Retail customer service positions are some of the most physically and mentally demanding jobs. Whether it's the varying schedule, fast-paced environment, or the constantly changing roles, the demands in retail can make standing out very difficult. Since most retail associate jobs are entry-level, there is a lot of competition. Standing out among the competition doesn't require any special skills. Instead, it requires just a little focus.
Once you've gotten a call for an interview, you will probably rush to prepare. Prepare by focusing on these four things. First, research the company and their competition. Find out if the company is considered the top in the industry or their current rank. Learn about what the company sells and how they sell it; just in stores or also online. Second, rehearse a few stories that demonstrate your work ethic and experience. Resist making up stories or changing existing ones to make yourself look better. Stick to what really happened and avoid excluding stories where you made a mistake but learned a valuable lesson. That lesson you learned could land you the job. In addition, the stories help you answer questions honestly and show you understand the job expectations. Next, dress nicely, shower, and be at least 10 minutes early. This shows that you take your work seriously and can be professional. Finally, be your professional self. The goal is to make sure they get to know you a little. As a bonus, if you really want to impress them, have a question ready if they ask if you have questions. "What is a day in the life of a 'insert position title' like?" is an excellent question.
Depending upon the position you apply for, the interviewers will be looking for certain cues that often tell them how you might do in the role. Some of the most popular retail positions are listed below.
Cashier / customer service desk: these positions are best performed by people who are willing to start conversations with total strangers. The best candidates for this role are frequently smiling, even when handling difficult situations or problem solving. Make an impact in your interview by asking questions, smiling, and showing natural charisma. People who typically succeed in these roles work strictly by the rules.
Freight / inventory associate: Candidates for these positions rarely work with customers, but being friendly to customers and associates is still required. This position also requires a lot of lifting, climbing, stacking, and possibly working outdoors. Interviewers are looking for people who show urgency and a strong work ethic. Performing the job will be easier if you have a history in working freight, are physically fit or strong, and have a lot of energy. These employees have two safe speeds; fast and faster.
Sales floor / phone based service representatives: These team members need to be flexible and learn new things quickly. These positions are the first ones to be sent home when business is slow, so the best and most effective employees get the hours. Impressing the interviewers happens when you speak in a strong, confident tone that people can trust. You can succeed in this role if you are willing to ask for a sale.
Utility positions / general labor: If you aren't confident you fit into any of the other roles, focus on this one. People who best fit this role have less work experience but a lot of desire and drive to work and succeed. The ways to stand out in your interview are to have very open availability to work and being willing to be flexible in the type of work. People who succeed in these roles are always ready to do what it takes the moment they walk in the door.
Impress Your Boss
The most ignored part of impressing your boss is one of the easiest things to do in just about any job; become obsessed with mastering the basics. Establish yourself as a go-to person for several processes. Unfortunately, some of these expert "doers" can end up getting overworked. Avoid that by always trying to learn new things. If you are willing to take on some additional responsibility, start teaching others how to do things you will earn the trust and respect of your boss as well as the team you train.
Your boss' opinion of you is equally as important as their boss' opinion of you. In a retail environment, you will often work with several levels of management. One thing that impresses the most managers is that you don't reinvent company processes. You just follow the rules, do things the way the company wants, and only make suggestions once you have mastered the basics. Managers are usually not interested in hearing your "improvements" to a process that they can't change. However, they are interested in hearing how you helped a customer buy a high-ticket item or taught another associate how to do something. You are showing them that you are more valuable than others.
Step Up and Get Promoted
Many people are motivated to get promoted by the increase in salary or the ability to tell others what to do. Instead, we recommend you focus on wanting a promotion to positively influence more people and make some much needed improvements through applying the basics you mastered as you were trying to get noticed. By changing your focus to helping the company and other employees, your attitude towards the new demands of your new position will be one of tackling them as a team.
When you decide it's time to step outside your comfort zone, ask your direct manager about cross-training in other departments or if there are some other opportunities in your current store. This shows an interest in learning more while showing loyalty to your team. As a result, avoid applying at another location without first speaking with your current manager. If all else fails, just be consistent, maintain a positive and helpful attitude and you will establish a great reputation.