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Acing a fashion role interview: Advice from Anne Marie Mc Auley

Fantastic, you’ve got an interview! Interviews for fashion roles are intense and exciting, designed to find out exactly who you are, what you know, and if you’re a good fit for the job. There are no surprises. The retail company will send you a brief ahead of time detailing what they would like you to prepare. There is planning, practicing and pressure involved. It’s important to take it step by step and remember, you can never do enough preparation! Make it a job to get a job.

The interview typically split into four parts:

  • Numerical test.
  • Presentation.
  • Behaviour competency questions.
  • Excel spreadsheet test


1.Numerical Test

Firstly, you will have to complete a 20-minute numerical test. This basic general maths test involves answering simple mathematical problems you would use in everyday life as a buyer or merchandiser, including percentages, margins, addition, subtraction and division. My advice here is to test your numeracy skills with some basic maths tests online.


2. Presentation

You will be given a brief and asked to present your findings in a short 10-minute presentation, often without the use of technology. A brief might be something along the lines of ‘Choose two company competitors, compare and contrast two products from each and present your findings.’ Remember, people buy people, so you have to be confident and knowledgeable in your presentation style. Try to think outside the box and do something different that brings out your personality while sticking to accurate facts.


3. Behaviour Competency-Based Questions

They are specific questions about your skill base that are typically used in interviews for fashion roles. Take the time to research and prepare your answers using the STAR method. Again, you’ll find hundreds of examples online. It’s useful to try out a role play scenario with a loved one or friend to help settle your nerves beforehand. Always use examples that will be relevant to the job you are interviewing for, for example a previous role, internship or college experience.

Example Question – Tell me about at time when you had to work as a team member to achieve a goal?

Example Answer – (S) Describe the situation in detail; who, what, when, where. (T) What was the task involved? (A)What action did you take to get the task done on your own and as part of the team? (R)What were the results? Did you achieve the goal?


Concentrate on

  • Examples of working in a fast-paced office environment along with any pressurised role you have worked in.
  • Any examples of your interest in numbers and enjoyment of reporting and spreadsheets.
  • Examples of your analytical ability.
  • Your mastery/experience with Microsoft Excel - Can you perform a Pivot Table/V look up  
  • Any supply chain experience you have.
  • Teamwork - How do you work within your team? How do you work with others?
  • Strategic Thinking - The ability to create a strategy and achieve a long-term objective.
  • Customer Focus - Are you aware of and focused on the customer?
  • Managing Complexity - Your ability to prioritise, delegate and manage in a fast-paced environment that is always changing and a business that is complex
  • Commercial acumen - Your ability to evaluate commercial feasibility
  • Administration Experience – The company you are interviewing for will explore your experience in administration.
  • The Purchasing process – The interviewer may explore your ability to communicate your experience in a previous role and your place in the purchasing process
  • Fashion ability - Your thoughts on their product
  • Negotiation - The negotiation process, how do you get the best results without compromising
  • Your understanding and interest in the company - Never answer a question with only the word ‘Yes’. Always include an example or what you can or would do. You know you can do the job, the important thing now is demonstrating your knowledge, experience and expertise to the interviewer.
  • Key competitors – demonstrate your knowledge of the company’s competitors, from value to high street and designer.
  • Offer your opinion on who is performing on the high street and why. I love this question, it really tests a candidate understanding, passion and level of commercial awareness.
  • What do you think looks great in our stores and where could we improve?
  • A tip here is to develop a SWOT analysis on the business and bring it to the interview – it will cover a lot of these questions and it will show you have gone above and beyond the brief.


4. The Excel test

If your interview includes an excel test, you will be given information and asked to create and input onto an excel spreadsheet. You need to be able to use excel proficiently (excel is currently a module on our full-time fashion course).



3 Tops Tips for Interview Success

  • Appearance - Human beings tend to make decisions based on appearance, with recent research identifying that it can contribute up to 20% of interview success. Always dress to meet your audience. If you can mix in a piece of the retailer’s product with your outfit, even better! You’re interviewing with a contemporary buying office, but it is an interview and you need to dress accordingly. Have a good think about what you wear.
  • Competency - Can you do the job? The interviewer will run through your career history looking for examples of what you have done that matches the role they are recruiting for. Look at the job role specifications and make sure to showcase examples of your work that correlates with what they are looking for. You can do the job, just make sure you can demonstrate this.
  • Attitude This is the likeability factor. Do they like you? Do they think you would fit in with the team and be pleasant to work with? You need to get your personality across. Make sure they get to know you during the interview and your personality. The presentation part of the interview is key here.


You’ve got this.  You’ve studied, graduated, interned, worked and practiced – it’s time to go and get that dream job!

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