Interviews ‘Don’t Have to be Scary!’ is an advice app which is guaranteed to improve your performance at any interviews you have in the future. I have been a managing director of a recruitment business since God was a boy! And I am sure you will reap the benefits of my knowledge and experience, as thousands of people have done before you.

Interviews are relatively unique experiences and we don’t always realise the difference they can make to our lives. They really are the key to a door of opportunity, improving your life financially and making it happier and healthier generally

Our two main aims are simple, to make you “The Best You Can Be ” and “To Make You Think” much more about the interview process before you attend your next interview.

I know you have busy lives to lead and therefore I have produced a no-nonsense and practical coaching app that you can start to put into practice immediately. This isn’t a panacea and it does require some input from you. You will need to adapt it to your industry and to make it individual to you. Once you have done that, you will need to practice, practice and then practice some more

So Who Is Paul Davies?

I own a recruitment consultancy that selects and head-hunts managers at all levels for many major national and international retailers. I have an excellent reputation within the industry and that reputation is largely down to the fantastic advice you now have in your hands today. This advice is written in such a way that it’s transferable across different industries and can be adapted to benefit many people at many different levels.

The following pages will help you to present yourself at interview in the most positive and professional manner possible. I know the potential is in you, you just need to think about the process more than you have done in the past and I am confident you will reap the rewards.

We hope to reach utopia and that is, when you leave your next interview you will be saying that, “If I had that interview again tomorrow, I couldn’t have performed any better.“ Rather than when you have come out of interviews in the past, there are probably many times when you have said, “I wish I had said this, or I should have said that “– this will happen less and less if you follow this advice

Before we go onto the practical side of the interview, I would just like to plant this seed……

Always think of an interview as a two way process. You have the skills, knowledge and experience the employer wants and they have the opportunity you want. All you are doing at an interview is investigating an opportunity and ensuring it is the right one for you. Always go to the interview as an equal and with the confidence and the belief that the employer needs you, as much as you need them!

Preparation Is The Key

As I have said the interview process is a relatively unique experience and because we don't have to go through ‘the experience’ very often, we tend to turn up for the interview having completed very little preparation. When I say preparation, I mean both mentally as well as physically. We normally just “hope for the best “or “we give it our best shot.” …not any more

We can in fact have a huge influence over the interviewing process and to a degree control it, to make it go the way we want it to. The key to all interviews is preparation.

'If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.'

In its simplest terms an interview is to assess your suitability for the job. Do you have the necessary skills, knowledge, motivation, attitude and qualifications? If you haven't got the correct qualifications for the job, then you will probably not get as far as the interview stage. Therefore to begin with I will focus on four major points, skills, knowledge, motivation and attitude and how to communicate all of these to the interviewer.

‘Your attitude not your aptitude, will reflect your altitude ‘

Think of yourself as a Brand. With your own individual experiences, training, views, thoughts and ideas, you are a unique Brand. By attending an interview you have put yourself into the market place to be purchased. Like any other brand, the more marketable you make yourself, the more offer and choices you will have.

CV & Career History

You will often be asked to talk through your career history, normally working from the past to the present. If you have a choice, you should always talk through your CV from past to present. You are then able to demonstrate progression and end with your current role

As a rule talking through your CV should take between 5-10 minutes, giving only quality information – This is not set in tablets of stone as the interviewer may want you to go into more depth about a particular subject – but in an ideal world, an average of 7-8 minutes is perfect

I have known people talk through their CV for an hour – hence to say the interviewer had switched off and they didn’t get the job!

When talking through your CV you should focus on four key areas within each of the positions you have held

1 Your level of responsibility within each role – to give the interviewer a scale of your experience. Eg how many staff have you managed, what level of budgets you have been responsible for and what size of operation you have managed

2 What you enjoyed about each role Eg the challenge, the diversity, the freedom to manage, the opportunity to get involved with other departments in the business, the influence you had, and the development of others

3 What you achieved within each role – Eg Increased sales, controlled costs, developed individuals, maximised profit, got involved or managed various projects

4 Why you decided to leave – This should always be for a positive reason Eg the Company I applied to offered more opportunities to progress, the role presented a greater challenge, the role offered greater diversity – we will cover this in more depth later

You have stated only positives about your history and this will definitely give you a certain WOW factor

As you talk your way to the present day and about the last couple of positions you have held, your achievements should increase. So early in your career you may have had one achievement in a particular role but as you have progressed through your history the achievements should grow in number. So when you are talking about your current role you may have as many as five key achievements.

Prior to the interview you should go back through your CV and highlight what you want to say about each position. A great piece of advice is, if you are applying for a customer service role, it would make sense to mention some achievements related to customer service!

Negatives Don't Have A Place At The Interview Table

Before going into the positives of selling yourself, I want you to forget some words from your previous interview vocabulary.

The words ‘quite, fairly, pretty good, OK, not bad, I don’t and I can’t ‘ haven’t a place anymore – these are either negative or they are nondescript and negativity should never raise its head at an interview

I want you to replace them with, “very good, excellent, superb, fantastic, brilliant, I can and I do “– all positives

Often when I am interviewing candidates, I ask them to talk about their skills and experiences etc and within a couple of minutes they will usually give me a number of positive statements and then after being so praising of themselves they will then make a negative statement, almost to counterbalance the praise

e.g. “I am a very confident manager who has the respect of my team but have been accused of being impatient.....”

It could be a lack of confidence but never say anything derogatory about yourself, always focus on the positives. If the interviewer does not ask for a potential negative statement, don't give one. Think of potential negatives and how you can turn them into a positive - see them as an opportunity.

e.g. “I don’t suffer fools gladly“ becomes “I enjoy working with professional people who have the same positive attitude to their work as myself “

Tell the interviewer what you are, not what you are not. Once you make a negative statement, the message has been sent and logged by the interviewer. It will be remembered however hard you try to counteract it!

If you state positives the interviewer thinks positively of you – if you state negatives the interviewer will think negatively of you

Selling Yourself

Certain questions are common place at every interview. Therefore, if we know approximately 75% of what we are going to be asked, we can prepare for those questions. Interview questions can also be very similar, they are only worded differently. For example

What type of manager are you?
What are your strengths?
Describe your management style?
How would your line manager describe you?

These questions all have something in common; they are all opportunities to tell the interviewer how fantastic you are.

Always look out for the questions that give you the opportunity to sell yourself, they are asked more times than you would believe

So is it easy to sell yourself and tell the interviewer how fantastic you are?......... Of course it isn’t easy but it can be if you have a structure to work within

Firstly, we are in a pressurised situation and in these situations the mind has a habit of wiping everything clean, so you have a complete blank - this happens when you haven't prepared properly

Secondly, we are not used to singing our own praises and in the main people feel uneasy about telling others how good they are. However, if you are not going to tell the interviewer how good you are, then the chances are another of the candidates at interview will and they may get the position. You cannot afford to be reticent about your skills and achievements, be proud of them and sell yourself............ if you can't who can.

Also another great piece of advice is, ’If you don't say it, you don't do it!‘ People often assume that the interviewer will know what you do and how you do it but why should they if you don’t tell them

Today many interviews are conducted by HR Managers who interview for various positions – they cannot be a specialist in all areas and will be looking out for certain key words or phrases. As long as what you are saying is quality, then you can talk as much as you like

So How Do We Sell Ourselves?

The most common answer I get when I ask the question;

“What type of manager are you?” or now we hear “Tell me how fantastic you are? “

The majority of the replies are, “I am a firm but fair manager“ Another common answer is, “I wouldn’t expect anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself “

What does ‘fair’ tell me about a manager’s skills and abilities.... not a great deal – Also do we want to answer the question with the most common answers, or do we want to stand out from the crowd

So how do we improve on the “I am a firm but fair manager“ type statement

The first question you have to ask yourself is;

‘As a manager what do I manage?’

The three key areas I believe you manage are ….

PEOPLE, PRODUCT and PROFIT – Easy to remember, they all begin with P

If a question is asked that requires you to talk about yours skills and abilities then think….. PEOPLE

Don’t say I am a people manager but …..Think of all the things you do with people on a daily basis - motivate, communicate, delegate, enthuse, lead, direct, organise, recruit, train, coach, develop, assess, praise etc.

You then take one of these key areas and break it down, by asking yourself the seven important questions Who? Why? When? How? Which? What? and Where?

Let us take the skill of ‘Motivation’ as an example.

The question is, ‘What type of manager are you?’

You make a bold statement such as ‘I am a highly motivated manager‘ Then ask yourself Who? Why? When? How? Which? What? and Where? do you motivate

After your confident statement “I am a highly motivated manager” you then support that statement with the following……


“I motivate my team through a number of different ways. I motivate them by firstly being motivated myself. I am a real believer in behaviour breeding behaviour, so if I am motivated, enthusiastic and positive, that will reflect in my team’s attitude and outlook”


“I motivate my team by giving them an appropriate level of responsibility and setting them realistic targets. So when they come to work in the morning they have a challenge, something to aim for and when they go home at night, they feel they have made a contribution to the performance of the company that day”


“I motivate through training and developing my team, not only to make them more knowledgeable and successful but ultimately to make the business more profitable. I am also aware as a manager I need to develop future managers for the business and therefore think of the Company’s needs as well as my own.”


“Lastly I motivate through praise. As a manager I have been genuinely praised five times in my career. I can remember who gave me the praise, what they said and even where they said it (sadly) but more importantly than all of these things, I can remember the positive impact that the praise had on my performance for the next three or even six months. So I believe genuine praise is an exceptional motivational tool.”

I would then go on to talk about what an excellent communicator I was, using the same technique.

I am a superb communicator (use words like ‘superb ‘– as long as you back it up with evidence the interviewer will believe you)


“I communicate extremely well on a one to one basis. Any instructions I give are clear and concise, which enables the job in hand to be completed first time, to the standard I expect and within the timescale I set”


“I communicate easily to groups of people, for example at staff training sessions and management meetings. I am also confident talking to much larger groups of people of over five hundred, which I have done few times at Company conferences”


“I have the ability to communicate to different levels within the business, from a management trainee to the board of directors. I can adapt my style and language to the person I am speaking to”


“Finally I communicate effectively to various head office departments. I have a huge network of people I speak to on a weekly basis. If I am speaking to head office, I always prepare what I want to say and if I am requesting anything, I will always justify it down to the bottom line”

Also by just talking about motivation you have brought in other skills such as training, development, assigning responsibilities, setting objectives etc and because you are making positive statements continually, the interviewer is only receiving positive messages and therefore their perception of you can only be positive

I would advise stating no more than two PEOPLE skills at this stage. The reason for this is, you may well be asked another ‘Tell me wonderful you are question‘ e.g. ‘What are your strengths?’ or ‘How would your line manager describe you?’ All you would do then is go back to your PEOPLE bank and take out two more skills such as ‘Training and Leadership’ and follow the same process again

‘One of my strengths is that I am an excellent trainer.’ Who? Why? What? etc

‘I am an inspirational leader’ Who? Why? What? etc

Also the other reason for only communicating two people skills is, we still have PRODUCT and PROFIT to talk about

So you once you have finished with PEOPLE you move onto PRODUCT

The question is still ‘What type of manager are you?’

PRODUCT – This is an opportunity to tell the interviewer how ‘commercial‘ you are as a manager. If you asked 100 different managers what the word commercial means, I think you would get a 100 different variations on a theme.

My version ‘Commercial managers add value and they add value in everything they say and everything they do ‘

If you were to explain at interview everything you say and do that adds value, then you would be there all day.

You need to narrow it down to something specific – that’s why in retail for example you could talk about how you add value through ‘PRODUCT’

Your answer would be something like this………..

“I am an extremely commercial manager who has excellent standards of stock presentation. I have the ability to analyse the product’s performance and re-merchandise the product in relation to its sales performance. I am also proactive in my stock management e.g. ' its half term in three weeks I would build up my key lines now, to maximise sales then.' I am aware of the product adjacencies and would position the swimwear for example, next to the beach towels. I would action deliveries efficiently, ensuring the best sellers and new lines were replenished as a priority. I would action promotions within given timescales and monitor their effectiveness. I would build an excellent relationship with the buying and merchandising departments to ensure my stock package met with local demand. I would ensure I had the right stock, in the right quantities at the right time. To finish, I would say I am constantly aware of my competitors actions and take corrective action to minimise their impact on my business”

In other words, think of everything you do with PRODUCT to emphasise how commercial you are


You may think you are stating the obvious but remember the HR Manager who interviews everyone

If you are from an industry that is not related to retail then you can still be commercial around a specific area

So let’s recap … far you have communicated two key PEOPLE skills, as many PRODUCT skills or commercial skills as you can think of and now you should move onto PROFIT.




PROFIT is your real chance to finish with a flourish……

Thinking PROFIT can take you to three potential key areas ie Sales, Costs and Security or alternatively something that you feel affects the profit in your business

SALES - You would state “I am a sales focused manager” and then state how much you have improved your sales performance by and how you managed to do it. I would state comparisons to make your performance sound even more impressive e.g.. My store was 20% up on the previous year compared to the company’s performance of plus 5%


I achieved this by………then list your actions.


COSTS – “I am a cost aware manager and I have managed to reduce my costs by 10% which has resulted in a saving of £100k. I have achieved this by ..........” and tell the interviewer how you have achieved this.


SECURITY - “I am a very security minded manager; I have reduced my shrinkage from 3% to less than 1% saving £30k last year. I have achieved this by...........” and tell the interviewer how.

Always put in the measures with regard to sales, cost control and security. To say I have improved my stock-loss is one thing, to say I have improved my stock-loss from 5% to 1% is another WOW statement!

Summary, Tips & Tools



The three P’s can be adapted to anything you choose. It’s a structure and technique that works. Instead of three P’s you may use three T’s, or even a three letter word to prompt you  – just make the structure work for you 


You have moved from being a 'firm but fair manager' to someone who has a huge amount of skills, knowledge, ability and achievements.


You are now a truly motivational manager and a superb communicator and you have justified these bold and positive statements. You are extremely commercial and have demonstrated why. Lastly you have shown you are sales focused, cost aware and security minded and as importantly communicated to the interviewer a whole list of other achievements along the way!


A lot of managers when asked ’What type of manager are you?’ just talk about people. This structure makes you sound more ‘rounded’  by bringing in your commercial skills and profit skills.


Of course you will have to practice your answers but they will come together very quickly using these techniques.


I have listed a number of management skills to help you with your preparation.






  • Leads and directs a team to achieve objectives successfully.
  • Directs and co-ordinates the store staff as a team.
  • Commands the attention and respect of the team and colleagues.
  • Acts with confidence and decisiveness.
  • Forceful and assertive in dealing with others, when the situation demands.








  • Ensures an appropriate level of responsibility for each team member.
  • Recognises the capacities, abilities and limitations of others.
  • Entrusts others with appropriate responsibilities.
  • Gives others the authority to act and take decisions.


                Setting Standards


  • Clearly communicates works standards to staff.
  • Monitor and reviews works standards regularly.
  • Gives regular formal and informal feedback to staff.
  • Deals fairly and consistently with good or poor performance.


                Motivation and Morale


  • Develops a positive and enthusiastic attitude amongst staff.
  • Encourages commitment from individuals.
  • Clearly communicates the Company and stores objectives.
  • Clearly communicates each individual’s role within the store.


                Staff Training


  • Helps staff to maximise their opportunities for personal development.
  • Identifies appropriate opportunities for staff development.
  • Identifies training needs.
  • Understands the importance of training for the individual, team and the company.




  • Has the ability and willingness to exchange information with others.
  • Communicates ideas and information clearly and concisely.
  • Makes verbal presentations with persuasiveness and confidence.
  • Expresses written ideas in an organised and concise manner.


                Personal Communication


  • Responds to the needs of others in a friendly and positive manner.
  • Interacts effectively with external personnel.
  • Listens and reacts to the needs of others.
  • Discusses and advises clearly.
  • Persuades and motivates others.


                Sensitivity to Staff and Customers


  • Is aware of and responsive to the impact one has on others.
  • Is aware of and respects the values and motivation of others.


                Team Working


  • Promotes teamwork and co-operation.
  • Understands the needs of a team can be different to the needs of an individual.
  • Is able and willing to work with a team.
  • Understands the mechanics of putting a team together.




Achievement of Results


  • Always uses initiative.
  • Is a self starter and is able to take independent action.
  • Sets own goals and targets.
  • Ensures all objectives set are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreeable, Realistic and Timescaled)


                Decisions and Judgement


  • Is able to make a decision from several alternatives and to given time-scales.
  • Accepts risks and acts on available facts.
  • Weighs up the facts and draws sound conclusions.
  • Accepts responsibility for your team’s actions.




  • Has a positive and flexible approach to new situations and ideas.
  • Is able to understand new ideas and techniques.
  • Understands the impact and the process of change, on the individual and on the team.


                Creativity and Innovation


  • Conceives and introduces original ideas, methods and approaches.
  • Thinks imaginatively in order to solve problems.
  • Use the resources and specialist knowledge of the team in order to create ideas.




  • Has the knowledge and experience to do the job.
  • Uses information to solve problems and make decisions.
  • Constantly updates personal knowledge through reading and networking with others.
  • Ensures knowledge of competitor activity.


                Awareness of Costs and Efficiency


  • Always understands the importance of cost control.
  • Keep costs in line with performance.
  • Plans ahead to foresee any rise in costs.
  • Ability to justify overspends and prepare action plans to bring costs back into line.


                Time Management


  • Plans work to appropriate time-scales.
  • Sets fair and realistic time-scales for staff.
  • Prioritises work effectively.
  • Anticipates obstacles and takes appropriate action.
  • Ensures all staff are fully productive at all times.








ACHIEVEMENTS - ‘Be proud of your achievements – it reminds you of how good you are! ‘


Although you may have talked about your achievements whilst talking through your CV, some interviewers still ask the question directly ……’What are your achievements?’


Before going to the interview always think of and write down your main achievements. You will be amazed at how many there are. If you don’t prepare, I can guarantee you will only remember a small percentage


You should be really proud of your achievements and always state ' how ' you achieved what you have.


You can state personal achievements as well as professional but always state your professional achievements first.


You won't need to remember more than three. I always try to remember achievements by taking the initial letter of each achievement and making a simple word


My achievements have gone to POT


P             Promotion           I was promoted five times in five years

O            Opened                 I opened 25 new stores in one year

T             Target                    I had the best sales performance against target in the company





One of the most feared questions at an interview is, “What are your weaknesses?”


To say you haven’t got any weaknesses, could in the interviewers eyes be that you are not self analytical enough.


The skill is to say something, admit to nothing and to end on a POSITIVE …………..a politician’s answer


One example is


“My weakness is that when I have a list of priorities I always tend to put administration at the bottom of my list. I am numerate, financially aware, will always ensure accuracy and always submit it on time. The reason I always put administration to the bottom of my priority list, is I believe it stops me doing what I am really paid to do and that is, being on my sales floor, motivating my team and delivering the highest standards of visual merchandising and customer service possible”


All I have said is that administration is a low priority. I haven't said it was a weakness. I have actually said I am good at it. The aim is to state a possible negative but state why and then counteract it with lots of positives. My weakness is putting administration to the bottom of my priority list, only because I think motivating my team, and achieving my sales targets is more important. What interviewer on this planet is going to disagree with that!


My favourite example is


“My weakness is I don’t know my limitations. What I mean by that is…... every day I set my team key objectives and if I think I am going to achieve those objectives before the deadline I have set, I raise the bar again. So you could say I am constantly trying to achieve perfection, or you could say I am trying to maximise productivity from my team. Where this can be a weakness is, sometimes I spend too much time at work and not enough time at home – however if it wasn’t for the commitment, passion and focus, I wouldn’t be the manager I am today”




What you have said is ….. You set goals that you want to constantly improve, you aim for perfection and you maximise productivity. You are committed, passionate and focused and you work too hard and this is a ....weakness!?


The only potential negative I can see in this statement is, if the interviewer says ‘So you cannot manage you time properly? “


My answer would be


To achieve what I am expected to achieve can be done within the normal working day but to achieve the high standards I want to achieve, sometimes requires a little more commitment





Competency based interviews are designed to analyse your behaviour in past real life situations. As it’s commonly thought past behaviour reflects future behaviour  


This next couple of the pages are real examples that are in use today – under the questions in ITALICS is the actual information the interviewer is looking for


I will give some advice at the end of this section on how to answer the questions – I promise to make you a STAR at answering competency based questions


Technical Skills


1) Briefly describe your relevant career to date?

2) What are your main responsibilities currently?

3) What are the two greatest achievements in your career to date?


We have discussed already how to action these points


Know Your Customer


1) Describe for me what you have done to understand your customer and their needs?

2) Describe a customer service initiative or that you were responsible for executing?

3) How did you develop and implement a plan of action? 

4) How did you monitor progress on the plan?


Think about both your internal and external customer


Drive Results


1) Tell me about the most effective approach you have used to hold others accountable for achieving efficiencies?

2) Tell me about an opportunity you initiated that produced an increase in sales?

3) Where did you get the idea?  How did you present it? 

4) How did you get support?


The interviewer is looking for how accountable you are for achieving financial targets, how others influence you in this area and do you demonstrate passion and a sense of urgency for making things happen?






Create Teams and Partnerships


1) Tell me about a time when you were responsible for leading a team where your employees worked varying shift patterns?  What were the biggest challenges?  What did you do to encourage team work?

2) Tell me about a time when you helped bring about a positive change in the environment of your store?

3) How did you do this? 

4) What were the results?


Do you build trusting relationships?  Do you utilise the skills and knowledge of those relationships to help you do your job well and do you celebrate the ‘teams’ achievements?


Develop Self and Others


1) Tell me about a time when you recognised and developed a high potential employee?  How did you determine the employee was high potential?  How did you support the employee’s development?

2) Tell me about a learning objective you recently achieved for yourself?  How was the objective identified?  What did you do?  What has been the impact of this new learning?


Do you give feedback to your team on their performance and do you provide and pursue challenging assignments and development experiences?


Make Smart, Innovative Decisions


1) Tell me about a time when you took a risk or tried a new idea?  Why were you successful (or unsuccessful)?  What was the impact?

2) Describe a time when you had to make a difficult, business decision? 

3) What was the situation? 

4) What made the decision difficult? 

5) Tell me what happened?


Do you make decisions based on information and facts. Can you think creatively through the short and long term and do you make sure your decisions are aligned with business strategy. Are you willing to take calculated risks in order to benefit the business?


Communicate Persuasively


1) Tell me about a time when you had to gain support for an idea or initiative?

2) Who supported you? 

3) How did you gain their support? 

4) What was the outcome?


Do you listen in order to make credible and persuasive arguments that show consideration for the different perspectives, interests and concerns of others?  Are you both authentic and courageous in taking an honest, straightforward approach to building support for ideas and decisions?



Making you a ‘STAR ‘in answering the competency based questions


Now you know the questions and what the interviewer is looking for, you should start to think of real and positive examples and actions. This is a great exercise, as we should constantly reflect and analyse our behaviour, so we make a positive impact on the team we are managing


To answer the questions fully you need to break down your answers into the following……



S             Situation      -       Describe the situation or problem that you have encountered.

T           Tactics            -       Describe the tactics you formulated to resolve the problem.

A             Action           -       Describe the action you took and the obstacles that you had to overcome.

R             Results          -       Highlight the outcomes achieved.


As I have said this type of interview is becoming more and more common but at least now you know more about what they are looking for and that makes it easier to prepare






One of the most common interview questions is ……How do you manage performance?


I would always try to think of a positive example where someone’s performance has been improved because of the way you have managed the situation but this depends on what the interviewer is looking for


A simple but effective way to help prepare your answer is to remember that poor performance has a PRICE



P             PINPOINT         Pinpoint what the exact problem is – If you don’t the real problem will get worse


R             RECORD             Record as much ‘evidence‘and facts about the situation in order to present to the      



I             INVOLVE            Involve the person in a meeting to discuss the problem – Set SMART objectives at the meeting, ie specific, measurable, agreeable, realistic and time-scaled              


C             COACH               Coach them through the timescale you have set them – giving them encouragement, the                                                       tools and information to succeed


E             EVALUATE        Evaluate the result – is the person back to the agreed level of performance?



                   CUSTOMER SERVICE – WHAT IS IT? ………Relating an Experience



In most interviews customer service appears somewhere. As all businesses want their customer service to be the number one priority, they are obviously interested in hearing your views on what you perceive customer service to be  


When asked the question, ‘What does customer service mean to you?’


Most people state one liner’s such as  


e.g.          Customer service is exceeding the customer’s expectations........ but how?

                Customer service is making the customer come back again....... again but how?


Most people I have met will always relate customer service to a one to one experience with the customer and they always discuss customer service from the employer’s perspective.






Let’s change the perspective all together……


If I was asked the question, “What does Customer Service mean to me?” I would answer it from a customer’s point of view. This gives the opportunity to relate to an experience………… the best experience you could possibly have


Therefore, when asked “What does Customer Service mean to me?” I would make a statement and clarify that statement in detail. The answer I would give is as follows...


“Customer Service is about the whole shopping experience, what I mean is……


When I walk towards a store I expect the windows to be colourful, eye catching and presented to a high standard

When I walk into a store and its cold outside, I expect the store to be warm

When it’s warm outside, I expect the store to be cool. The temperature is important, it keeps me in the store longer, makes my visit more enjoyable and therefore I am more likely to spend

I expect the store to be clean, well presented and bright

I expect the aisles to be wide so I can see the full product offer 

As I walk through the store, I expect the signage to be visible

If the signage states the department I am looking is on another floor, I would expect an escalator or a lift to take me there.

On arriving at the department, I would expect to see graphics and dressables to give me ideas of how to create different looks

I expect the product to be co-ordinated, so if I was looking for a suit, there would be shirts and ties to go with it.

I would expect to find my size available and if the label said it was my size, I'd expect it to fit me.

I'd expect the fitting rooms to be clean, fragrant, air conditioned, bright, have a mirror and to be private and comfortable to change in.

I'd expect the sales assistant to be on hand, smiling, knowledgeable, smart in appearance and have a 'go out of their way, do anything for me' attitude.

At the till point, I would not expect to queue for more than two minutes. I expect to be reassured I have bought the right size and complemented on my purchase and my purchase to be wrapped with total loving care

I expect to be handed my receipt, with a promise that I could return it for a no ifs or buts refund if I wasn't entirely satisfied………………That is what Customer Service means to me”


I hope you can see the fact I have just gone shopping, from the moment I entered the store, to the after sales promise.


I have taken a real life experience and made it almost a perfect. Some people have asked would I really go into this much depth. The answer to that is yes – especially around an answer as important as customer service


The other common statement made is, ‘ But you would never achieve all of these things? ‘ …that isn’t the question


The question is, ‘What does customer service mean to me?’ and what I am trying to illustrate to the interviewer is, that if they hired me, is firstly I am aware of the whole shopping experience and secondly I would always be striving to  achieve the ultimate shopping experience


It really is easy to remember when you relate it to a real life experience and the more you can relate to real life in your interview, then the more in-depth your answers will be






Getting a good rapport with the interviewer is very important, never under estimate the LIKE FACTOR. Most interviewers whether they admit it or not, recruit people they like.


If you are positive, optimistic, confident and approachable, then it would be difficult not to like you


Be friendly in your manner, have some humour at the table……….. but only if appropriate 


All interviewers will be looking for managers who are enthusiastic and show a professional attitude. Be extremely positive at any interview, your interviewer is likely to mirror your approach - behaviour breeds behaviour. Be enthusiastic about your career to date, the position you are applying for and the company you are applying to. If you can enthuse the interviewer, then the chances are they will think you can enthuse the team you will be managing – MAKE THE INTERVIEWER LIKE YOU



APPEARANCE …………First Impressions Do Count



This is an extremely important part of the interview process. First impressions really do count – the packaging of the product ie YOU must be right


Try to wear clothes that are comfortable and are appropriate to the company you are applying to…..We call this  ‘Reflecting the Brand‘ -  Some companies prefer a casual look, some more formal – try to find out beforehand


A lot of people don’t feel comfortable unless they are formally dressed but if you are advised to go casual, then go casual. This is more important to some companies than you would believe


Do not wear lots of rings and necklaces “Unless you are auditioning for the A Team”

Always ensure your clothes are pressed and clean.

Make sure your make up is not over the top – “That goes for the ladies as well “

Always make sure your shoes, hair and nails are clean.


Check in the mirror before leaving home and before going in for the interview


Basic rules but so often people are let down by things that could have made such a good impression, if a little thought and care had been taken.



BODY LANGUAGE ……Reveals the truth



When we talk about communication normally the first thing we think of is speech


If I told you that speech makes up 7% of our communication process you might be surprised.


How we say something or the tone of your voice, makes up 35% of the communication process. So in total the whole of what we say and how we say it only makes up a total 42% of the process.


The remainder of the communication process is body language, a massive 58%. So if these figures are correct, no matter what we say or how we say it, if our body language is stating something different, this is the message the interviewer will receive. The interviewer could question your sincerity


Although these statistics may surprise you, if you really think about the messages people give through body language you can see where these figures come from.


e.g. Look around a restaurant the next time you are out. You can see the couples that are in love by the way they look at each other. You can tell the people who are possibly uneasy if the surroundings, or the people they are with, make them uncomfortable. You see excitable extroverts and the reserved introverts. You can see people who are enjoying themselves and those who would pay you a million pounds to be somewhere else. (my dinner date!)





At interview if you are saying a positive statement make sure your body language is saying the same. If you talk with your hands, let them go, they only help emphasise the message you are sending. If you are feeling positive about something you are saying, then smile. Always have eye contact with the interviewer as this means you are a genuine person and you are comfortable in their company.


Always face the interviewer, try not to sit side on.


Always use good listening skills eg nodding when the interviewer is saying something you agree with, smiling if they are being light hearted and again good eye contact is essential


Never fold your arms. This is seen as being defensive.


Always sit up straight. It makes you look alert.


Have a positive, firm handshake.


Body language can work in your favour if you realise what a massive effect it is having on the communication process.




All questions at interview are asked for a reason – always remember this


Difficult interviews don't exist. However there are techniques and questions that attempt to put you under pressure to see how you react


e.g. An interviewer that I know will ask, “What have you achieved in you career?” A positive question?

So you answer proudly and enthusiastically, stating your achievements.


At this stage you are feeling positive about yourself but as soon as you have finished your answer, the interviewer looks you up and down and says “Is that all?!”


Now I won't ask you what you think of this interviewer and what you would like to say, but how do you handle this situation?


Firstly, remember all questions are asked for a reason and nothing at interview is personal. If you have been asked this question, so will the candidate that preceded you and the candidate that follows you.


Next, remember your body language which includes your facial signals. Remain calm and answer the question professionally and never apologise for your initial answer about your achievements.


If I was asked that question, “Is that all?” I would answer it as follows:-


“Yes, that is what I have achieved to date and I am extremely proud of what I have achieved but I am sure if I worked for your company over the next twelve months, I could add to that list of achievements.” I would say this with a genuine smile.


The reason this interviewer asked the seemingly rude question of 'Is that all?' is to get a reaction. The interviewer in this instance is an area manager for a large high street chain and when she visits one of her stores she challenges every decision the manager has made and wants them to openly disagree with her if they think she is wrong. The purpose of the question, ‘Is that all?’ is to see if you have the character to deal with this area managers management style.


I am not saying this is a right or a wrong way of finding out information, only that the example is a good way of illustrating a point. Never take anything personally, never show you are under pressure, always respond in a professional manner, with a smile and always, always be prepared for any eventuality.



SWOT ANALYSIS - A Brilliant and Effective Interview Tool



A SWOT analysis is a recognised format of studying a business. The reasons for you preparing a SWOT analysis is firstly to show the interviewer you have prepared, secondly, it is a professional format and thirdly, the interviewer has something to remember you by. There is a fourth but I will come back to that after I have shown you how the SWOT works and its advantages.


The word SWOT stands for


S             - Strengths

W            - Weaknesses

O            - Opportunities

T             - Threats


If you want to impress at an interview, then this is a really great idea  


If you are applying for a position with a company you should try and find out as much as possible about that company. The SWOT allows you to put this knowledge onto a document to take with you to the interview


S - Strengths - Write down all the strengths of the business you are applying to. Try to think of all aspects of the business e.g. training, image, customer service, location, market, expanding, profitable, quality, etc. As a guide only have a maximum of 10


W- Weaknesses - Ensure you have thought about the weaknesses carefully. Be constructive. If you are going to criticise then be objective, don’t put any emotion into your comments such as “ I don’t like that or that’s awful etc – how you should approach a weakness is by saying – ‘ this is what I saw, this is what I would do about it and this is the positive effect that change would have‘ - be constructive


Always ensure any weaknesses appear in the Opportunities column. All weaknesses are opportunities. Have a maximum of 10


O - Opportunities - In addition to the opportunities listed from the weaknesses column, you should try to think of at least another 3 opportunities. Get out of your box and give this some real thought. Be creative and radical. This is an ideal time to make an impression.


T - Threats - This column would have any issues you felt could pose a threat to the business now or in the future. e.g. competition, any issues which might affect the flow of customers past the store i.e. new shopping complexes, local economic factors e.g. unemployment, the credit crunch etc


Always type up your SWOT (checking spelling mistakes) and always take another two copies to give to your interviewer or interviewers.


The content of your SWOT is vitally important. A bad SWOT can do your credibility more harm than good.


Under each heading put bullet points, not essays. Your SWOT is a discussion document, so talk the interviewer through it. The last thing you want is for an embarrassing silence to happen when the interviewer is spending 30 minutes ploughing through your 1000 word SWOT


Try to ensure your SWOT analysis covers all areas of the business from the product, promotions, people, service, security, layout, windows, replenishment, service and presentation of the store (standards) – this is the one and only time you can look at the business totally objectively


I would head up the SWOT with three headings








Finally to help with your SWOT preparation I would ask yourself the following questions when visiting a store – this is only a guide. Your views on each part of the visit can be put under Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats


Things to consider when completing a SWOT Analysis


LOCATION                       Position of the store or department             Free Parking or costly to park

Easily accessible or difficult                          Short term problems to access store / longer term issues                


WINDOWS                        Are they on trend                                              Clearly stating the offer or value

                                                Standard of presentation                                Graphics / Posters

                                                Overall message                                                Mannequins

                                                Cleanliness                                                         Presentation


ENVIRONMENT             Temperature of the store                                 Spacious/Cluttered

                                                Cleanliness                                                         Fitting room standards

                                                Till point standards / efficiency                    Signage

                                                Lighting                                                               Music



PRODUCT                          Are densities correct – replenished             Merchandising standards

                                                Colour coordinated                                          Lifestyled or Product blocked 

                                                Product adjacencies                                         Is there department identity

Value for money                                                Range of product – petite, variety of sizes,

Quality of product                                            variety, choice

                                                Store presentation to high standard


SERVICE                             Helpful                                                                 Non existent

                                                Detailed                                                                Approachable

                                                Efficient                                                                Customer service window

                                                Staff deployment


SECURITY                          Linked to service                                               Staff awareness 

                                                Security Guard Cameras                                Fitting room security


PROMOTIONAL             Strong POS                                                          Too much - Not enough

                                                Ticketing                                                              Easily identifiable

Good value


MARKETING                   Advertising                                                         Magazines / TV


STORE CARDS /              Introduced no – yes                                          Incentives to purchase cards

LOYALTY CARDS          Offers communicated


COMPETITION               Who are they                                                      What are the standards in those stores


STAFF                                  Easily identifiable                                             Standards of dress

Standards of service                                         Staff reflect the brand

knowledgeable about the product               Efficient and helpful


ONLINE                              Service available – good / bad                       Catalogue



COMPANY                        Values and Culture                                          Opportunities to progress

                                                Expanding business                                        Performance of the company

                                                High profile or global brand                          Reputation of the business

                                                News picked up from website


LOCAL                                 Events that you can capitalise on                Local advertising

                                                Local developments that can hinder or encourage trade


                                                SWOT ANALYSIS PREPARED FOR MICHAEL MOUSE - AREA MANAGER

                                                                MANCHESTER STORE - DATE 12 JANUARY 2009





§   Product – Quality, Generous sizes, affordable average price.

§   Size guides available for customers.

§   Stand-alone product in Debenhams/No direct competition, closest competitor in store Fuse.

§   Position of Concession in direct flow of customer traffic.

§   Targeted customer base age 18-25.

§   Shopability – Fixtures well positioned and space between, to encourage browsing.

§   Own fitting area.

§   Visual displays eye catching, outfits well thought out.

§   Team members clean tidy, and presentable, promoting positive brand image.

§   Staff well informed about products.




§   Replenishment needed on key lines.

§   Most of New Season product only available in sizes 1 and 2.

§   Re-assess customer service standards as had to ask for assistance and only myself and one other in concession.

§   Changing room’s house keeping standards, dirty walls and floors and stock piled up in one corner – devalues offer.

§   Size of concession restricted range of product, and could lose vital sales from top end of targeted customer base – age 35.

§   No loyalty card for own brand.

§   Improvements to be made on VM standards: e.g.:

§   Bring casuals and New Season to front, put sleep-wear and accessories to back, pull smart/work wear together in front of till area.

§   Rear of till area un-kept and in full customer view.

§   Security issues with till area, open to theft.

§   No promotional graphics visible.





§   Opportunities can be taken from all listed in the weakness area. Additional opportunities are as follows:

§   Introduce Morgan Customer Loyalty Card -

§   Offering previews of New Season product, discounts as incentives for customers to spend, competitions etc.

§   Develop On-line shopping facility to increase purchase opportunities.

§   Extend concession to accommodate more comprehensive range to attract wider audience.

§   Investigate Tall and Petite product.

§   Increase garment conversion chart size, possibly add exclaimer to emphasise generosity of product cut and fit.

§   Extend jewellery range.

§   Look at opportunity to open a stand-alone site, to accommodate supply and demand.




§   Due to lack of range, customers may chose to go and shop elsewhere with main competitors, e.g. Oasis, situated directly outside the entrance to Debenhams.

§   Warehouse direct competition in store.

§   Concession for Warehouse directly adjacent to Morgan with no distinctive break in brand placement.

§   High street competitors would Kookai, Jane Norman have the added advantage of being able to accommodate massive customer base with extensive product variety all under one roof.

§   Other fashion brands may also attract the younger end of the market, which our potential customer is interested in – on price rather than quality or design









Interviews are about communicating quality information Always take time to think about the question you have been asked. Answer the question in hand. Once you have answered the question fully, stop. Do not side-track onto other issues. Do not waffle.





Your interview is not over until you are in the car, on the train and on the way home. Stay focused and in interview mode even if the interviewer walks you back to the reception area, you are still being interviewed. I know a lot of interviews that have gone wrong at this late stage




The Most Positive Answer of the Day!



This is another opportunity to be positive. Instead of being negative about your current employer, think positive about your future employer.


Say as little as possible ( but positive comments ) about the company you are currently working for and even more positives about the company you are looking to join – Use the 80/20 rule – 20% of your answer is about the company you are leaving and 80% of your answer is about the company you are looking to join


e.g.  “I have really enjoyed my time with my current employer. I have learnt a great deal, have progressed quickly and have been given lots of responsibility - That is it all you say about your current employer


Now focus on the positive points about the company you are applying to.


“However I am an ambitious person and want to progress and I believe your expansion plans bring with them numerous opportunities. You can offer me a role that is autonomous and one that will develop me further. You are a company I have admired because of your standards, your vision and your people culture. You are financially secure and looking to expand internationally. Also you are a business that is undergoing a number of changes and that is where my experience lies and where I believe I can really make a difference


So the company is enticing you, rather than your existing company not offering what you want


The interviewer will know, if you say, “I believe you can develop me further,” that your current employer has stopped developing you. But you are saying it in such away, that is not only positive, but in a way that you are praising the company you are applying to. A little bit of flattery will get you a long way!


In summary, you are not answering why you want to leave your company but why you want to join the one you are applying to.









QUESTIONS AT THE END - You think it’s all over........ not by a long shot !



This is the time when you will feel more relaxed and some people fall into the trap that they think it’s their turn to interview the interviewer …………. but remember you are still being assessed. The quality and the content of your questions make up part of your interview and it’s important you finish on a high


Every part of the interview process is an opportunity to impress and the end of the interview is probably more important because it leaves a final impression


Most people prepare ‘a couple of questions.’ This is because in most cases they think they should be seen to be asking something


This could be the next 5-10 years of your life and you are asking ‘a couple‘ of questions about it?


I would recommend eleven questions………….yes I did say eleven!


Always prepare questions to take with you. Ensure that they are typed or neatly written and always placed in a flat A4 folder.


Three are to be Personal questions that are important to you

Three questions about the Role you are applying to  

Three about the Company – to show you can think more globally and to show you can think outside the box

Finally two about The Interviewer – making the end of the interview personal and positive


The content of the questions will be listened to. Your credibility rests on what you are asking and having given a superb and professional interview, it would be a disappointing for it all to go wrong at this stage  


Your questions should be interesting and ‘need to know’ questions, not ‘nice to know.’






  1. 1. What training and development can you offer me?
  2. How much autonomy would I have within the role?
  3. What opportunities are there for me to progress?




  1. What would be my three key priorities if I was successful?
  2. What is the size of business / department I would be managing?
  3. How many staff will I be responsible for?




The company questions involve letting the interviewer know you have researched the company and you should

use that knowledge in your questioning


  1. I understand the Business has just opened stores in France – Is there a strategy to expand throughout Europe?
  2. I have read that the Business has just made major investments in its IT capability - What plans has the Company to maximise the potential of the internet?
  3. What is the Company’s Mission Statement?




  1. Can I ask how long you have worked for the Company?
  2. What do you enjoy most about working for the Company ( Name )?


These two questions at the end show a genuine interest in the interviewer. Also by asking question No. 11 you will get the interviewer to talk about themselves and what they enjoy most about their job. When someone is recalling things they enjoy doing, they feel good about themselves. It is a positive way to finish the interview


Always finish thanking the interviewer for their time, say how much you have enjoyed meeting them and that you will look forward to hearing from them soon.





I wouldn’t discuss money at the first interview stage unless the interviewer does but if they do, you’d better be ready for it – it will cost you if you don’t


Most people think this is a sensitive part of the interview process and get embarrassed about discussing salary but again it is all about preparation.


Think of yourself as the manager of a Mercedes car showroom. A customer walks in and asks, ‘How much is your top of the range Mercedes?‘ You know its £100k but do you tell the customer ……… shouldn’t yet


You should take the customer to the car, open the door and get them to sit in it. They can smell the leather, see the Mercedes badge on the steering wheel and see the cockpit of clocks and dials. In the meantime you are telling them the car does 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds and the top speed is 190 mph. You then put the roof down and then tell them to imagine themselves driving through the south of France. In the meantime you start to tell them about the stereo, the button that does this and the button that does that and eventually they will fall in love with the car and the price is far less relevant ........then you tell them the price!    


Guess what…You are now the Mercedes


So when you are asked what salary you are looking for …


Firstly you reiterate some of the skills, knowledge and experience you can bring to the company and what value you can add


You then tell them what salary, bonus and package you are on, plus any additional expenses you may incur in joining their business ie further to travel etc


Then once you have justified a figure, then you name your price




‘What salary are you looking for? ‘


‘I believe after our discussion today I can really make a difference and add some real value to your business. With my wealth of people development skills, business acumen and commercial awareness, plus my personal qualities, my enthusiasm, my passion and my focus, I believe I would be a real asset to your organisation.


I am currently on a salary of 25k plus a bonus of 20% and healthcare and pension. In addition I would have to take into consideration that this move would incur extra travel costs of around 2k per annum and therefore I would be looking for 30k to move”


You have totally justified asking for this figure


There is no real guide on how much more to ask for – it’s how much you feel your worth and how much you want the position. Some people will move for the same salary and package, some will move for less depending on the opportunity and where it can take them in the medium to long term





I cannot guarantee this advice will get you the next position you apply for, or the one after that but I do hope it will help you as it has helped many people in the past.


I have not set out to change you, your personality or your character, but simply to show you, that with a little thought and preparation, you can show off the  ‘Best of You’ when you really need to the most.


If we can do that and ‘I have made you think’ more about the preparation and the interview process then I have achieved what I set out to do


Remember ….Napolean once said “Talent is nothing without opportunity “


Paul Davies once said “When opportunity knocks, welcome it and be ready for it “


Good luck in your future career, whatever stage of life’s ladder you are on and here’s hoping in many ways, that now, ‘ Interviews Don’t Have to be Scary ! ‘