Let’s face it; the entry-level interview process can be tough.
One of the biggest challenges is showing a potential employer everything you’re capable of in a short amount of time. It can also be intimidating to convince someone you’ve never met before of your value. A common mistake young people make in the interview process is downplaying their experience in certain jobs. For example, people with Retail experience sometimes undervalue the expertise the industry requires and the skills they learned on the job. The truth is jobs in Retail can help you gain beneficial transferable skills that can enhance any career.
After all, when your job involves dealing with people, you’re bound to pick up important skills like patience, active listening, and time management. All of these skills can be easily adapted to a variety of different positions – you just need to know how to highlight them in an interview.
Here are a few tips to help you do just that!
1. Make a List of Your Skills
The first thing you should do is make a list of the skills you have gained in your Retail positions. At this stage, you don’t need to be picky – write down all of the skills you can think of and then narrow down your list as you move through your preparation process. For example: patience, negotiation, communication, active listening, and time management. Include these kinds of soft skills along with more task-based skills such as: building a budget, balancing cash accounts, and applying company policies to real life situations with customers.
2. Pair Your Skills List With Examples
For each skill that you’ve written down, come up with a concrete example of when you used these abilities to help you through a difficult situation. For instance, as a Sales Associate, maybe your communication skills helped you meet your store’s monthly sales goal in record time. Or perhaps you used your organizational skills to set up a more efficient filing system. If you can provide the interviewer with specific cases of when you demonstrated characteristics such as patience or problem-solving, it will give them a better understanding of your accomplishments.
3. Prepare your answers
Now it’s time to match your skills and experiences to common interview questions such as, ‘What is your greatest strength/weakness?’ and ‘Why do you want this job?’. First, compile a list of common interview questions. Then, answer each one by referring to the Retail skills and experiences you came up with in the previous step (be sure to choose your strongest ones). For example, you could write that your greatest strength is your ability to organize information. To support that answer, you could then go into detail about the efficient filing system you were able to implement.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
After you complete steps one through three, take the time to practice your answers. You don’t have to memorize them entirely (you don’t want to sound robotic), but it does help if you read them out loud to yourself so you can commit them to memory. You want to appear comfortable in your interview and be able to reference key points, so go over them until you’re satisfied. If you have time, set up mock interviews with family and friends. This way you will be able to practice with real people and get feedback.
In any interview, the difference between your success or failure lies in your preparation. To gain a competitive edge and effectively promote your Retail skills, you’re going to have to do your homework. Good luck!