I've worked in and out of retail since I was 16, so I've had my fair share of interviews. All of the stores I've worked in - apart from one - have been style related, so I thought I'd put together a post detailing my tips on how to do well in a fashion retail interview. Of course, not all of mine were successful, but over the years I feel I've gained a lot of retail experience and a good insight into what makes you appear valuable to a potential employer.
Brands I've been interviewed by include H&M, Office shoes, USC, Bank, Republic and Miss Selfridge (The Disney Store was my non-fashion related job for anyone wondering!)
Although it's not always possible, my first tip would be to apply somewhere you would shop yourself. Not only will this make the interview process easier, it will also make the job itself more enjoyable. Applying somewhere you visit on a regular basis means you will probably already be aware of the store's stock, overall style, prices, return policies and how the staff look and behave - knowledge that may prove useful in an interview. Also the perks that come with working somewhere you like to shop are a bonus - hello discount/uniform allowance!
Research: Make sure you know a bit about the brand before you go to the interview.Have a little look on their website the night before and familiarize yourself with the brand's history, along with any new lines and/or their best selling stock. You will probably be asked who you think the brand's main competitors are, so it's a good idea to look into this, too.
What to wear: Obviously how you dress for a fashion retail interview is important. By working in a store you are representing the brand, so the manager will want someone who is stylish and up to date with current trends. It's worth adapting your outfit to the store's overall tone - what kind of clothes do they sell? Mirroring the style of the brand will show that you're aware of what trends they push and who they appeal to.
For high-street stores such as Topshop and Zara, I would say smart casual is suitable. I generally try and avoid jeans, anything scruffy like chipped nail varnish, overly high heels, heavy make-up and clothes that show too much skin. Lastly, although it might seem like a good idea, don't go to the interview dressed head-to-toe in the store's stock. You don't want to look too keen!
The interview: The actual interview process will vary depending on which shop you've applied for. Some may hold group interviews while others will have an individual one-on-one. Although group interviews sound less daunting, I actually prefer individual interviews as you have more chance to really sell yourself and showcase your skills. Be prepared to take part in a practical task - some stores asked me to pick out an outfit for a particular scenario or event (meeting a boyfriends parents for the first time or going to a festival), while others gave me a lanyard and told me to go out on shop floor so they could evaluate how comfortable I looked and how I interacted with customers. You may also be given a pile of items and told to pick one and sell it to the interviewer, or even asked to attend a trial shift. Trial shifts are very often unpaid so you'll have to decide whether or not you're willing to work for free.
As for the actual interview questions, I find they're very similar whichever shop you apply for. Although it's a fashion related role and there are likely to be questions about your personal style and current trends, your job will be to sell so most of the interview will be based around customer service. You may be given an imaginary scenario and asked how you'd handle it, or be required to give an example of a time you've coped under pressure. Keep in mind that some questions may throw you a little off guard - I was once asked what the most exciting thing I'd done in the past month was and I had no idea what to say (sitting in bed stuffing my face with Pringles and watching Kardashian reruns is exciting, yes?)
Here are some other examples of questions I've been asked in a fashion retail interview:
Why do you want to work for (company name)? Who is your style icon and why? If you had 6 months to do whatever you wanted, money no object, what would you do? Can you give me an example of something you've done that you're proud of? Why do you think you're right for the job? How would you go about delivering great customer service?
Don't be afraid to sell yourself. Do you own a personal style blog? Are you often asked for style advice off friends or family? Can you speak a foreign language? Are you first aid trained? Have you studied/are you studying fashion at college or university? Anything you think may be a valuable skill, don't hesitate to mention it.
Keep an eye on your body language. Make eye contact, smile lots and don't fold your arms. Be friendly. Remember that the main part of your job will be interacting with people on a daily basis, so the interviewer will want to see that you're confident and have a good energy. Although all retail stores want enthusiastic sales advisers, I've found American companies in particular are really big on being super smiley and bubbly. Staff will often be required to approach customers rather than waiting for them to approach you, so keep that in mind if you're applying for somewhere like Hollister.
Lastly, although it's a job interview, try not to be too formal. Relax, be chatty with the interviewer and try to retain a positive energy. Remember to stay polite and professional though - don't swear (obviously), don't interrupt and avoid badmouthing a previous job or employer!
Other things to remember:
- Don't get too disheartened if you don't think you did very well. You might have performed better than you think! I felt I was really clumsy in my interview for Miss Selfridge, stumbling over my words and such, but they called me the next day and offered me the job
- At the same time, try not to pin all your hopes on one interview and continue to look for work even when you're waiting for a call. In some cases there may have been a stronger or more experienced candidate for the role and that's fine. Don't take it personally or let it knock your confidence
- Most stores will ask if you have any holidays booked in the near future, especially if you're applying for a Christmas/summer temp job. The majority of employers I've worked for don't allow any time off during November and December, so it may prove a bit of a problem if you have a trip planned. Just something to keep in mind
- Stating the obvious but don't lie on your CV or in your interview!
- Finally, don't be late!
I think that's everything covered! Hopefully you found this post interesting or helpful in some way. In a nutshell, my golden rules are to smile, be friendly and try not to let your nerves get the better of you. If anyone has any further questions don't hesitate to drop me an email, I'd be happy to help you out. Best of luck!