6 questions to ask in a retail management interview

Jemma Smith, Editor
January, 2019

You've successfully navigated your way through a retail management interview - don't fall at the final hurdle. When asked by the interviewer if you have any questions be ready with some well researched enquiries

'Retail is challenging and exciting,' explains Matt Lorraine, head of early careers at Marks & Spencer. 'You could manage million-pound budgets, physical stores and websites, thousands of products, scores of colleagues and a multi-channel retail strategy. It isn't your usual nine to five job but there are amazing benefits. Retail is full of opportunity, we see this every day at Marks & Spencer being led by a CEO who started his career on the shop floor.'

Korin Grant, postgraduate careers consultant with the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough University, agrees that retail has a lot to offer. 'Retail management provides graduates with 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.

'If you want to stand out it's always worth researching not just the company but the sector the company is a part of,' advises Matt. 'With Marks & Spencer it's a good idea to look at what is being written about the company in the media. Be ready to offer an opinion on what you've read.'

Asking well thought out, sector-specific questions in a job interview is also a great way of making your mark.

'We're looking for graduates to show that they've engaged with the interview and asking questions is an important way you can do this,' says Matt.

'It's also your opportunity to show that you have a passion for working for the company and a passion for the retail industry. Don't be nervous to ask questions - it's a crucial part of the interview.'

Questions to ask during the interview

Before asking questions of your own make sure that you successfully answer the employer's common interview questions.

You'll get your opportunity at the end of the interview to ask the employers any questions. Use this opportunity wisely - it is one of the last chances you'll get to leave a positive impression.

Just because the interview is coming to a close, don't be fooled into thinking that you're not being assessed. Employers 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 put together a list of questions beforehand to ensure that your mind doesn't go blank at the opportune moment. Aim to come up with at least five - it's doubtful that you’ll get to ask this many (interviews need to run to schedule, especially if the employer is interviewing a specific number of candidates in a day) but having a few extra questions up your sleeve provides a back-up 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 Korin offers the following advice:

  • Don't ask something that you could easily find out from a company's website or promotional material. This is irritating and does not leave a positive impression where your preparedness is concerned.
  • Keep away from questions about holiday, salary or specific terms of the contract - these can be queried and negotiated once you've been offered the role.

You could ask:

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

'This question will give you some insight into the mission of the organisation. It will also help you understand the expectations of the role.'

What challenges is the business facing at the moment?

'Tailor this question to the specific organisation, for example, 'I read recently that you're planning to open three new stores in the south west. What challenges will the organisation face in opening stores in this area?'

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 you will want to 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.'

What opportunities are there for career progression within the organisation?

'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 am 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. 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 role and could provide some insight into both how you can expect to be treated and the culture of the organisation.'

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

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