5 Interview Questions You Should Be Asking

Business consultants and sales coaches offer tips on interviewing candidates for your showroom.

Printer Friendly, PDF & Email
Stock photo of two women interviewing a third woman
Are you asking your job candidates the right questions? (Photo: Tim Gouw)

When you’re short-staffed, it seems that everyone is a little more on edge. Employees need to pick up extra hours, and managers cross their fingers that no one will call in sick. In an effort to quickly fill that hole, the hiring process is usually rushed.

Last month, business consultant Shelia Butler told us this was one of the biggest mistakes a showroom could make: not taking the time to properly vet candidates. Hiring the wrong person only hurts your business, and ultimately, you’ll find yourself back where you started — searching for a replacement.

To help you improve your interview process, we asked business consultants and sales coaches for their best interview questions. Here’s what they said.

Bob Phibbs headshot

Bob Phibbs, CEO of the Retail Doctor, New York

Question: Describe a sure sale that you lost and why you lost it. 
Why You Ask It: “It happens to everyone in retail. You have a guaranteed sale standing in front of you when, suddenly, everything falls apart. What you’re looking for is an awareness of mistakes the salesperson made and how they’ve learned from the experience. You don’t care they lost it — unless it was habitual — you just want to get a sense of their process. Again, we’ve all been there, so be willing to share your own brief story after they give theirs.”

Bob Negen headshot

Bob Negen, Co-founder of WhizBang! Retail Training, Michigan

Question: Have you ever had an awful customer service experience? Tell me about it.
Why You Ask It: “The answer to this question shows if the applicant is conscious of service. If they immediately jump into a story it shows they are aware; if they stare at you with a totally blank look it means they don’t think about the quality of the service they’re getting.”

Bernard Deir headshot

Bernard J. Deir, President of Midwest Business Consulting, Illinois

Question: Tell me about a time you or your team solved a really difficult problem at work.
Why You Ask It: “My motto has always been, give me someone who is honest, committed, willing to grow and work hard and I can typically build a great employee — it sounds obvious, but I find that so many hiring managers lose sight of ‘attitude’ and get lost in letters that follow a candidate’s name.”

Tricia Gustin headshot

Tricia Gustin, Senior Marketing Manager at The Parker Avery Group, Georgia

Question: In a typical retail environment — especially a design sales floor where very personalized experiences are key — there are many competing demands. Tell me how you would prioritize and handle a face-to–face customer, a customer calling on the phone and a fast approaching project deadline.  
Why You Ask It: “This provides an in-depth understanding of the candidate’s ability to prioritize and focus under stress, as well as how they perceive the value of in-person experiences versus phone interactions. A solid candidate will be able to smoothly transition the in-store customer to a decision point or product display, where they may need some time just to think through their options and the space they’re designing, and effectively handle the phone customer to improve chances of conversion.” 

Doug Fleener headshot

Doug Fleener, President and Managing Partner of Sixth Star Consulting, Massachusetts

Question: We’ve all had favorite bosses. Tell me about your favorite boss of all time. Who was it? What did he or she do to make you like them so much? How do you carry the lessons from that person forward? 
Why You Ask It: “This is my favorite interview question of all time. The applicant’s answer will tell you exactly how he wants to be managed.” 


Photo: Tim Gouw

Related Content

Sagebrook Home announces the naming of Serena Martin as Marketing Director.
Laurie Rudd
Laurie Rudd
Laurie Rudd, freelance outdoor living writer and owner of Laurie Rudd Public Relations and Market
Mark Dentale
Eclipse International has named bedding and home furnishings industry veteran Mark Dentale as Dir