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No matter what stage you are in your career, interviews can be daunting. Here, you will find interview guidelines to help you through the process, from preparation to actual interview. Naturally, your Elite Consultant is here to offer you continued support and advice, but the purpose of this advice pack is so you can brush up on your interview technique. Whether you are out of practice, preparing for your first management interview or just to cement your existing interview skills, this advice pack will help you see what recruiter’s are looking for and in turn, how to face any future interviews you may have.


Preparation is key: If you had an exam, you wouldn’t attend without revising…….an interview is the same!

If you have been unsuccessful in previous interviews, learn from your mistakes and ask yourself:

• What you could have done better? • Which questions were difficult to answer? • Were you prepared enough?

An employer will expect you to visit a store, preferably the store or concession that you are applying to work in and also another store to get an idea of the different layouts, visual merchandising, customer service, product placement, store standards and ambiance. You should look at the company website so that you can talk articulately about the company with whom you want to work. If you are applying for a Store Manager or Assistant Manager role, we suggest you do a mystery shop in the store and a SWOT Analysis.


SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a recognised format for studying a business. The reasons for you preparing a SWOT analysis are firstly to show the interviewer you have prepared, secondly, it is professional and thirdly, it shows that you are prepared to go the extra mile and will make you stand out to the interviewer.

The word SWOT stands for:

S – Strengths
W – Weaknesses
O – Opportunities
T - Threats

|Strengths – Write down all of the strengths of the business|Weaknesses – Think about these carefully and be careful |
|you are applying to. Think of all aspects of the business |not to be too negative. Be constructive and always offer |
|i.e.) |solutions to any weaknesses in the opportunities section. |
|Customer Service | |
|Staff Recruitment methods | |
|Training | |
|Brand Image | |
|Product Quality | |
|Store Location | |
|Company Expansion | |
|Retail Business ups & downs | |
|Opportunities – |Threats – |
|Any opportunities listed from the weaknesses column |Is there anything that could pose a threat to the business|
|Store Location – any development plans that would |in the future? |
|positively impact the business |Is there a downturn in their part of the Retail market? |
|Anything in the retail market that may have a positive |Is there new competition opening nearby? |
|impact on the business? |A rival store or new company that could divert customers |
|Is there anything that you are great at that you could |away? |
|incorporate in to the business? | |
| | |
|Remember – Constructive Criticism is key! | |


Wherever possible, type up your SWOT analysis or at least make it clear and legible with no spelling mistakes. Remember, a SWOT is about making that extra effort, if you prepare a bad SWOT analysis it will not impress, so make sure it is thorough and well presented. Any potential employer will be happy with your obvious understanding of their business and the lengths that you have gone to in order to prepare.


Certain questions are guaranteed to come up at every interview, although they will be worded slightly differently. If you are prepared, you will be able to adapt your answer to the specific question. These are called competency questions and although they come in slightly different formats, the point of asking them is to assess your management capabilities – below are some examples:

• Can you give me an example of a time you have significantly increased sales in your store?

• Give me a time when you have exceeded sales targets under difficult circumstances.

• Can you give me an example of a time when you trained and developed an individual within your business?

• Tell me about a time when achieving a particular goal was dependant on working effectively as a team and how did you achieve this goal?

• Can you tell me about a time when you had to persuade colleagues to follow a course of action, how did you approach it, what was the outcome?

• What KPI’s do you work to and how do you ensure you reach these targets?

• Tell me about a time you and your team had to deal with an extremely heavy workload and how did you manage this?

• Have you ever had an issue with security? How did you minimise it and what was the outcome?

• Give an example of a time you’ve had to deal with a very difficult customer, what was the outcome?

• How do you ensure that your customers have an unforgettable experience in your store?

These questions are designed to test your ability as a manager and the best way to answer them is to offer a:

SITUATION – that is relevant to the question

ACTION – what you did,
REMEMBER, the interviewer does not want to hear about your colleagues, this is an opportunity for you to shine, and how your actions are essential to the business!


RESULT – This is a fantastic opportunity for you to deliver any facts and figures that support your claims!

For example:

Q: Have you ever had an issue with Stock Loss / Security? How did you minimise it and what was the outcome?

A: • Think of a specific example where security issues were a problem • Think of everything that you did to reduce stock loss and increase security • Give examples that are clear, concise and confident – if they have to prise the answer out of you, you are not telling them enough! • When it comes to the result, always give facts or figures to back up what you have said.

If you were an interviewer and had asked the same question 3 or 4 times in one day, you would only remember the responses that were strong and had supportive facts to back the claims. Make sure that the answer you give is so solid, it leaves them thinking…I wish this person could do the same in my store!

Another question that is often asked in interview is:

Q: What kind of manager are you?

A: • Answer the question concisely and with a business mind • As a manager your main focus should be PEOPLE, PRODUCT, PROFIT.

PEOPLE: You work with your staff, head office colleagues and of course customers. Think of all the things you do with people – recruit, train, develop, mentor, assess, communicate, delegate, lead, direct, organise, praise, resolve issues etc…

PRODUCT: How do you manage your product? A commercial manager knows how important product awareness is to a successful business. Think about stock presentation, stock levels and how they can be maintained and replenished. Analysis of best sellers, product placement in store, how you ensure deliveries are processed efficiently and that any new lines are prioritised on to the shop floor. Think about display, your window, visual merchandising and how they impact sales, store promotions and how you monitor their effectiveness, monitoring competitor activity, etc.

PROFIT: Talk about the KPI’s and targets that you work to. Sales figures compared with last year, or budget. How do you improve or maintain sales figures? I.e.) UPT’s, ATV’s and customer loyalty cards. Have you been able to reduce your costs? Think about payroll, even small things like stationery orders can impact cost! Bear in mind that people and product will directly impact your profit so you can structure your answer accordingly.

Obviously you will not be able to discuss all of these things; otherwise you will be there for some time! However, pick one subject from People, Product and

Profit and talk about your strengths and motivations. It helps if it is something that you feel quite strongly about as talking passionately will inspire your interviewer and make them believe in your ability!

To prepare in this way will make you feel so confident and unphased by the interview process you will start to enjoy the opportunity to sell yourself. You will not only be successful in your interview, but in your understanding of your role. You may find that moving forward in your career you feel more confident of your impact as a manager in the business, or you may discover that you can be doing more in your role to grow as a manager, this can only be a good thing!


First Impressions count!!!

• Don’t be late! – Plan your journey so that you arrive early and leave yourself plenty of time to arrive, so that you are not flying through the door with seconds to spare looking hot and flustered – That will not make a good first impression. • Make sure you have the name of the person you are meeting for interview and their role within the company. • Wear appropriate clothes – Obviously you should always be well presented, but if you were going for an interview with a street / surf brand, do not wear a suit. They may feel that you do not understand the company and its ethos. Do a bit of investigation into the brand and its current collection; they will buy into you more if you show an understanding of the company image.

These are basis rules, but so often people are let down by things that could have made such a good impression if a little thought and care had been taken!


Says more than you know!!!! – posture, manner and self presentation play a major part in people’s perception of you

• If you are attending an interview for a luxury brand, be aware that they may have very high expectations when it comes to your presentation, speech and how you hold yourself. • If you are applying for a role on Bond Street, they will expect you to be comfortable working with wealthy, demanding clients. You must be able to hold your own in that environment so do take that into account. • If you are making a positive statement make sure your body language is saying the same. • If you are feeling happy about something you are saying, then smile! • If you feel passionate about a particular subject, let it show!

• Always face the interviewer • Nod or acknowledge a comment that you agree with • Sit up straight, slouch on your couch but NEVER at an interview • Have a positive, firm handshake • Make eye contact and show your interest


We cannot stress this enough! – Be extremely positive in any interview.
If you are not feeling positive about a role you have been put forward for, you must speak to your Elite consultant as soon as possible.

If you are positive and enthusiastic it has the following effects:

• The interviewer can see how you will enthuse and motivate your team • How you positively sell yourself will indicate your selling skills and show the interviewer how you will encourage and inspire customers • People cannot help but like happy, enthusiastic people. Whether it is good practice or not, an interviewer is much more likely to recruit somebody that they like!!!


• Never be negative about yourself or a previous employer during an interview. Even if relations became strained towards the end of your employment, maintain a dignified silence and highlight the positives in your experiences. • If you are asked about your negatives during your interview, turn it into a positive or an area that you can develop. It should not be something that is instrumental to the role. For example, saying that you need to develop your organisational skills when you are applying for a stock controller role would not be ideal!!!


You will be asked about customer service at some point during the interview. It is one of the most important aspects of retail work and something your prospective employer will take very seriously. They will be interested to hear your views on customer service and how you ensure customers receive great service in your store.

• Think about your experiences – we have all been a customer and received fabulous customer service and possibly even recommended a store or particular sales person to a friend. Equally, we have all received service that made us despair! • Draw on these experiences to explain what customer service means to you. • Remember, if you are applying for a role within a luxury brand, the customer service expectations will be different to that of a supermarket • Tailor your answer to the company that you are applying for, as each will have their own priorities and customer service values.

Remember customer service, no matter where you work in retail, is always a priority!



You may also be asked about your achievements:

• Think of times in your retail career that you have exceeded expectations, been promoted, turned a difficult situation around, problem solved, opened a new store, fed an idea up to management etc. • Think about this before your interview so you have an answer to hand, if you think about it for too long in your interview, it will look as though you are having trouble remembering an achievement and will not fill your interviewer with confidence. • Be proud of your achievements and always state how you achieved them – do not be embarrassed about your achievements, this is your chance to shine.


At some point in the interview, you may be asked a question you couldn’t prepare for. Bear in mind that if you are having a great interview, the interviewer may ask a difficult question; just to see how you react to something you were not expecting:

• Never show that you are under pressure • Take a moment to think about it and then respond in a professional manner and with a smile • Once you have answered the question, stop. Do not waffle to fill a pause.

A topic that many people find difficult to discuss is salary. You should have already discussed your minimum and ideal salary requirements with your Elite consultant and they will have conveyed this to the interviewer. Don’t be tempted to add on to this as it will not look good! Stick to what you have agreed with your consultant and answer with confidence and assurance.


Don’t relax just yet…

You will begin to relax as the interview progresses, but keep on your toes until you are out of the building and in safe celebrating distance!

Every part of the interview process is an opportunity for you to impress, the end of the interview is as important because it is the final and lasting impression they will have of you.

It is always a good idea to have a few questions ready to ask the interviewer. A good example is:

• What are your expectations of a great store manager?

This question gives them the opportunity to explain exactly what they are looking for. Show your understanding and interest and they will feel that you are reading from the same page.


Other questions that can be asked:

(NB – if they have been discussed already, do not ask again, it will look as if you have not been listening!)

• What career prospects does your company offer?

• What training and development do you offer?

• Is this a company that promotes internal progression?

• Is the store that I will be working in performing to target?

• What would you like the turnover to be?

• Are there any areas for development or improvement in the store?

• What is the company like to work for?

• How long have you been with the company?

• Do you enjoy your work?

All in all a great way to end an interview, you have expressed an interest in the role, the company and your interviewer. Now all that remains is for you to thank the interviewer and leave, filled with the knowledge that you have done all you can to secure the job.

Get a safe distance away, sigh with relief…and then call your Elite Consultant and let us know how it went!



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Interviewing Technique

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...The interviewing process can be nerve wrecking for both parties. It is very important for both the recruiter and the candidate to make a good first impression. The interview is the first chance the candidate gets to prove to the prospective employer that they are capable in preforming whatever the job entails. It is also crucial for the recruiter to make an outlasting impression on the candidate applying, they are the first face that the candidate will see from the company. It is very imperative for both parties to avoid any potential embarrassment by being well prepared. There are many “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to the interviewing process and in this specific scenario, it was overloaded in mainly don’ts. I was surprised at the utter unpreparedness of the interviewer in this situation. In conducting a successful interview, it is crucial to have as much information as possible. Being well prepared not only gives the candidate a chance to shine in the interviewing process but it also shines a positive light on the company. knowing that you are well prepared for the interview instantly makes the candidate more relaxed and confident. It...

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