Sales Associate Interview Questions
Sales associates provide general assistance to customers. They answer questions, help customers locate products they are looking for, ring up their purchases, handle returns, and are responsible for keeping the store neat and presentable.
Ultimately, sales associates are there to make sure the customer has a pleasant experience and the transaction process goes smoothly. It’s important for sales associates to be passionate about helping and communicating with others.
Sales associate responsibilities may include:
- Communicating with customers
- Processing returns
- Maintaining a clean workspace
- Possessing expert knowledge of the products and services their company offers
- Reporting any findings to management and supervisors
Customers often have questions when shopping, such as where an item is located or whether a sale is still going on. In order to provide a pleasant customer experience, a skilled sales associate will:
- Work quickly and efficiently
- Maintain a professional demeanor
- Have knowledge of the day-to-day workings of the company
- Communicate clearly with customers
- Work in unison with co-workers and management
Entry-level positions as a sales associate can be obtained with little-to-no experience or a degree. Employers want candidates with a pleasant demeanor who can provide assistance to customers in a variety of roles. Prior experience in customer service can help make a candidate more appealing.
If you’re getting ready to interview for a position as a sales associate, you can prepare by researching the company as much as possible. Learn about the 9 things you should research before an interview.
Salaries for sales associates range between $18K and $38K with the median being $26K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a sales associate include:
- Degrees and Training (high school diploma, associate's, bachelor's)
- Years of Experience
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the management team you report to, number of direct reports such as junior associates and retail staff)
- Level of Performance - Exceeding Expectations
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Sales Associate Interview Questions
Question: Can you summarize what you know about our company and the products we sell?
Explanation: This is a general or opening question which the interviewer will ask to start the conversation and get you talking. It will also help them gain a better understanding of your background and provide information they can use for subsequent questions. It will also confirm you did your research about the company before the interview.
Example: “Based on my research and what I already know about the company, your brand represents discriminating tastes, upscale style, and high fashion. Your target audience is women between the ages of eighteen and fifty who prefer the latest trends in fashion and are willing to pay a premium. Your stores have a reputation for providing personalized service, including recommending styles and accessories to your customers.”
Question: Can you describe our brand in three words and tell me why you choose those particular words?
Explanation: This is another general question meant to determine your knowledge of the company, its brands, and its retail operations. The best way to prepare for an interview is to do thorough research about the company, its products, its market, and the competition. You can anticipate being asked questions in each of these areas. Practicing these questions and providing your own answers will also help.
Example: “I can easily summarize your brand in three words - style, luxury, and affordability. It is obvious the company has worked hard to establish a brand that connotes a high degree of luxury and style at an affordable price. This is the theme of all of your marketing and is evident in the store displays and layouts. The retail associates who work here also emphasize this in their sales pitches.”
Question: Please tell me the two most important things you learned from previous experiences in sales ?
Explanation: By asking this question, the interviewer is interested in your sales experience and the skills you have acquired in your past positions. They are trying to determine the value you would bring to their organization and how you would help them reach their business objectives. Your answer should address this and describe the skills you bring to the job that would benefit the employer.
Example: “Two beneficial things I learned in my previous sales jobs include the importance of determining the customer’s needs and using questions to guide them toward a purchase. Customers will only purchase what they need or want. As a sales associate, my job is to determine what this is and then guide them toward solutions my organization offers which will fulfill these needs or wants. I do this by asking both open- and close-ended questions that will help both the customer and me understand what they need and their buying criteria. I also use questions to help the customer understand how certain accessories and related items will enhance their enjoyment of the original product they are seeking to purchase.”
Question: When interacting with a customer, what is the primary goal you try to accomplish?
Explanation: This is an operational question which the interviewer will ask to try to get an understanding of how you go about selling products. Operational questions are meant to determine how you do this job. They also help the interviewer understand if your selling methodology is the same as what the company employs. Operational questions are best answered directly and concisely.
Example: “The primary goal is to sell the customer a product they want or need which is within their budget, satisfies their purchasing criteria, and is offered by my organization. When I am working with a customer, I first seek to understand what products they are interested in and what needs these products are meant to fulfill. I also try to determine what their budget is and what criteria they use when selecting a product. All of this constitutes a secondary goal that will contribute to my primary goal.”
Question: What sales strategy would you employ to be successful at our company?
Explanation: This is another operational question specific to the organization with whom you are interviewing. In previous questions, they asked about your individual selling skills and methodologies. Now they are asking about how you would go about doing this job specific to their company and the products they market. Your research about the company, its products, the market, and the competition should have prepared you for this question. All you have to do is integrate your selling methodology with selling their products.
Example: “The sales strategy which I think will work best for your company is to quickly determine the customer’s needs and then offer them three different solutions. These would include the best product, one that has more features with a higher price, and one that is less expensive but with fewer features. I would describe the relative benefits of each of these with the goal of selling the most expensive one the customer could afford. I would seek to eliminate the least expensive one as an option and guide the customer to the best match or the upsell product.”
Question: What would you do if you saw a co-worker being rude to a customer?
Explanation: This is a behavioral question. Behavioral questions describe a scenario and then ask how you would react to it. Behavioral questions are best responded to by using the STAR framework. You first state the Situation and describe the Task you are trying to accomplish. This is followed by a description of the Actions you would take and the Results you anticipate achieving.
Example: “If I were to witness one of my associates being rude to a customer, my first thought would be to correct the situation. I would do this first by intervening and politely suggesting that I work with the customer and my associate step aside. If the associate wasn’t responsive to this, I would then locate our manager, describe the situation to him, and recommend he intervene. I have done this in the past, and both of these actions resulted in resolving the situation and the customer being satisfied. Both the customer and the manager expressed their gratitude for my having taken responsibility for the situation.”
Question: What do you think is more critical - providing quick, efficient service or taking extra time to help a customer?
Explanation: This is another operational question which, on the surface, is asking you to choose between two alternatives. Interviewers ask these types of questions to determine your priorities and how you would resolve conflicting objectives. One way you can answer this is to make it situational, acknowledging that both of these are important and describing how you would balance efficiencies and customer service.
Example: “Customer service is always the most important priority for a sales associate. However, customer service needs to be delivered efficiently. Spending too much time with a single customer may limit the opportunity to assist other shoppers. With this situation, I would work to understand the customer's needs as quickly as possible and offer solutions to these from among the products the company sells. If this action was taking longer than I anticipated, I would suggest the customer takes some time to decide and contact me once they had made a choice. The alternative would be to find one of my associates to whom I could assign my other duties or hand the customer off to.”
Question: Are you comfortable working a cash register to process purchases and returns?
Explanation: This is another operational question. It is seeking not only to determine your skills at managing the cash register and processing returns but also whether you would be open to doing this job, even though it was not part of the work assignment you are interviewing for. The best answer is an honest one. If you’d prefer not to do it, the best time to disclose that is during the interview. If you’re okay with performing these duties, you should be prepared to do it once you are hired.
Example: “I recognize I am interviewing for a sales associate’s position. I understand the normal duties for this are working in a specific department and helping customers. I also recognize that for the store to function properly, each of the employees must be willing to assume duties outside of their job description. I would be more than happy to fill in on a cash register or work in customer service processing returns if the need arose.”
Question: Do you think it is beneficial to have competition within a sales associate team?
Explanation: An interviewer will ask this type of question to determine how competitive you are and whether you appreciate a challenge. The sales profession involves a great deal of competitiveness. The most successful people in this profession are the ones who can set a goal and are willing to work hard to achieve it. Sales managers will often set up competitions or contests to motivate the sales staff and drive them toward achieving their numbers. You should keep this in mind when answering this question.
Example: “I think competition among a sales team is not only beneficial but necessary. Good salespeople are highly motivated and achievement oriented. They strive to achieve their sales objectives and be recognized by management and their peers. Competition among sales associates helps achieve both of these objectives, and I am a strong believer in this.”
Question: What traits and qualities would you use to help you represent our brand and increase your sales of our products?
Explanation: This is another operational question. However, rather than asking about how you go about doing your job, it asks you to describe the traits and qualities you have that will make you successful in this position. Again, your research about the company and its products, market, and competition should help you structure your answer. Describe two to three qualities that relate to their brand and will result in achieving your sales objectives for the company.
Example: “The qualities I have that will help me represent your brand include sensitivity, empathy, and persistence. Sensitivity allows me to pick up on buying cues offered by the customer. Empathy enables me to understand why they need a product and what their buying criteria may be. Finally, persistence keeps me focused on the goal and helps me continue to strive to close the sale, even when the customer offers objections or is reluctant to make a purchasing decision.”
Additional Sales Associate Interview Questions
Tell me about a time when you have had to deal with a really difficult customer.
What would you do if you brought a product for a customer to try on, but they didn’t like it?
What would you do if a customer asks you about a product you are unfamiliar with?
Have you ever overrode company policy in favor of good customer service? Can you explain the situation?
How do you feel about the phrase, “The customer is always right?"
Can you tell me about a previous experience where you turned a negative interaction with a customer into a positive one?
A word of warning when using question lists.
Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.
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