How I Got A Job In Retail Without Any Product Knowledge


My first ever job in retail was at a job at photography store that was part of a larger Canadian chain.
I always think fondly of this job as the one that developed my interpersonal skills the most quickly.

Luckily for me however, I apparently already had some.

On a regular basis my manager would remind me of my interview for the sales rep position and how I’d been presented with the scenario of having to sell a camera and I started off by saying, “Well…this one is pink.”

It became quite an inside joke at the store and my manager would always say that he hired me based on how approachable and willing to learn I was.

Turns out, there had been another candidate for the position who had extensive knowledge of cameras, photography, and the entire process of photo development. However, he hadn’t come across as friendly and approachable even though his product knowledge certainly outweighed mine.

So, I ended up getting the job. Read on to learn more about how I acted during my interview and what I learned about interpersonal skills during my time at the photography store.

Smile like you mean it

I was smiling from the moment I walked into that interview.

I wasn’t trying to be fake, I just wanted the person who was interviewing me to know that I was genuinely happy to be there. I’m a chronic nail biter, and I know that it’s seriously unprofessional so I made an effort to keep my nails away from my teeth for the duration of the interview.

I remained concentrated on different interview questions as the manager led me around the store and interviewed me at the same time.

Ask clarification questions

When you’re interviewing for a job in a specialist store, there’s a good chance that you’ll get some jargon dropped on you – whether you’re familiar or not.

If I didn’t understand a question or a word, I said so. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t pretending to be some sort of camera pro and it also demonstrated that I was a good communicator and would be willing to clarify print orders or sales requests with customers.

Show that you’re willing to learn (by asking more questions)

When I was staring at an entire case of cameras, I was totally perplexed by each one.

Asked to sell one to my manager during the interview, I had no idea where to start (hence, the “pink” fiasco). I made up a pitch on the spot as to why my manager should buy the camera in question and he promptly suggested areas I could improve on in my pitch.

Then he asked me to sell him another camera and I made a point of following all of his previous suggestions. He told me right then and there that it was great to see that I was able to take instruction and improve so quickly based on his suggestions.

The importance of interpersonal skills

When you’re trying to sell something, information is your most useful weapon.

Customers will often be on their guard around salespeople as they don’t want to end up being persuaded into purchasing something they don’t need. Telling a customer how they will be able to use something and why it’s important that they purchase it is just as important as having the information that can explain all of that to them.

The customer is always right, even when they’re not. If you make a mistake, explain calmly why it was your fault and tell them immediately what you’re going to do to remedy the situation. Explain that you understand how they feel and remember to empathize, not sympathize.

Greet every customer that enters the store. I can safely say that as both a customer and ex-retail worker, if you enter a smaller-sized store and are ignored it does not feel good and usually pushes me to leave sooner rather than later. That said, make your greetings sincere – don’t feel the need to ask every customer “how are you today?” unless you have a non-awkward response to the occasional, but inevitable retort of “crappy” that customers might throw at you.

Get more insight into retail careers in TalentEgg’s Retail Career Guide!