How to Interview: Retail Managers
By: Dona Dezube
Dan Jablons, president of Retail Smart Guys Inc., a Los Angeles retail consulting firm says it’s the sales acumen and the ability to act like an owner trump all other skills.
Interview Questions to Ask: Motivation
That’s why the most essential interview questions to ask a retail manager job candidate is: What’s your primary focus as a manager? The best answer is one that involves sales, profitability, total volume, and business building.
Another way to get at the same issue in the interview process is to ask: Tell me about your accomplishments in retail, says David Lieberman, vice president of The Fashion Network, a New York City executive recruitment firm.
If the candidate says they’re great at recruiting or communicating with sales associates, those are good skills, but the best candidates will talk about growing your business success in more measurable ways.
Retail work requires a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, so ask: How many hours a week do you put in at your current job?
“If they say 40 hours a week, that’s not typically a person that’s going to succeed,” Lieberman says. Look for liveliness, enthusiasm and passion because retail managers are customer-facing employees, he adds.
Interview Questions to Ask: Past Performance
Interview questions about the job candidate’s past performance provide insight into the job seeker’s sales skills:
- How have you sold product X in the past?
- What objections did you hear, and how did you overcome those objections? What did you say, and what did you do?
- What have you done successfully to get people to try on clothes or to interact in other ways with the products?
- Tell me about the most difficult customer you’ve ever had to serve.
- What were your units-per-transaction or average-dollar-per-transaction stats in your prior positions?
Interview Questions to Ask: Vetting Management Skills
In addition to having great sales skills of their own, retail managers need to mentor others.
That makes it essential to know how to interview a candidate to tease out management skills. Remember: asking good interview questions doesn't always depend on the right or wrong answers -- but giving applicants the opportunity to talk about themselves.
Start by asking, Are you a hands-on manager or a delegator? “Delegating is good, but you want to make sure the general manager making $150,000 will still take the trash out,” Lieberman says.
Then, move on to ask more specific questions about management tasks:
- How many employees do you manage in your current position?
- How do you hire employees?
- What questions do you ask during interviews?
- What statistics do you use to measure employee performance?
- Do you do employee performance reviews?
Finally, to get a feel for how a retail manager reacts to real-world situations, you must know how to interview to draw out the job candidate’s soft business skills, says Stacie Garlieb, author of My resume is perfect (I think)…so why didn’t I get an interview?
Asking the question, How would you handle a situation where half of your employees called in sick? should generate an answer about redeploying remaining staff, creating a to-do list for the short-handed staff, then getting more staff in, she says.
If you found an employee was stealing, how would you handle that? The best answer to this interview question involves not only following corporate policy, but also elicits the candidate’s empathy and respect for the employee who made a mistake and stole from the company, Garlieb says.
Interview Questions to Ask: The Close
A successful interview should conclude with a classic question: What do you want to know about the opportunity or the company?
The answer you want to hear from the candidate, says Lieberman, will include technical and logistical questions about the company, rather than questions about vacation benefits, such as:
- What kind of software do you use? What strategies have you implemented to raise total volume? What theft prevention programs do you use?
Knowing how to interview retail managers can help your organization hire employees that act like owners -- someone who can run your store with the passion, sales smarts and enthusiasm that is critical to your business success in today’s competitive market.