My name is Megan Snider and when I moved with my family from Iowa to the small town of Centre, Ala., I decided to waste no time looking for a job.
My money from my previous job, working as a cashier the year prior, had all but dried up. Based on my experiences, I decided to look for another retail job. There weren't many choices in town; basically my options came down to working at either Walmart or K-Mart. Having previously worked at Walmart, I opted for a change and decided to apply to K-Mart.
Customer service experience
I obtained my application from the customer service area and rushed home to fill it out. The form asked for all the essential information, including my work experience, special skills, age, residence and latest stint of school completed. After finishing this, I returned the application to the store and waited patiently for a call. I was worried about most of my references being located in Iowa, but I knew that my experience with Walmart would give me a beneficial boost in the dazzling world of retail.
About a week later I received a call from the personnel office, inquiring if I could come in for an interview. I eagerly agreed and a date was set. I was not familiar with K-Mart's interviewing techniques, but I knew that Walmart had a rigorous process concerning ethical and customer considerations, so I assumed an interview with K-Mart would be similar.
As I prepared for my interview, I thought back to my Walmart days. I recalled my interview at the retail giant, remembering the specifics regarding how various interviewers had responded to particular answers I had given. I also thought back to the training I had to undergo, in order to prepare me to deal with inventory management and customers.
I though especially about those elements of the training that related to customer service, such as the rules about smiling and engaging customers and staff alike and -- most importantly -- the ever-present rule to please each and every customer. I kept all of these details in the forefront of my mind as I prepared for my coming interview. If faced with the same sort of job interview today, I would prepare in much the same fashion.
A two-part interview
For the interview I dressed conservatively in professional attire. I wore a pair of black dress pants with a suit top, and a pastel blue shell underneath. I did not wear any jewelry, and finished my ensemble with a pair of respectable black dress shoes. Just because the job was in retail, it did not mean that the employers didn't hold their potential employees to high standards. I dressed to impress and leave an impression on my potential future employers.
The interview process surprised me because it was broken into two sections. First I met with the personnel manager for the store. The store manager was not present for my interview, although I met her later. The first portion of the interview consisted of verbal questions. It began with pleasantries such as what life was like back in Iowa.
The questions soon shifted to my previous employment history, as the personnel manager ascertained my background and experience. She focused on my familiarity with the specifics of how chain stores operate, as well as my experience handling interpersonal interactions with customers and co-workers alike, as well as my overall attitude toward working with the public. Then she took down my tax information and scanned the two forms of ID I was asked to bring to the interview.
After the question-and-answer portion of the interview I was brought to the employee break room for a written test. The test was several pages long and included numerous ethical and business scenarios, and gauged my reactions through multiple-choice answers. Questions included:
You are working in the housewares department. A customer needs help in sporting goods. What do you do?
A. Page an employee from sporting goods.
B. Help the customer yourself.
C. Direct the customer to the sporting goods section.
It was quite grueling, taking over an hour to complete, but nothing that a little common sense and customer-service knowledge couldn't guide you through. The biggest problem I had was becoming fatigued as the test extended on. You had to take the test in one sitting and could not leave the break room. I and some other hopeful future employees also taking the test had been instructed not to talk to one another during the test and to take our time.
Hired -- on the spot
After the test, I met with the personnel manager again who informed me I was hired, and would be working in the concession area of the store. The K-Mart featured a small Little Caesar's pizza shop, which was currently short-handed. I had never worked in the food industry, but before I knew it it, I was being led out to the kitchen. Their intention was to have me work my first night shift immediately!
I was rushed through the basics of running a cash register, stretching dough and slowly compiling the toppings of a pizza. After a quick overview, I was off and running! From then on, I worked various positions within the Little Caesar's area of the store. We were stretched for help, and out of necessity I learned my new trade quickly.
I spent three years with K-Mart, working in the Little Caesar's and occasionally running errands inside the store. My advice to anyone who is looking for a job in retail is to go for it. Just remember that retail is a customer-oriented and detailed line of business. In any interview for a retail position, always put the customer first. Use common sense on tests and choose a response that proves that you always put the customer first, no matter what. Highlight your leadership abilities, your talent for making the customer feel important, and successful relations with co-workers, and you should go far!
Next: I Interviewed at Walmart
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