Big retail stores earn millions, or billions of dollars each year. So why would they bother if someone takes a small item without paying, be it a customer, or an employee? The problem is that once people get away with stealing, they will try their luck again. Things can add up pretty quickly, and in fact, American retailers lose almost $50 billion annually to theft.

In order to eliminate the losses, or at least minimize them, retail stores employ loss prevention officers and managers. They work either behind the scenes, monitoring the surveillance cameras, or directly on the sales floor, often anonymously, watching suspicious customers and sometimes also employees of the store.

You do not need to meet any special requirements in terms of education or experience to apply for this job. But you need to show motivation and attention to detail in an interview, and demonstrate right attitude to various situations that can happen in the retail store. Let’s have a look at 10 questions you may face while trying to get this job.


Why do you want to work as a loss prevention associate (officer)?

Speaking honestly, nobody dreams of working as a loss prevention officer. It is a decent job, but definitely not a dream occupation. You shouldn’t try to convince the hiring managers of the opposite.

Honesty works best in this case, plus you can focus on your skills and abilities. For example, you can refer to your attention to detail and great observations skills. With you ability to stay focused during a long shift, and to spot suspicious behavior in the store, you believe to have what it takes to become a great loss prevention associate.

And of course, you need a job to earn money and to pay bills, just like everyone else. In this stage of your professional career, considering your education, experience, and preferences, loss prevention officer seems like the right job choice for you.


Do you have any relevant working experience?

You can face two situations at this point: either you have experience, or you don’t. If you have, you can explain where you worked, which equipment you used, and what role did you play in the loss prevention team.

Try to speak with enthusiasm about your former roles. They shouldn’t get a feeling that you hate the job, and did it only because you had to. What’s more, you should have an explanation ready for the reasons why you left your former job.

If you do not have any relevant experience, ensure the hiring managers that you read the job description carefully, know what they expect from you, and have confidence that you’ll handle the job.

How would you spot a suspicious customer?

The most important thing is to avoid any racial or religious comments. If you said that a group of Hispanic shoppers is definitely suspicious, they would not hire you for this job. You should have no prejudice, and if you have some, you shouldn’t show it in an interview.

You can say that you will simply watch out for any suspicious behavior. Do they place something in their pockets? Do they look around too much, ensuring that nobody is watching them? Are they checking the position of surveillance cameras while walking in the store? Do they wear a hoodie, sunglasses, and a hat, though it is a hot summer day outside?

Many things are suspicious, but at the end of the day you should not search (or suggest a search) of anyone, unless you see or catch them stealing.


Doing your job, you notice one of the sales associates taking a small item and eating it directly on the sales floor, without paying. This sales associate happens to be your friend. What will you do?

What we will really do, and and we should say in an interview, are often two different things. If you saw a friend eating a piece of fruit from the shelves, you’d likely just warn them, in a rather friendly way. But that’s not what they want to hear from you in an interview.

There is no place for emotions in loss prevention work. Friend or enemy, young or old, normal guy or a homeless man, customer or employee–theft is a theft, and you should report it. That’s what you should say in your interview. If you see a friend stealing something, you will do the same thing you’d do if it was someone unknown to you…


How do you imagine a typical day in this job?

The most important thing is to show proactive approach to work. You may spend a significant part of the day in the back office, monitoring the activity in the store with the help of surveillance equipment, but you should also spend some time directly on the floor.

Of course this depends on the organization of the store, and the number of loss prevention associates on each shift. Read the job description carefully, and if possible, try to visit the store in advance. Observe how the existing loss prevention officers act, and what they do (hopefully not smoking cigarettes outside). This should give you some idea of a typical day in work, which will allow you to show realistic expectations in an interview.


A customer accuses you of racial profiling when you want to search them. How will you react?

You should not get discouraged, because accusation of racial profiling is a well-knows strategy some thieves use while trying to get away with their theft.

I mean, if you saw them stealing something, if you have a proof, if you clearly spotted something while motoring the place with the help of surveillance equipment, you should search them, and you should focus on this proof while talking to them.

In an ideal case, you should simply get the race, religion, or anything else out of the discussion. You saw something, you will search them, and it has nothing to do with their race or anything else. If you find nothing, you will apologize. But again, it has nothing to do with their race.

How do you feel about working on Sundays?

Thieves do not take a day off on Sunday. And most retail stores (at least in the US) are open on Sundays. Obviously nobody likes to work on Sunday, but the fact that you sit there and monitor the cameras means that your colleagues can enjoy a day off with their friends or families. Next weekend they will pay you back the favor.

What I try to convey here is that you should show some flexibility and collegiality. Ensure the hiring managers that you are aware of the opening hours of their store, and do not mind working on Sunday, as long as the shifts are equally distributed, and you are properly compensated for working on weekends.


What do you expect from security guards, cashiers, and other employees of the store?

You won’t be an isolated unit in the store, and cashiers and guards and other employees can actually help you a lot in your job. It goes without saying that they should not steal, and you do not have to refer to this in your interview.

But you can say that you hope to talk to them, and ask them to keep their eyes open, because at the end of the day ten pairs of eyes are better than one pair, and if you have a good cooperation together and they know how to contact you promptly, they can help you discover a theft in the store.

Another alternative is saying that you have no expectations on them. You prefer to take care of your job, and do not want to rely on anyone’s help. Of course you want to have good relationship with your colleagues, but do not expect them to help you with your job… Both alternatives will work well for your interview answer.


Where do you see yourself in five years from now? How long do you want to have this job?

Nobody dreams of working as a loss prevention associate for ten years. At the same time, however, retail stores do not want to hire someone who will leave the place as soon as the first better offer rings in their inbox.

I suggest you to say that you do not look too far ahead. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Right now you have a clear goal–getting a job in their loss prevention department. Once you have a job and do it for some time, you’ll see what’s next for you. But at the time of applying, you do not think already about quitting.


Do you have any questions?

You do not need to force a question at the end of the interviews. If things went well, if you have a good feeling from the meeting, and if they described everything clearly, you can simply thank them for their time, and ask about the next steps of the recruitment process.

But if anything is unclear, such as the shift patterns, exact scope of your working duties, salary, etc, you should definitely ask about it before saying goodbye.


Conclusion, next steps

Interviews for jobs in loss prevention belong to easy job interviews. The questions are predictable, and you typically won’t compete with many other people for the job (unless the economy is in recession, of course).

Try to prepare a short answer to each question from this article, and do not forget to do some research about their retail store. The more you know about them, the easier it will be to connect with the hiring managers, and to answer some questions that relate to your future place of work…

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Matthew Chulaw
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