How To “WOW” In A Retail Interview

How To “WOW” In A Retail Interview

There is a surplus of interviewing information available on the internet. If you type “Interview Questions” into Google – you get 86,000,000 results! You can find that you, as a candidate, could potentially be asked “Where do you want to be in five years/ten years?” – likely, you can also find a really good answer for that question that feels somewhat organic for you to verbally recycle in an interview. Even I have written a post about my favorite interview questions to gauge emotional maturity and emotional intelligence in candidates.

However, you will find that the landscape of interviewing is changing dramatically. I read an interesting article the other day on the SHRM blog called “No Degree, No Problem”. This is a tremendous change in the years that I have been working. Back in the day, that question could make or break the interview – no matter how well it was going before. Now, larger companies that have a huge influence on workplace reputation and culture are revolutionizing this #NewWayToWork in sourcing talent and hiring innovators and smart, industry savvy candidates (yes, you can be the best candidate even without the college degree).

Social Media plays a big part in companies finding out about you as a candidate, by finding out about you as a person. Companies will do their due diligence on you from a less formal perspective by looking at your presence on Social Media. They have access to find out about you who are and how you will, imaginably, fit into the workplace culture before meeting you in person. Here is a fabulous article from USA Today on “45 Things Successful Job Seekers Do On Social Media”. Using Social Media also allows you to do your due diligence on your ideal company (or companies) that you would like to work for. You can connect with current employees to find out about the workplace. You can usually find out about the history of the company, their values, mission statement, and future outlook. Studying this information prior to your interviews will help you to generate well thought out questions for your interviewers when you get to that point. Allow yourself to examine the company from a balanced perspective – meaning don’t just look up the company feedback on Glassdoor and draw your conclusions from that. Really dig into the companies you are interested in and find out if it is a fit for you (they will certainly do that on their end for themselves).

You want to land an interview with your retail organization(s) of choice – most retail companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which feeds résumés through a virtual process that looks for keywords, experience matches, etc. to weed out any mis-matched candidates to the position. It then will forward any potentially matched candidates to a human who will review the résumés for additional criteria and possible matches. Make sure your resume is formatted to withstand the ATS process. Basically, what that means is you need to keep your résumé very traditional and plain. And…by the way…do include a cover letter with your résumé submission(s) as that is where you can make a case for your “fit”, experience, and why you would like to join that retailer. This is where you can infuse your personality and communication style. Take the time to tailor your cover letter to the role and company you are applying to. With so many candidates, your cover letter should let you stand-out as a candidate that they have to speak with. Here is a short blog post from “The National Jurist” that, succinctly, covers the points to make in a cover letter that I like and that is still very appropriate to retail.

Hopefully, after making it through the virtual recruiter (ATS) you have the opportunity to sit down for a video or in-person interview someone from the company. Now is your opportunity to “WOW” your interviewer. Here are some of my favorite tips to share with retail job seekers:

(1) Dress appropriately to the role and the brand you are interviewing with
-If you have connected or know someone in the organization have them share detail about the companies dress code with you.
-Use that as a guide and be a very polished version of that for your face-to-face interview(s)
-This will show the company you are interviewing with that you have a genuine interest in their brand and can fit in with the “image” their brand is known for

(2) Bring several copies of your résumé for all in-person interviewers
-Invest in decent paper to print your traditional résumé on for your interviews
-Even if the person(s) you are meeting with do not ask for a copy, give them one
-This will show that you are prepared and have a focus on aesthetics

(3) Do your due diligence on the company you are interviewing with
-As mentioned before, research the company, their history, their officers, their culture – know, from your point-of-view that you are a fit for their company and the role you are interviewing for
-Understand the role you are interviewing for and the value that you can bring to that role
-Be able to clearly articulate your value to the role and the company, specifically

(4) Know your strengths and weaknesses
-If you are interviewing for a leadership position you should absolutely know your top three strengths and your top two areas of opportunity
-Do NOT use things like “I am a workaholic” or “I care too much” as weaknesses
-Know what you are not strong at, you should also be able to articulate how you are self-developing in these areas to show that you can identify opportunities for yourself and that you actively seek to improve yourself
-Failing to answer these honestly could cost you the opportunity

(5) Ask GREAT questions when the “What questions do you have for me?” time arrives?
-Honestly, as an interviewee, this is my least favorite part because I am the kind of person that will ask questions during the interview so when we get to this point I have asked all relevant questions that I have but…you have to be prepared.
-I did find a truly amazing post recently by StartUp CVs Blog titled “14 Questions To Ask The Interviewer That Will Make You Look Awesome”…this post is the most helpful one I have seen, possibly ever. Here are some of the questions that I thought were the best:
(a) What one thing could I do to have the biggest impact after starting?
(b) Based on my résumé and our interview today, what do you think I would need to learn in order to succeed in this role?
(c) How does the company support professional development?
-These questions are thoughtful and definitely would show enthusiasm for the role and growth

(6) Be enthusiastic, genuine, honest and transparent
-You are selling YOU! You are selling your fit into the culture and position of this company! You are selling your value to the culture and position!

In a previous post I have written about “#Retail Hiring – Signs That You Need To Put The Candidate On The “No” Pile”, which is helpful to review so that you don’t fall into any of these common traps.

As a polished professional that can express their value, enthusiasm, professional personality, and your ability and genuine interest to take on the role – you are setting yourself apart from the candidates who applied because they want a paycheck and a specific title. Understanding the business you are interviewing with is critical to a favorable interview and set you apart from those candidates who are not highly-engaged with the company. The interviewers will remember this experience and the impression you left them with and it will likely lead to further conversations about the opportunity!


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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