In most retail stores, key holder is simply a shift supervisor with a few extra responsibilities. They should come to the store before everyone else, open the doors, turn off the alarm, and check if everything is in place, and the store is ready to open for customers.

They typically come first in the morning and leave last in the evening. Before leaving the store and locking the doors behind them, they turn on the alarm, and check if other employees took care of their duties (such as swiping the floor or restocking the shelves). Sometimes they may also respond for taking the cash to the safe deposit in the bank, on their way home.

During the day, they typically help out in the store, or supervise the employees on a shift. They often have a longer lunch break, just to make up for the extra hour they work in the morning and evening combined.

Key holder is a nice retail position which pays slightly better than other basic retail positions. Let’s have a look at the question you may face in an interview for this job.


Can you please tell us something about yourself?

The most important thing is to show a mature sense of responsibility in your answer. When you describe your education or the jobs you had, try to emphasize how responsibly you took care of all your duties.

If you were responsible for something serious in your last job–perhaps for the daily sales, or for some expensive piece of equipment or machinery, you should definitely mention it. They should get an impression that you are someone they can rely on, and aren’t afraid to carry responsibility on your shoulders.

The content of your answer depends mostly on your level of experience. If this is your first job application, you do not have much options. Just tell them a bit about your education, and perhaps mention two or three personal traits that matter for the job, and one or two things from your personal life.

If you have previous experience from retail, you should focus primarily on the duties you had in your former jobs. Any written recommendation from your former bosses is a big plus.

How do you imagine a typical day in this job?

The most important thing is to show realistic expectations. Key holders do not come to work only in the morning and then in the evening, to open and close the shop. They come before everyone else, and leave last, but they spend most of the time in-between the two moments working in the store.

Now, what exactly you will do in the store depends on the organizational structure of the place. You may supervise the employees, but you may be just another sales associate, with a few extra responsibilities, and a slightly better salary.

Read the job description carefully and try to deduce what you will do. If you aren’t sure, ensure them that you expect to arrive to the store before anyone else, check if everything’s all right, and then you feel ready to take on manual labor, or do anything else that’s necessary in the store on any given day.

They should get an impression that you do not expect to just open and lock the doors, and enjoy the time in between reading newspapers in some comfy office… Ensure them that you are ready to work hard, and understand that holding keys won’t be your only duty.


What would you check in the evening before locking the store?

This is another opportunity to demonstrate your sense of responsibility. Suggest checking a lot of things, including:

  • Are the lights off in the entire store, including the back office?
  • If some lights should remain on during the night, for example in the front window, are they on?
  • Isn’t water dripping from any of the sinks, or leaking from somewhere?
  • Have the cleaners taken care of their job properly, or did they forget to do something, for example sweeping the floor in one of the rooms?
  • Are all objects on their place, and secure, so in the morning everything should be ready for the quick opening of the store?
  • Has everyone really gone home, or is there somewhere still half-sleeping in the back office?
  • Have you turned on the alarm, and are all the signal lights indicating that it is working?
  • ….

Show them that you care about each little detail. You do not want your employer to lose money just because someone forgot to turn off the light in the back office, or let the tap water running.


Imagine that you arrive to the store ten minutes before opening, but realize that you forgot the keys. What will you do?

I suggest you to start the answer by saying that it is very unlikely to happen to you. First of all, you haven’t forgotten keys for years (at least you can claim so in the interview), and you do not want to come to the store just 10 minutes before opening.

You plan to arrive 30 minutes earlier, to turn everything on and ensure that the store is ready for opening. If you forgot the keys (speaking hypothetically, because you are sure you won’t forget them), you would either return back home to take them (if it was realistic within the 30 minutes), or you’d call someone else who has the keys (store manager, for example), and kindly asked them to come and open the store.

Basically you will quickly consider all viable options, and decide for the best one, trying to open the store on time, or with a minimal delay.

Imagine that you come to work in the morning. You open the store, but instead of three sales associates just one came to work, and you cannot reach the other two on the phone. The store opens and people start coming in. What will you do?

This is exactly your opportunity to showcase both your managerial skills, and willingness to take on the job if necessary.

You can start your answer by saying that you will send a message to both sales associates who didn’t come to work, perhaps on various channels (What’s up, Facebook), just to ensure they got it. You may also contact a sales associate from another shift, and ask them to come and replace the missing persons.

However, until you solve the situation, you won’t let the customers waiting. You will become a sales associate for an hour, half a day, or for the entire day, depending on whether you eventually succeed to get a replacement for the missing colleague.


Describe your definition of an outstanding customer service.

You will hold the keys, but you will also work in a store. And in the store, everything is about delivering an excellent service to the customers. It’s even more important to know what an excellent service means when you work as a supervisor, because only then you can instruct your subordinates in work.

We have a separate page devoted to this question here, so let me quote two sample answers:

Customer have to feel welcome from the first moment to the last, during the entire stay in the restaurant. It means greeting them at the table, serving them quickly, giving them recommendations and advice, stopping at the table regularly to ask whether everything’s right, and thanking them for their visit once they pay the bill. Staying courteous and friendly goes without saying. That’s how I would describe an outstanding customer service.

It’s about meeting their expectations, being attentive to their needs. They need to feel good in the store. In an ideal case we should approach each customer, to ask them if they need help with something, or to give recommendations, for example when they are trying on a piece of clothing and we bring a matching belt or shoes. It’s about having our eyes open, and always consider the well-being of the customer our first priority.


Other questions you may get while interviewing for a job of a key holder

  • What do you do to ensure you won’t lose the keys? What would you do if you actually realized that you lost them?
  • Imagine that a customer complains loudly about the service they received from one of the sales reps. How will you react in this situation?
  • It’s 7 am, you arrive to open the store, and realize that one of the front windows has been broken. What will you do?
  • Describe a time when you showed sense of responsibility in work.
  • Tell us about a time when you want above and beyond for the customer.
  • How would you characterize your leadership style?
  • Do you have any questions?


Conclusion, next steps

Interview for a job of a key holder belongs to easier interviews. If you apply for a job internally (which is often the case), and they had a good experience with you as a sales worker or shift supervisor, it’s a mere formality. As long as you show realistic expectations and mature sense of responsibility, they will hire you.

Situation is a bit more tricky if you apply for this job with a new employer. In such a case you’ll have to demonstrate right attitude to work, understanding of excellent customer service, and of course the sense of responsibility. You can do so with good answers to their questions (following the advice from this post), and also with an appropriate conduct in an interview.

I hope you will manage to succeed, and wish you best of luck! Matthew

May also interest you:

  • Salary negotiation tips – Can you negotiate at least a slightly better salary for you, at the end of the interview? If you cannot, we will show you how you can.
  • How to overcome interview nerves – 4 strategies on getting rid of stress, and delivering your best on the big day.
  • Supervisor interview questions – Learn how to answer 25 difficult questions you may face while trying to get a supervisory job (which can go hand in hand with the position of a key holder).
Matthew Chulaw
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