6 questions to ask in a retail management interview

Jemma Smith, Editor
October, 2021

Whether you've applied for a retail management job or a graduate scheme you'll need to ask some intelligent, well-researched questions of your own during the interview. If you need some inspiration take a look at some examples

The retail industry is fast-paced, challenging and exciting and provides consumers with what they need, when they need it. As a retail manager you’ll get the satisfaction of watching your decisions make a difference and impact the customer and wider business every day.

'A career in retail is so much more than simply working in a store,' says Kelly Stokes, recruitment director at Aldi. 'Working in retail allows you to run your own multi-million pound business, as well as develop into an inspirational leader with great commercial acumen.'

Korin Grant, postgraduate careers consultant with the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University, agrees that the retail sector has a lot to offer. 'Retail management provides graduates with early responsibility, financial reward (salaries can be lucrative), opportunities to travel and access to, and experience of, senior positions.'

 As such, jobs are highly sought after and are incredibly competitive. You'll need to take every chance you get to set yourself apart from the competition when applying for jobs.

Questions to ask during the interview

A job interview is a two way process. The employer is weighing up whether you’ll be suitable for the role and you’re weighing up whether the job is for you and if you’d enjoy working at the company.

'We look for candidates who can demonstrate excellent leadership and teamworking skills, we want you to be open to other people’s ideas and show that you can work with a variety of different people. Confidence and strong communication skills as well as a passion for retail are also great to have,' explains Kelly.

You'll get your opportunity at the end of the interview to ask employers questions of your own. Use this opportunity wisely - it's one of the last chances you'll get to leave a positive impression. Don't be nervous to ask questions - it's a crucial part of the interview.

Just because the interview is coming to a close, don't be fooled into thinking that you're not being assessed. Recruiters will be listening out for intelligent questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the organisation and your interest in the role. However, knowing what questions to ask can be tricky - you want to impress without pushing too far.

To make sure you're prepared and that your mind doesn't go blank at the opportune moment put together a list of questions beforehand. Come up with at least five - it's doubtful that you'll get to ask this many, but having a few back-up questions will be useful if one or two of them are answered during the interview.

Your pre-interview research into the retail manager job and the company should determine the questions you'll ask. However, if you're struggling for ideas here’s some inspiration:

  • Korin says it's best to steer clear of questions where the answer can be found online via the company's website or promotional material. This is irritating and does not leave a positive impression where your preparedness is concerned.
  • Korin also suggests leaving the questions concerning holiday, salary or specific terms of the contract until you've been offered the role - these can be queried and negotiated at this point.

Instead ask:

How will this role feed into the key strategic objectives of the organisation?

'This question gives you some insight into the mission of the organisation. It also helps you understand the expectations of the role,' says Korin.

How do you see [a particular area of the business] developing over the next three years?

'Aldi is always in the news - but ask about something that you’re truly interested in,' advises Kelly. 'If you're passionate about sustainability, ask about the trials we have in place to improve the way we offer sustainable options for our customers. Love technology? Ask about our checkout-free stores. This really shows you’ve researched the business and are passionate about the way we do things differently.'

What type of management training, development and support can I expect in this role?

'Many retail management jobs offer training to new recruits. This will benefit your professional development and boost your CV. It can also help develop your understanding of the organisation’s expectations for you and help you to succeed in your new role. If the role doesn't have any formal training then clarify what kind of support is available for new management trainees and whether there are opportunities for you to seek out further development through external associations,' explains Korin.

What opportunities are there for career progression within the organisation?

Korin believes that asking about career development shows that you are ambitious and committed. 'It also provides you with an insight into the staffing structure of the organisation.'

What do I need to demonstrate in my first three months to show that I'm settling into the role?

'This gives you the opportunity to understand in-depth what you will be doing in the first few weeks of your job as a retail manager,' says Korin. 'You will also gain an understanding of the employer's expectations of you.'

What's the best thing about working for this company?

'This is a positive question to end on and might catch your interviewers by surprise. It will likely reveal some perks of the job and could provide some insight into how you can expect to be treated and the culture of the organisation,' adds Korin.

If a lot of company and job-specific information is covered during the interview don't make recruiters repeat themselves by asking about something that has already been discussed. Instead ask a couple of these general questions to ask at an interview.

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