Trader Joe’s is not a typical grocery store chain. Instead of 50,000 different products offered by giant supermarkets, you find inside barely 5,000 in one of Trader Joe’s stores, 80% of of which bear one of its own brand names.

The emphasis is on locally grown and environmentally friendly food, and it is not a coincidence that out of over 500 store locations, almost 200 stores are based in California–where the most demanding customers live and do their shopping.

Interviewing for a Crew Member job with Trader Joe’s–a position almost everyone has to start on with the retailer, you can expect a mix of typical retail interview questions, and some questions that are specific for Trader Joe’s–for example the one about your favorite product sold by the store.

You will also earn a bit more money with Trader Joe’s, when compared to the entry level position with other grocery stores and supermarkets. It is definitely worth applying with them. Let’s have a look at the questions you may face, and how you should answer them to make a great impression on the interviewers.

 

Why do you want to work for Trader Joe’s?

Try to praise their philosophy, and the way in which they differentiate from their competitors. We are what we eat, and shopping at Trader Joe’s–your favorite grocery store, we can still end up healthy, without excessive allergies and food intolerance.

What’s more, you have heard a lot about the community atmosphere in the workplace. You love to be a member of a hardworking team. Their working environment suits your personality perfectly, and you can hardly find a better match.

Last but not least, you believe to have what it takes to become a great crew member–after the initial training of course. You are motivated, eager to learn, you love to work hard and belong to the team. You have attention to detail and passion for an excellent customer service. Since both managers and customers at Trader Joe’s value this attitude, you see the job as a perfect match.

 

Please tell us more about your previous job. Why did you leave it?

Remember that at Trader Joe’s, they are interested not only in what you did, and whether it had something to do with retail or customer service. They also want to know how you interacted with your colleagues, what role did you play in the team, what you liked about the job and what you missed, and last but not least, why you eventually left it, or want to leave it.

Try to talk positively about your former occupation. I suggest you to use “We” instead of “I” when you describe any achievements, or even duties you had in the store. Give credit to your team members, and do not forget to praise the team spirit in the workplace. At the end, however, you should also clearly explain why you eventually decided to leave your former employer…

They may ask you some follow up questions about your experience, so try to be consistent. And remember that lack of experience is not a showstopper at Trader Joe’s. They have a good training program in place. As long as they see that you have the right personality for the job, and the right attitude, lack of experience won’t matter anymore.

* May also interest you: Answers to 15 most common interview questions.

What is your favorite Trader Joe’s product?

The exact choice doesn’t really matter (can be a diary product, can be something healthy, or even a wine), as long as you stick to the following rules:

  • Pick a product sold exclusively by Trader Joe’s, ideally something of their own brand.
  • You should be able to explain what makes the product special in your eyes–can be the origin, ingredients, taste, quality, anything else.
  • Speak with enthusiasm about the product, and learn something about it before the interview. Because they can also ask you a follow up question here, and unless you really tried the product and read the labels, you may struggle to answer the question.

 

Tell us about a last time when you went above and beyond for someone.

Your attitude interests the interviewers more than the particular situation you narrate. Of course, a situation from the job is your best pick, but it doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking. Maybe you made a phone call for the customer, to find out some specific information about the product. Or you helped them to the car with their heavy bags, because you saw they were struggling physically.

What works great at Trader Joe’s is an example of a situation when you went above and beyond for your colleague. Maybe you took their shift on a last minute notice, since they did not feel well or had some particularly important meeting. Or you saw that they were struggling with the workload in their section of the store, and so you went there and helped, though it wasn’t your responsibility.

Again, try to maintain a positive body language, and speak with enthusiasm about helping someone. They should get an impression that going above and beyond is something you enjoy doing, because it makes you feel better about your job.

* You may also check 7 sample answers to the question: Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond.

Tell us about a time you had to deal with a difficult customer.

Let’s face it: You will have to deal with difficult customers in any grocery store–even in the best one. Some people won’t be satisfied with your service, others may blame you for something, and some will be angry or upset just because they have a bad day and decided to vent their anger while shopping.

Such situations belong to the job, and you should ensure the hiring managers that you count with experiencing them. You will try your best to please the customer, but their behavior won’t have a negative impact on your performance in work. You should do this while narrating a situation from the past. Let me show you an example:

I remember a customer who were extremely upset about everything in the store. They didn’t find the product they were looking for–we didn’t have it in stock. They weren’t happy about the prices, and they also thought the AC was too strong and it was too cold in the store. I approached them and apologized that we didn’t have the product. They started yelling on me, calling me names. But I didn’t start an argument with them. I simply listened, apologized again, and recommended them a similar product. They didn’t buy it, and left the store upset. Well, I tried my best, so all I could do was get over it quickly and approach the next customer with smile. That’s exactly what I did.

 

Tell us about a time when you were a leader in the workplace.

Leading is not the same like managing, or bossing people. Leaders go by example, they are able to uplift the mood in the workplace, suggest an innovation or a change, even an unpopular one, and challenge the opinion or decision of the manager when they do not consider it right for the other employees, or for the customers.

And that’s exactly what you should talk about in your answer. Maybe something bad happened in the store, or the employees experienced a low day. Instead of joining the ranks of the mourners, you brought some positive energy to the workplace, and uplifted everyone.

Or your colleagues struggled to adapt to some changes, and the effectiveness in the workplace dropped. You also did not find it hard to accept the new conditions, but you decided to go by an example, adapted to the changes, and your colleagues followed suit.

Show them that you can help the entire team to move forward, and to overcome difficult times in the store. You do not want to manage or boss your colleagues. But you are ready to step into the leadership role when others struggle.

 

Other questions you may face while interviewing for a job of a crew member at Trader Joe’s

* You can also download the list of questions in a simple one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:

Trader Joe’s interview questions, PDF

What to wear to Trader Joe’s interview

Trader Joe’s hiring managers aren’t too picky about the clothes you wear. As a rule of a thumb, you shouldn’t wear a shirt and tie, it just isn’t appropriate for this type of a job. Any clean t-shirt and long pants will do (including jeans), and you should wear shoes with close toes. Once working for Trader Joe’s you will wear a “uniform” provided by the company, but this really is just a shirt with TJ’s logo and a jacket you may wear if you feel cold in the job. Pants are your choice–but you should wear some pants of course :).

Tattoos are also okay at Trader Joe’s, though I still suggest you to wear clothing that covers any big tattoos on your body. You want the hiring managers to focus on your words, not on your tattoos. It goes without saying that your clothes should be clean and well-ironed, though this matters more for female interviewers than for male, who typically do not care. Anyway, try to keep it simple, wear clothes you feel comfortable in, and enjoy wearing, and focus on things that make the real difference–your interview answers and the impression you make.

 

Conclusion, next steps

Interviews at Trader Joe’s belong to job interviews with average difficulty. The interview is definitely more difficult than interviews with most other grocery stores and supermarkets. You will earn more at Trader Joe’s, and so they also expect a bit more from you.

Think about your past jobs for a few minutes. Try to identify situations when you went above and beyond (for a colleague, or for a customer), when you dealt with a difficult person, when you showed leadership, etc. They will almost certainly ask about some of these situations.

You should prepare also for the more typical retail interview questions, such as “Why Trader’s Joe?”, “What is your favorite TJ product?”, etc.

Last but not least, try to bring some enthusiasm and positive energy to the room. They should get an impression that you really want the job, enjoy to be a part of a hard working team, and are ready to bring something onboard–not necessarily years of experience, but certainly right attitude to work and friendly approach to your new colleagues

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Matthew Chulaw
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