Though we do most of our shopping online–for everything, bookstores have not completely disappeared from the face of the Earth. Many people still enjoy the smell of a bookstore, and the attention of an experienced bookseller. They love getting a good recommendation, having a cup of coffee in the place, and eventually walking home with a couple of paperbacks or hardcovers in their bag. Barnes & Noble has more retail outlets in the US than any other bookseller, and together with Amazon, they are one of the two brand people associate with books more than any other brands. Barnes & Noble employs over 20,000 people. If you want to become one of them, you’ll have to pass an interview, typically directly in the store.
Manager at Barnes & Noble will ask you about your job choice, motivation, previous experience, favorite books, and about your attitude to certain situations that can happen in a bookstore on a daily basis–such as dealing with an unhappy customer, facing many customers in the store at the same time, having conflict with the colleague, and similar situations. Let’s have a look at the questions right now, one after one.
Why do you want to work for Barnes & Noble?
Praise their brand, and talk about your passion for reading and customer service. You can tell them that the two things you enjoy the most is reading, and interaction with other people. And since you excel in communication, and know how to please the customer, you find the job with Barnes & Noble a perfect choice for someone like you, at least at this stage of your professional career.
You can also tell them that you prefer to work for the best, that you like the organization of their stores, the combination of a bookstore and a cafe. You feel great in their stores, and working for them will be almost a dream come true. Of course, you can refer also to other details, such as fitting schedule, or good job location.
Do you have any relevant working experience?
You will get a decent training on the job with Barnes & Noble, and previous experience isn’t essential. At the same time, anything you did in retail or customer service or hospitality is a plus. So, if you have previous experience, refer briefly to your former jobs. Try to pick duties that were at least similar to the duties you’ll be responsible for at Barnes & Noble. Do not forget to talk with enthusiasm about your customer service experience. They should get an impression that you enjoy this type of work.
And if this is your first job application in the field or first job application ever, tell them that you can rely on your excellent communication skills and learning ability. You are eager to learn and they have a great system in place in their stores. So you’ll learn it in no time and will deliver an excellent service to each customer.
What is your availability? What days/hours can you work?
Many jobs with Barnes & Noble are part time. They pay most of their baristas and booksellers minimum wage (or close to it), and college students, and people who have also another job, form a big part of the workforce. Therefor they will almost always ask about your availability. And I suggest you to do two things.
First one is having a clear schedule ready for the entire week. Explain clearly when you can work and when you cannot, because you have school, other job, family obligations, or whatever. Second thing is showing some flexibility, and willingness to sacrifice something for your new job. Show them that it is high on your list of priorities, and that you won’t be unavailable on Saturday just because you love to have Saturday off and do nothing…
What books are you currently reading?
Barnes & Noble is a mainstream bookstore, but they sell almost everything, every genre, every quality. Hence it doesn’t really matter what books you refer to, as long as you refer to some. In fact you can say what books you’ve read over the last couple of months. If you mention at least ten books, they will be impressed.
It is always good to mention at least one or two items from the bestsellers lists, because at the end of the day these are the books crowds buy most often, and it is helpful if you know the titles, and can give the shoppers some recommendations. You can also add that you enjoy reading book reviews and critics, so even though you did not read a certain book, you may still know something about it, and be able to give a recommendation to the customer.
Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a colleague.
The most important thing is to refer to a situation with a positive outcome. Conflicts do happen, and we cannot entirely avoid them. But as long as you manage to keep your composure, and do not turn the conflict into something emotionally destructive, they won’t have a long term negative impact on your work, or on the atmosphere in the store.
And if this is your first job application, you can say that you will try to be attentive to the needs and feelings of your colleagues, and responsibly take care of all your duties in the bookstore. You will do all you can to minimize the chances of a conflict. And if it happens, you will listen carefully to the other party, try to understand their point of view, and solve the conflict without getting emotional or personal. That’s the attitude they seek from a good applicant at Barnes & Noble.
Imagine that twenty customers come to the store in the same minute. Many of them look like they may need your advice. What will you do? Who will you serve first?
Such things can happen, and the most important thing is to say that you won’t panic. You can suggest two courses of action here. First one is standing in the middle of the store, with your eyes open, not doing anything else, easily visible and accessible to the customers. Hence if anyone needs an advice, they are aware of your presence and can approach you anytime with their question or request.
Second idea is following a certain system in your work. For example, you will walk around the store clockwise, and briefly ask each customer whether they need help with anything. If they do, you will take care of their request as quickly as possible (but maintaining the desired level of customer service) and then you will move on to the next one…
Show the hiring manager that you aren’t afraid of a heavy workload, and won’t panic when many people enter the store at once. You will simply try your best, following a meaningful system, trying to help as many customers as you can. At the end of the day, you cannot cut yourself to two…
5 other questions you may face in your job interview with Barnes & Noble
- Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer.
- Describe a situation in which you had to overcome some challenge or adversity.
- What is your favorite book and why. Try to sell it to me.
- What three words to you imagine when you hear Barnes & Noble?
- When we talk about the job of a bookseller, what do you consider your greatest strength, and your biggest weakness?
Final thoughts, next steps
Interviews with Barnes & Noble belong to interviews with easy difficulty. The American bookseller has a great training in place for new hires, and they do not expect you to know how to handle the job when applying. What they expect, however, is to see your motivation, honest interest in books, decent communication skills, and right attitude to various situations you may experience with both your colleagues and customers.
Read the questions and my hints once again, and think about your answer to each question. And do not forget to show positive non-verbal communication in your interview, and some enthusiasm for the job. If you manage to do so, and give them at least decent interview answers, they will give you a chance to prove your skills in the job. I wish you good luck!
May also interest you:
- Guide on how to overcome interview nerves – Learn how to get rid of anxiety and show them your very best in the interviews.
- What books are you currently reading? – 7 sample answers to a question you may get while interviewing for a job with any bookseller.
- How to dress for an interview – Not sure what clothes to put on? Follow our simple guide and make the right choices.
- Recent Posts
Matthew has been working in international recruitment since 2008. He helps job seekers from all walks of life to pursue their career goals, and to prepare for their interviews. He is the founder of InterviewPenguin.com website.
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)