Job search FAQs
Frequently asked questions about Retail Sales Associate jobs
Retail sales associates work in a store or retail location and help sell products or services to customers. This includes recommending solutions for customer problems, answering questions, demonstrating merchandise, advising about promotions, and processing purchases and payments.
In order to be successful, you’ll need to be a subject matter expert on the products or services you sell, which will help you provide relevant suggestions to and assist customers. You may have to respond to inquiries about how the product works, the price, or promotions. Ultimately, you may use your knowledge and product demonstrations to generate and close sales.
Once a customer is ready to make a purchase, you’ll be responsible for entering details into a point-of-sale system, accepting cash, checks and credit cards, and making change.
Additionally, you may be asked to set up merchandise displays, help maintain inventory, and keep the sales floor clean and organized.
Employers typically require a minimum education of a high school diploma or equivalent. If you have a desire to become a sales manager or other higher position in the future, you may want to obtain a college degree in business, finance, communications, or a similar field.
Once hired, you’ll typically undergo formal training on the job. Many sales associates also have experience through prior experience in other areas of retail, or a similar industry. This could include being a cashier or customer service representative.
After obtaining the education you need, apply for an entry-level position in the retail industry to learn how to use POS systems, process payments, and understand the retail industry.
As you gain experience, you may want to complete additional training or certifications to improve your skills. Then, update your resume and apply for sales associates positions near you.
Requirements for a retail sales associate role can vary by company, but many require the same basic things like:
High school diploma or GED
1+ years of customer service experience
1+ years of retail or sales experience
Must be able to work evenings, weekends, and holidays
Excellent written and verbal communication skills
Organization skills with strong attention to detail
The company may ask for experience or familiarity with a specific product or service that’s offered by the company, or related to the particular industry. The job description should clearly outline requirements, but if you have questions, ask the hiring manager.
As a retail sales associate, you may work either full-time or part-time. Typically, you’re paid hourly, though you also may receive commissions depending on your sales or ability to meet quotas.
Hourly rates for this role ranges between $7.25 to $23.50 or more, but the average sits between $10.50 and $11.75, not including any commission you may be eligible for.
Interview questions vary, but you can expect a mix of general questions, ones about your background and experience, and in-depth or job-specific queries.
Knowing what types of questions may be asked, and preparing answers ahead of time, can help you succeed in your interview:
What do you think are the top qualities/skills a retail sales associate should have?
What is your experience in retail? What is the top thing you’ve learned from previous experiences?
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer, and what you did to resolve the issue.
Share an example of a sales strategy you think may work in this role.
What does exceptional customer service look like to you?
Do you have any familiarity with our products/services? What do you know about them, and how would you sell them?
Tell me about a time when you exceeded a goal. How did you do it?
There are several qualities and skills a good retail sales associate will have to be successful in their role. Some of the best qualities or traits include:
Willingness to learn
A retail sales associate’s skills should focus on customer service, communication, and sales skills. These can include:
Written and verbal communication skills
Time management skills
Product and industry knowledge
Social media knowledge
Collaboration and teamwork
Fortunately, there are a variety of options for retail sales associates. There is an option to stay in retail and work your way up from a sales associate position to a manager or director position, and even on to the corporate team. If you perfect your sales skills and expertise, you may be able to work at another company as a sales associate or manager making a larger commission or higher salary.
These roles can be either full- or part-time, and shifts could be during the day, in the evenings, on weekends, or during holidays, depending on the company and location.
Part-time employees typically work around 15-27 hours per week but could be flexible as long as it’s under 40. Full-time employees will likely work between 37-40 hours per week. Shifts are usually opening the store or arriving midmorning until the afternoon, and then afternoon to close.
In general, you’ll likely be on your feet for extended periods, helping customers and facilitating positive experiences. You may use computers, phones, and point-of-sale systems to complete transactions and other tasks.
Your store location may be large or small, but most retail locations are bright, clean, and heavily trafficked, so you’ll be interacting with customers and other employees regularly.