Person working in shop with racks of clothes smiles at camera
Graphic that shows three different types of interview questions you should be asking.

Use these questions to identify a candidate’s technical knowledge and abilities

 

Use these questions to determine how a candidate handled situations in the past

 

Use these questions to assess a candidate’s personal traits and cognitive skills

 

Why this matters:

A retail salesperson’s primary responsibility is to create a positive customer experience by delivering excellent service. Finding a candidate who understands these industry fundamentals can help further your company’s reputation, boost sales, and build a loyal customer base. Look for someone who can strike a balance between supporting customers and giving them the freedom to shop on their own.

What to listen for:

  • Enthusiasm for connecting with others and learning about their needs
  • Mentions of the importance of being attentive and approachable as a salesperson
  • A willingness to put the customer first and accommodate them as much as possible 

 

Why this matters:

Some candidates will already have experience in the retail industry, including handling cash and overseeing financial transactions. But even those without prior experience can quickly learn to manage a cash register and card reader if they understand basic math and the fundamentals of handling money and protecting customers’ financial information.

 

What to listen for:

  • Ideally, candidates will have experience handling, counting, and overseeing money, even in a personal capacity (e.g. at a garage sale)
  • Recognition that financial data is sensitive and must be carefully protected
  • Prior experience with a point-of-sale (POS) system is a plus

Why this matters:

The best retail salespeople don’t just offer exceptional customer service—they’re also great at making sales. The ideal candidate will have a strong understanding of how to drive sales by connecting with customers’ pain points, offering recommendations, and using their knowledge of products to make a persuasive case.

What to listen for:

  • An emphasis on the importance of understanding the customer’s needs 
  • An instinct to emphasize a product’s best features without stretching the truth 
  • The ability to be persuasive without being too aggressive or pushy 

Why this matters:

Customer-facing jobs require interacting with a wide range of people on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some of those people to take out their frustrations on retail salespeople. A great candidate will possess good judgment when it comes to handling angry customers and will show an instinct for mediating conflict.

 

What to listen for:

  • Mentions of specific strategies for calming angry people, like offering a refund and using a calming tone of voice
  • Sound reasoning about when to placate a customer and when to ask them to leave the store

Why this matters:

The retail industry can be unpredictable. In a matter of minutes, a store can go from sleepy to hectic, meaning your new retail salesperson needs to be capable of quickly switching gears. An ideal candidate can redirect their attention to high-priority tasks while still making time for secondary responsibilities (like restocking merchandise or cleaning the store front) when more pressing demands have been dealt with.

What to listen for:

  • Evidence that the candidate is comfortable multi-tasking and handling unpredictable situations 
  • The ability to pinpoint important tasks and prioritize them over less pressing ones 

Why this matters:

A retail salesperson has to be able to get along with customers and colleagues alike. Asking about the candidate’s previous experience working in a group setting can provide insights into their interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and teamwork ethos. Being able to work independently is great, but can they collaborate with coworkers to keep the store running smoothly?

What to listen for:

  • References to specific teamwork situations and skills, such as mediating and resolving conflict between people
  • The ability to communicate clearly with others and collaborate to achieve a common goal

Why this matters:

Retail stores can get busy, especially around the holidays. You need to know that your candidate can stay focused on their work when a lot is going on around them. If they’re easily flustered, they may struggle to maintain a professional and courteous attitude when handling tense shoppers, long lines, and other common retail stressors.

 

What to listen for:

  • Mentions of specific tactics for maintaining their focus, like taking a deep breath to clear their head or making a mental to-do list
  • A clear understanding that working in retail sometimes involves busy periods

 

Why this matters:

Your next retail salesperson should be knowledgeable about the products your company offers, but they won't know everything when first starting out. When they receive a question they can’t answer, they should feel comfortable getting help from a manager or peer. Customers will appreciate that they took the time to find an accurate answer, helping to establish trust. 

What to listen for:

  • A willingness to escalate questions when needed, backed by an instinct to maintain great customer service by telling the person they’ll get back to them momentarily
  • The initiative to learn more about products after discovering a gap in their knowledge

Why this matters:

It's important to find a candidate with the right skills, but it's an added bonus when you come across someone with a genuine interest in your brand. This question shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, but it can help you test for passion. When a retail salesperson is passionate about your products, their enthusiasm will inevitably shine through during the sales process. 

 

What to listen for:

 

  • Signs that the candidate has researched your company or is already familiar with your products
  • Enthusiasm when discussing the values and attributes that make your company or its products unique 

 

 

Read our additional hiring guides.