Friday, 13 December 2013

How to Prepare for an Interview in Retail

If, like me, you love Fashion and you've considered working in somewhere like Topshop, Zara or any Retail outlet, are new to the world of employment or want to get back in the retail game then check out these tips on how to impress your employer and bag that job.
1. Applying for a job starts from the moment you give or send off your CV to a company. Most places advertise in the shop window and ask people to 'enquire within' or to give their CV to the Manager inside the store. If this is the case, then make sure when you do your 'CV rounds' (as I like to call them) that you are looking your best. This is going to be the first impression that you are going to give to the shop - opt for something that looks good and grown-up. Even if you are not applying to a retail shop, any lasting impressions when you give your CV make a huge difference.
2. If you are lucky and are offered an interview, sometimes it can be over the phone, but almost 90% of the time it will be a face to face interview at the store with the Store Manager, then this will be your opportunity to prove to them why they should hire you over the other candidates.
Is there anything I need to do before my interview?
You need to research the company - find out who they are owned by, when they were set up etc, the main facts about what the idea is behind the brand and how they market themselves incase they ask you some related questions in the interview. Even if they don't, you can always drop them into your answers to show that you've done your homework. Also, take a look at the clothes on the website to get an idea of what they sell - is it just clothes, or jewellery and shoes as well, and swimwear?Do they accommodate for smaller or larger sizes? Also, mostly importantly, who is the target market. If your interview is not at the store, but at a recruitment centre, or a different branch, I cannot express the importance of finding out where it is before you go. People will not go out of their way to explain where things are. I have been in that situation and it's not fun.
It's also really useful to learn or remind yourself of some tips about Customer Service because 'what makes good customer service in your opinion?' is a classic question that employers love to ask in interviews.
1. Welcoming a customer with a warm smile and hello when they enter the shop.
2.  Be a good listener and be patient. If a customer asks for you for something, face them directly and listen to every single word they've said before answering instead of the first thing that comes to mind. They want your undivided attention and will not appreciate if it seems like you are not listening to what they are saying.
3. Always, no matter how rude a customer can be, show respect and be polite. The customer is always right, and you do not want them to leave the store unhappy. If there is an issue you don't understand or need help, ask a colleague or get the manager to help.
4. If a customer requests something, never answer with a straight 'No'. Always be empathetic towards their needs and say 'Unfortunately we are unable to... and ALWAYS try to suggest an alternative with 'However, you can check, or we do have this..'
5. Build good relationships with customers but don't become their best friends. This means you should always be friendly to customers and make them feel relaxed, however try and avoid a situation where a customer will want to tell you their life story as this can often happen when they are bored and shopping solo. If this happens, make sure you are not longer than 2 minutes before politely asking if there is anything else that you can help them with and then get back to other things on the shop floor.
6. Always make sure that you've done the most you can to help them - go the extra mile because sometimes customers notice and will tell your Manager about your excellent customer service. For example, if you are able to help them find an item that they are looking for,  show that you are happily willing to do, even if you end up looking for 5 different items, all on separate occasions.
7. This one is so important - never, ever, ever leave customers waiting for a long time. If you are on the shop floor, and you have been asked to tidy, but it turns out that the queue for the till where your other colleague is working has grown enormously in the last 3 minutes, then drop everything you are doing and take the second till. If you can't do this, then ask for backup. It doesn't matter how messy the store is, if customers are left waiting for a long time, they will leave the store with a bad impression.
8. Be easily accessible to clients but never hover over them or follow them round the shop.
9. Be Pro-Active! If a customer mentions to you that they are looking for an outfit or a certain type of clothing, then ask if there is a specific colour or style and show them what you have in the store.
10. Often, customers will ask you for your opinion about something they are trying on or an item in the shop that they have their eye on. In a situation like this, it is good to be honest and helpful, however, you need to word your answers so that if something doesn't look great (ie, if it is too small for example) then your answer can give the impression that does not make the customer feel bad about themselves. For example, you can just explain that 'a couple of us tried these on when they came in and we had to try a bigger size as our regular sizes were a bit too small for us'. Avoid situations where you take the role of your best friend or mother giving advice because you are trying to sell the brand and ensure at the same time that your customer is happy when they take the item back home and show their family and friends as well.
What should I wear to the interview?
Dress Smart - a nice ironed, shirt under a black blazer and black trousers to match or a pencil skirt (not too short) with or without tights. Shoes can be small heels, but better to avoid heels at all.
Minimal make-up - mascara, liquid eyeliner, a bit of foundation.
Jewellery is fine as long as it is minimal and discreet such as some stud earrings, Avoid lots of bracelets on your wrists.
Hair must look clean, neat, and your best - a lot of people tie theirs back but I keep mine down but out of my face.
What should I bring?
Always make sure you have a second copy of your CV with you. So many times when I have gone for an interview, the person who has interviewed me does not have a copy, even though I gave one to the shop when I applied originally. It's not your fault, but you don't want to be in a situation where there is no CV to be judged on. Bring some water incase you are nervous. Don't chew gum, turn your phone on silent or off in case of alarms.
When should I arrive?
Always arrive 10-15 minutes early and let someone behind the till know that you are there for an interview. It is that person's responsibility to let the manager know that you are here and you are here early for that matter. Don't take the risk of whether they'll care if you are early/on time. Leave the house early and allow time for travel disruptions - it is always better to wait than to be late! Plus, you can always snoop around the shop to get an idea of what the clothes are like and what's going on in the shop.
What will the interview be like?
Usually, the Manager or person who is interviewing you will take you somewhere such as their office and ask you questions based upon your CV and then the company's Interview sheet. In retail, these questions can range from:
Tell me a bit about yourselfCan you give me an example of a time when you have achieved something
Other than Customer Service, what else do you think goes on in the shop
If you were working in the shop, what would you do if...
Who do you think are two competitors of our brand
What would you change about the shop
How would you deal with customer complaints
Describe yourself in three words
Why would you like to work for us
What would you dress these three different people in and why
Who is our typical shopper here
Where are your favourite places to shop
Tell me why should I hire you over other candidates
Give me three skills/talents that you have that you think are good for the job
Give me the definition of customer service
After you have answered their questions, they might ask if you have any commitments or holidays. Other than that, the interview will be over. And it will be up them to get in touch and let you know whether you have been successful or not. If you are thinking of applying, good luck to you all! :) 

If you would like to know some of the answers to some of these questions or would like me to write a more blog posts on request about job-hunting, or simply would like to comment and give feed-back, I would love to hear from you!   Email me at