A Sales Associate is the first point of contact a customer makes with your store. Look for a candidate with a personal presentation that is consistent with your brand and audience. For example, a trendy clothing boutique catering to teenage girls would benefit from sales associates who match the demographic and wear similar products. Conversely, a classic men’s shop will look for more mature sales associates who can speak to the tailoring of suits, slacks and other such items.
Regardless of the setting, excellent Sales Associates have a firm command of the store’s products and services, a welcoming demeanor, the ability to handle purchase and return transactions, full knowledge of store policies, and strong sales techniques. A go-getter who will be aware of the environment to ensure proper signage display and a clean and organized floor is highly valued.
General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position.
Below are Sales Associate interview questions to help you get started:
1. How does a Sales Associate provide excellent customer service?
What you want to hear: Candidates interviewing for your Sales Associate position may have a great deal of experience with the role or they may have no experience at all. Either way, every candidate should be able to explain what it means to provide excellent customer service. Look for a candidate who answers along the lines of “Great customer service starts with welcoming every customer as they enter and ends with making sure they feel satisfied when they leave.” Experienced candidates should continue on by identifying the importance of product knowledge, the ability to smoothly handle purchase and return transactions, and sales skills.
Red flag: A candidate who seems incapable of answering the question either from prior work experience or experience as a shopper likely lacks the awareness to be effective in the role. At the very least, they will require extensive training and supervision at the outset of employment.
2. How would you handle a customer that is rude to you?
What you want to hear: Great customer service requires that a Sales Associate remain courteous and professional under all circumstances. Encountering a rude customer is inevitable, whether it’s an issue with a product or service, a gripe about store policy, or simply that they’re having a bad day. A strong candidate will listen attentively to the customer to understand the issue, offer information to assist the customer, attempt to resolve the matter independently, and, when appropriate, defer to a supervisor.
3. What would you do if a customer asked you a question and you didn’t know the answer?
What you want to hear: An excellent candidate will acknowledge that their job is to be thoroughly informed about all products, services and store policies. They will also recognize that regardless of their diligence, they may still be presented with a customer question or issue that is unfamiliar to them. Listen for the candidate whose first reaction is to resolve the matter independently through research, then if needed, will use the good judgment to inquire of a supervisor.
Red flag: A Sales Associate who is content to say “I don’t know” when confronted with an unfamiliar inquiry and not effort finding a proper answer or resolution is not well-suited for a customer service role.
4. Which product in our store is your favorite? Sell it to me.
What you want to hear: This question gives your candidate the opportunity to show how well they know your products and their sales ability. An excellent candidate will have studied your products carefully before the interview and given some thought to what they like and don’t like. They should be able to think on their feet and quickly pick an item. Then listen for how they sell it to you. Did they ask about your needs? Were they able to present the product as a solution to your problem? Was price point used effectively? Bonus points for a candidate who can appropriately upsell and cross-sell you on other products or services.
5. How would you react if you spotted a customer stealing merchandise?
What you want to hear: This is a difficult question to answer because every store has different procedures for how to handle a shoplifter. A candidate might offer an explanation of how they were trained by a previous employer, but they should acknowledge that your store might operate differently depending on local laws and established company procedures, and state that they look forward to being fully informed as an employee.
Red flag: A candidate who simply suggests they would confront the shoplifter and use physical force if necessary to retrieve any items is a wildcard capable of creating a huge potential liability for your store.
6. Have you used any retail software before?
What you want to hear: This question will help you assess how much technical training your candidate will require. Do they only know how to operate a cash register? Do they have experience with other kinds of industry software such as Vend POS, Springboard Retail, or RetailEdge? If they aren’t familiar with your specific software, look for basic computer skills and the enthusiasm to learn.
Red flag: If a candidate conveys that they have no experience with any software, nor do they appear to have any aptitude or desire to learn, you can expect them to be a drag on the efficient operations of the store and the productivity of team members repeatedly called upon to assist.
Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Sales Associate position.
Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:
- Are eager to provide excellent customer service
- Will thoroughly understand your product and services
- Have an interest in developing sales techniques
Need help writing a Sales Associate job description? Check out our Sales Associate job description template.
How would you approach a customer who appears to be searching for an item they can’t find?
What are three things a Sales Associate does that you feel constitute poor customer service?
How would you go about learning all you can about our products and services?
Why do you feel you would be effective selling our store’s products and services?
You observe a co-worker getting frustrated with a customer. What would you do?
What is the value of a cross-sell or up-sell? How techniques do you use to make such a sell?
A customer walks in with a complaint about a recently purchased product or service. How would you handle the situation?
What interests you about our store versus our competitors?
Apart from sales, what are two other ways that you feel a Sales Associate can contribute to the success of our store?
What is your experience with monitoring inventory?