SmartRecruiters Blog
jerome ternynck

The First 5 Minutes of a Retail Job Interview

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover was never meant for recruiting, because anyone that has recruited for a position has almost certainly judged the cover of the book sitting in front of them.

If you, as an interviewer, are forming an opinion about a person, then so will your customers that meet him or her. Whatever your hopeful looks and sounds like, they also represent your brand should you decide to take them on, so it’s vitally important to get the right person for the job – and that can be hard if you are time or resource poor. Taking on a person because you are desperate, who in your heart you know probably won’t make it, is a false economy and could even bite you in the butt down the line.

Here are 5 key areas to look at when you are in an interview situation:jerome ternynck

  1. Appearance. Basic I know, but is their hair clean and tidy, and the same for their shoes? A lack of awareness in these areas in the interview could mean even less awareness on the job.
  2. Attitude. Give me a positive and willing-to-learn attitude over someone with the relevant skills but the personality of a sullen trout any day. Attitude can’t be taught, but skills can, and people buy from people they like and trust.
  3. Body language. It’s hard to have all the usual confidence when you are being interviewed, but basic body language is always on show. Are they making eye contact with you without staring, or when you ask them a question, are they looking elsewhere as they answer for more than a few seconds?
  4. Exaggeration. We’ve all exaggerated a little at some time, so look out for areas where the truth may have been extended a little and dig deeper to uncover the reality. For example, if your candidate says they have experience doing the evening banking, exactly what does this mean, what was the process they went through and how often? Was it just a one-off duty?
  5. Behavioral style. People very often employ others that they see themselves in – “I can see a little of myself in you many years ago…” – but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. By employing a team with just the same traits and behavioral style as you, you won’t have a good balance of behavioral styles to compliment each other. If you employ a team of very sociable people, you will be constantly asking them to chat less and get on with the task at hand. Likewise, if you employ a team of very detail-focused people, you might find that decision-making and moving forward with a project takes much longer as they think about it more before they commit.

Above all, customer-facing team members need to be courteous, good spirited and brimmed full of common sense to represent your brand in a positive way.

There is a lot to pick up about a person in the first 5 minutes, so give them a chance, make some allowances in this pressured situation, and when they have left the interview, write a few quick notes about what you liked and what you didn’t like about them – it sometimes helps to make a decision about the applicant a little easier. If you really can’t decide either way, there is always a second interview to find out more. Good luck.


Linda ColesLinda Coles is a Speaker, Trainer and Content Creator. She is the Author of “Start with Hello,” founder of The Say Hello Project.

SmartRecruiters is the hiring platform with everything you need to source talent, manage candidates, and make the right hires, with retail clients such as Refinery29, KarmaLoop, and Marc JacobsCheck out more interview tips on our blog.

Linda Coles

Linda Coles is a Speaker, Trainer and Content Creator. She is the Author of “Start with Hello,” founder of The Say Hello Project.