Interviewing Basics (Retail & Service)


Hello Everyone…I wanted to throw out some helpful tips and tricks for those candidates who are looking for some interviewing tips…keep in mind the intended audience is for my entry level retail and service audience (staying true to my blogs roots :-D), however, feel free to use any of the tips and adapt them to your own personal situations.

***Here’s my most important tip to everyone: Be YOURSELF! Yes I know it sounds cheesy, but of the countless numbers of interviews I’ve done as a hiring manager, the one’s that have stuck out most to me have been those candidates that I have been able to have a genuine and enjoyable conversation with. Remember, as a hiring manager, I want to see how you’re going to interact with my customer base. If you aren’t very much of a people person…be honest and ask yourself why you are applying to a customer service or retail position in the first place. 😉

So here goes:

Before the Interview


  1. Visit the company’s web site and research the job and the company
  2. Jot down a couple of questions about the company or the position to demonstrate you’ve done the research
  3. Think of examples from your work history that demonstrate the desired skills; e.g. if the position is for customer service think of an time when you were able to help an upset customer with an issue that had a good result for the business
  4. Understand the different types of interviewing techniques including situational, technical, open ended and behavioral based interviewing; sample questions can be pulled from the Internet on search engines for example “customer service interview questions” or “behavioral interview questions” will lead you to articles that give great examples (see Sample Questions)
  5. Practice interviewing with a friend or family member


Sample Interview Questions

  1. What makes you a fit for this position? This is your opportunity to sell yourself and outline why your skills match up with the requirements for the position
  2. Why are you interested in this position and/or company?  Many employers want to hire someone who genuinely wants the job and is excited about the career and the company
  3. What qualities to you think are most important in this job?  Since you’ve already reviewed the job description and the company information, you should be able to answer this question effectively
  4. Why are you interested in customer service?  What do you like about it?  What don’t you like? This is an opportunity to share what you like about customer service, be sure to present what you don’t like in a constructive fashion; again employers are looking for candidates who genuinely enjoy what they do
  5. Describe a time you had to help out a difficult customer.  Give me an example of when you went the extra mile for a customer. Think of a specific example and be sure to discuss situation, actions taken and the results of your efforts e.g. helped the customer with issue they were having by assessing the situation and taking ownership of their issue resulting in them sending a nice letter about the service I provided for them to my manager
  6. Describe a situation in which you had to remain calm under great provocation from a customer.  Discuss a specific situation, the actions you took and the result
  7. Tell me about a time you received positive feedback from a customer. Discuss a specific situation, the actions you took and the result
  8. Have you ever had to make a difficult decision on the job?  Discuss a specific situation, the actions you took and the result
  9. Have you worked in a position where you were accountable to meet goals or sales objectives?  How did you do? Give a specific example, include metrics and data
  10. What is your biggest strength?  Biggest weakness?  Be prepared to answer this, it is asked often

If you prepare in advance and have a couple of stories ready in your mind that give examples of areas that will most likely be assessed (teamwork, customer service, sales, decision-making, etc.), you can adapt these stories to questions that are asked.  Taking the time to plan and prepare for the interview is critical and well worth the time invested.



The Interview


  1. Arrive to your interview ON TIME; it is best to plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early should you run into any issues so that you are not late
  2. Dress appropriately – you’re first impression counts!
  3. Bring a copy of your resume along with any materials requested by the interviewer
  4. Be prepared to complete an employment application which often requires the address and exact dates of employment to be completed – bring all necessary information
  5. Go alone; do not take children or friends
  6. Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake
  7. Make frequent eye contact; smile, be polite and RELAX
  8. Listen carefully to the questions asked; ask the interviewer to restate a question if you are confused
  9. Answer questions as directly as possible; if they ask for an example, be sure to think of one
  10. It’s ok to ask for a moment to consider a question before answering.  You can say something like “that’s a good question, I’d like a moment to think of a good example…”
  11. Be upbeat and make positive statements; never bad mouth a former boss or employer
  12. If you’ve made mistakes, talk about what you’ve learned and put a positive spin on it
  13. Use examples of how your skills and abilities would fit for the job; employers want to know how you’ll add value and contribute to their business
  14. Demonstrate the results you’ve been able to achieve in former positions e.g. “in my last position, I led the team in the highest customer satisfaction scores”

Ending the Interview

  1. They will often ask if you have any questions.  Be prepared to ask questions in advance.  Some examples include:
    1. What types of opportunities are there for advancement?
    2. What type of training is available?
    3. Is there a dress code?
    4. Is there anything else I can answer for you that might help you with your decision?
    5. When might a decision be made on this position?
  2. Thank the interviewer for their time
  3. Ask for a business card or contact information if needed
  4. Shake hands in closing
  5. Immediately after the interview, send a thank you note to express your continued interest to all parties involved in the interview

Good luck to you in your interviews!

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