The holiday season is fast approaching. There’s no time to scan meticulously through hundreds of applications. You can’t possibly interview each candidate you narrow down two or three times, before making a final ‘perfect’ decision. Christmas is less than two months away, and you still have to get them trained once you’ve made a decision!

There are literally hundreds of questions a recruiter or manager can ask during a job interview. Following are 10 of the (arguably) most important retail job interview questions you can ask a propective hire when they’re sitting across the table from you, to ensure you get the most out of your seasonal hires:

1. Tell me about your past retail experience?

For most retail businesses, the holiday season isn’t the time to be hiring people who’ve never worked a job in their life. If you need someone who’s good with a mop to clean up at nights, ask them if they have experience cleaning a retail store. If you need someone who can work a POS, talk to customers about your products, and do so with respect for your clientele, ask them what kind of retail experience they have.

2. What’s your experience working in a store experiencing seasonal rushes?

Again, now is not the time to be hiring any old Jack or Jill off the street and trying to train them in all aspects of their job, including how to handle the stress of the store being flooded with customers from open to close. You want retail employees that are adaptable and able to adjust on the fly to whatever number of customers are in the store in a given time, while remaining cool under pressure and consumately professional.

3. Why are you looking for a temporary position?

If they say they need a new iPod or because their parents said they should go out and get a job, that might be a good reason to pass on that individual. If they need money to supplement buying gifts for their family, or they’re already feeling the New Year’s money crunch, you can possibly hire this person with confidence, knowing they really need the money and can be relied upon. If you’re entertaining the idea of keeping a good seasonal hire on for the rest of the year, you can address that need with this question as well.

Interview questions

4. What days/hours are you available to work?

It’s better to find out they have Christmas ski holiday plans in Vale right now, than to get stuck at the last minute on Boxing Day or New Years. Plus, if they have another job they’re working, you may not be able to use them if the hours don’t match up.

5. How flexible is your schedule?

If they’re a full time mom or student, or running their own business on the side, the prospect may not be able to accommodate them in your schedule. Ask them point blank how they feel about an on-call scenario or sudden changes to the schedule with little notice, and how likely they are to come in under such circumstances.

6. Can you give me examples of times you’ve had to learn quickly on the job?

Anyone with experience should be able to provide at least one good example of a time when they were thrown into the retail fire and had to learn fast, on their feet. Hire those with the most compelling examples, preferrably while telling the stories with lots of enthusiasm.

7. What type of merchandise have you had the most success selling?

Maybe they’re great with selling pet products. Does that mean they can sell high-end electronics? Not necessarily!

Retail Interview Questions
Image Credit: Paul Hamilton/Flickr

8. What’s your strategy for handling tough customers?

Holiday stress spreads like wildfire throughout the retail sector. No amount of training can prepare someone for the first, second, third time they have to deal with a customer who’s particularly difficult to get along with. If a prospect can satisfy this question with a plausible gameplan, it’s likely they’ve been here a time or two before.

9. Can you tell me about a time you had an on-the-job problem and how you fixed it?

Again, the holidays are super stressful. What didn’t bother a customer about your store, your products, or your employees yesterday, is likely to bother them on the windup to Christmas starting sometime in early December — all the way up to Christmas Eve. You want employees that can solve problems and do so professionally. This both with customers and their fellow staffers.

10. What do you like most about our store?

Honestly, this question is a bit of a cliche any time of the year. The answer is more likely to be an ego boost for the person asking the question, more than a great question to use to qualify someone for a job. But, whatever — ask it anyway! Sometimes a little old fashioned flattery/BS might help you tip the scales for one candidate over the other when it comes down to a neck-and-neck decision.

Share your own favorite holiday retail interview questions in the comments below…

Main Image Credit: Pulpolux/Flickr