Very small retail stores typically have just one employee–either the owner, or the store manager, who is in fact also a cashier, stock clerk, sales associate and everything in between. Small stores typically have a few employees, and one manager. Even in this case, the manager may be just another sales associate with some extra responsibilities and a slightly better income than the rest of the staff members.

Only when we talk about middle-sized and big retail stores, that means places with 10-100 employees, position of an assistant store manager (sometimes called also retail assistant manager) enters the picture. You will support the store manager in managing the daily operations of the retail store. It is a nice job, but before you can enjoy the perks, you’ll have to succeed in an interview. Let’s have a look at what will happen.

You will face a variety of personal and behavioral interview questions. The store owner or the store manager will inquire about your motivation, previous experience, and most importantly about your attitude to some tricky situations you may face as a retail assistant manager–think conflict with one of the employees, complaining customers, heavy workload, issues with motivation, and so on. Let’s have a look at some of these questions.


Why do you want to work as an assistant store manager?

You should cover two areas in your answer. First one, skills and abilities that make from you a good applicant for the job. It can be organizational and management skills, observation and communication skills, ability to solve problems and manage people. Of course, you can also refer to your previous experience. Perhaps you’ve had some retail jobs before, understand the ins and outs of a successful retail operation, and now you feel the time is right for a transition into a managerial role.

Another area to cover is what you expect from the job, what it will bring to your life. Maybe you want to have more impact. You’ve worked as a crew member for some time, or as a sales associate. Now you feel like getting more responsibility, and earning more money, which will certainly happen in the managerial role. You can also say that you read the job description carefully, and enjoy what you have seen, the duties you will be responsible for in your new role. Make sure to speak with some enthusiasm, they should get an impression that you really want the job, and do not apply only because you need one.


Do you have any relevant working experience?

Everything relates to everything. Obviously if you had any managerial or supervisory role in retail before, you should focus on that one. Explain your principal duties and responsibilities, and perhaps also your achievements–perhaps the team or the store thrived under your leadership, revenue grew, or the level of customer satisfaction.

And if you had a job that does not seem relevant, look for similarities. As long as you worked with customers, other people, goods, basically did anything in retail or in management, you can find similarities, and the experience will help you in the job. When lacking relevant experience, the key is to ensure them that you understand the job, and to show confidence in your ability to handle it, and to achieve the desired results.

How do you imagine a typical day at work as our new Assistant Store Manager?

Think about the size of the store, and read the job description once again. Whereas in smaller places “assistant manager” may be just a fancy job title, and you’ll basically do the same things as sales associates do, plus a couple of extra responsibilities, working at a bigger place, you may mostly supervise other employees, and assist the store manager with anything they man need (contact with suppliers, addressing complaints of customers, helping with shift planning, etc).

In any case, ensure them that you expect to have your hands full. The worst thing you can do is saying that you imagine staying in some comfy office, watching the employees from distance, and intervening only when a problem occurs. On the contrary, you want to be out there, among the employees, observing everything from a close distance, and helping your colleagues when the workload gets heavy.

* May also interest you: Operations manager interview questions.


What are your expectations on your superior, the store manager?

You have a couple of good options here. First one is emphasizing honest and open communication. Of course, you understand and accept the hierarchy in the store, and are ready to assist the store manager with anything they man need. However, it is pivotal that they communicate their ideas clearly, and also give you some constructive feedback on your work, so you know what you should improve on. Even better when they are receptive to such feedback from your side, which isn’t always the case…

Another option is saying that you have no expectations. Trying to be attentive to the needs and feelings of your colleagues, you typically do not struggle to get along with anyone, and see no reason why it should be any different here. The manager (and the store owner) is the one who should have some expectations on you, and not the other way around.


Imagine that the workload is heavy and a cashier (or a stock clerk, or some other essential employee) did not come to work. How will you react in such a scenario?

The key is to demonstrate that you do not mind taking on the labor of lower ranked employees, when the situation requires it. Of course, manager needs an assistant, but in emergency cases they can take care of the job alone. Hence when someone doesn’t come to the shift and you do not have a replacement ready, you do mind replacing them–at the cash desk, on the sales floor, in the warehouse–wherever they need you the most.

That’s the attitude they are looking for in an excellent applicant for this job. Of course, you can elaborate on your answer, suggesting different steps, such as:

  • Using different contact media while trying to get in touch with the employee who did not arrive.
  • Contacting one of the part time employees and asking them to come and replace the missing employee.
  • Allocating the work differently, when we talk about employees who already are on the shift.
  • When nothing of that works, taking on the work yourself…

* May also interest you: Warehouse manager interview questions.


Other questions you may face in your assistant store manager job interview


Final thoughts

Just like any other managerial position in retail, assistant store manager vacancy attracts a lot of attention. Many people submit their application, and you may compete with ten or twenty people in the interview, for a single vacancy. It makes your situation quite difficult, even though the questions aren’t particularly difficult…

In any case, luck favors the prepared mind. Think about the questions, spend some time researching about your future employer, and make sure to show motivation and willingness to work hard while interviewing for this job. I hope you will succeed, and wish you best of luck!


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Matthew Chulaw
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