but if you don’t, you can still get win them over with a succinct elevator pitch. Focus on your interests, skills, and ambitions, and don’t be afraid to flash a sense of humour.

A. You should hire me because I’m borderline obsessive about fashion and your brand. I’ve also always been a very social people person, and I’m anxious to learn more about selling and customer service.
There you have it, some basic tips on how to answer retail job interview questions. Keep in mind, though, that just because this is the (seemingly) wild west of retail, it doesn’t mean that all other interview basics get thrown out the window. Be confident, dress the part, look the interview in the eyes, and smile… a job in retail awaits.

See also:

Interview tips from the Toronto Academy of Acting
5 signs you’re interviewing for a horrible job (and how to leave gracefully)
The 5 most common interview questions (and how to answer them like a boss)
5 job interview secrets that employers don’t tell candidates


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