Shopping has become a phenomenon of the 21st century. And while a lot of it happens online, people still enjoy going to brick and mortar stores, trying on things, looking at people, and spending their hard earned money for stuff they do not really need. They simply want it. There are over 1 million retail establishments in the US alone. Each store needs a sales associate, often many of them, and job hopping rates are quite high in retail. This means only one thing: Hundreds of interview for retail jobs take place in different corners of the world every single day.

The interviewer (can be a store manager, store owner, shift manager–it all depends on the organization of the retail store) will ask you many questions in the interview. One of the most typical questions, however, and one many job seekers are afraid of, is the following one: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

As you can imagine, what’s a strength for one job can be a weakness for another one. And what matters for one occupation (some weakness) can play no role in some other job. That’s exactly why you have to understand what matters in retail, and choose your answer accordingly. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to the question. Do not forget to check also my notes below the answers, as they will help you understand some nuances of this peculiar interview question.


7 sample answers to “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” interview question for retail job applicants

  1. Communication skills are my greatest strength. I do not struggle to strike a conversation with a stranger, people consider me a great listener, and I do not find it hard to understand what people need, or want, from the way they talk. What I should improve on, however, is my punctuality. I am often late to meetings. Someone says it’s a cultural heritage, but I certainly do not want to blame my ancestors. I know that I cannot afford being late to work, so I really have to work on my weakness.
  2. It seems I was born an excellent salesman. I can sell anything to anyone, read their wishes from their lips, and even make them wish to buy more. I can up-sell a customer who is 100% sure they do not want anything else, and I enjoy the process immensely. This is definitely something I can benefit from as a retail sales associate, especially in an establishment like this, with many opportunities to up-sell the customers. On the other hand, I sometimes struggle with time management. I find it hard to allocate time to my duties, whether in work or outside of it. Then it happens that I fail to meet a deadline, or to do something I originally planned to do during the day. But I believe that a skilled and experienced store manager will help me manage my time at work better, and this weakness of mine won’t show up.
  3. To be honest, I cannot really tell what my strengths and weaknesses are as an employee, because this is my first job application. I have some weaknesses in my personal life, for example I get easily emotional in relationships, but I do not think that has any impact on my eventual performance in work. I believe that I have to do the job for some time, perhaps a few weeks, to really understand what I excel in, and what I have to improve on. Having said that, I am sure I’m not perfect. There will be things I have to improve on, and I am ready to do so–once I identify them.
  4. I’d say that experience is my greatest strength. I’ve been working in retail for over a decade, having different positions in all sorts of stores over the years. I’ve seen all sorts of situations and dealt with each type of customer you can imagine. Obviously this helps me to find the right words in every new interaction with the customer. But I have a weakness, and that’s actually my health. One or two days during each month I suffer from bad migraines. On such days I cannot really do anything. Going to work is out of question. And I know that I cause troubles to my employer in this way. But I also believe that I can make up for it during the rest of the month, when I feel good and achieve great results in terms of sales and customer satisfaction.
  5. If I should pick one thing, it would be passion for excellent customer service. I try to turn an ordinary visit of the customer into a memorable shopping experience. That’s what I enjoy doing, and what makes me feel good about my work. How do I do it? first of all, I try to have an extensive knowledge of the entire product range–and I specialize in sports equipment. Since I do many sports, and read a lot about these goods, I can give them the right information and help them make the best possible shopping decisions. What’s more, I try to be super polite and treat every customer as a king or a president–most people love such an attitude. That’s my greatest strength fort sure, but just like everyone else, I also have my weaknesses. I could definitely improve on my computer skills, and I sometimes struggle to fit in the team–that’s because I try harder than the others, and not everyone likes such an attitude. Some sales associate prefer to hang around and play with their smartphones, and do not like to see that someone tries super hard. Their poor results and numbers become more obvious when the manager sees that one sales associate achieves much better figures each month.
  6. Though it may sound contradictory, humility is my strength. I always strive to learn more, to understand things better. I do not consider myself superior to anyone, and I honestly believe that I can learn something from every human being I meet. This helps me to keep my feet on the ground, and to gradually progress in my career. But the same thing sometimes turn out to be a weakness. Sometimes I lack the confidence to close the deal, or to convince the customer. I am yet to find the right balance, when I will benefit from my humility and at the same time it won’t restrain me from making more sales. I hope I can find this balance in your retail store.
  7. My former manager always said that I talked to much. And they were probably right. I find it hard to be quiet, and I understand it’s a minus in all interactions in the workplace. I mean, a good sales talk is a dialogue, and I will hardly sell anything without involving the customer in the discussion. But I am aware of this weakness, and definitely want to improve on it. To my strengths belong motivation to constantly improve my results at work, and also responsibility. I haven’t missed a shift for more than two years, and I’ve never been late to work. If you hire me, I hope to continue my streak.


What the hiring managers expect

Everyone has some strengths and weaknesses, and the last thing they want to hear from you is that you do not have any weakness–or are not aware of it yet. Think for a while about your professional career and personal life. Surely there’s something you can improve on–maybe your former manager told you so, or your friends, or you simply know it by intuition or experience.

Only when we are aware of our weaknesses can we improve on them. Admit having a weakness, and ensure the hiring managers that you try to get better. At the end of the day that’s what they expect to hear from a good job candidate.

Your words have to correspond with your actions

They will hardly believe in your excellent listening skills if you ask them to repeat each question twice, and then talk about something different anyway. Of course this is an extreme example, but I hope you got my point. Your interview presence has to correspond with your words.

If you cannot demonstrate your strengths with your interview presence, it’s better not mentioning them at all.

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Check also 7 sample answers to other tricky questions you may face in your retail job interview:

Matthew Chulaw
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