General retail interview etiquette
May 16, 2018 5:10 AM   Subscribe

What's the general etiquette when you are interviewing for multiple companies?

Retail/service-specific because I'm sure it's different for higher paid/salaried/office/admin etc. I am interviewing at multiple stores for basically a min wage customer service position. I'm used to interviewing for programming positions where it's expected that you'll be looking at other companies and comparing salaries and actually negotiating salaries. Can I do the same thing here?

Can I tell the interviewers that I am looking at other places and don't want to accept a position until I'm done with my other interviews? Is it bad manners to ask about benefits? If it's part-time, can I ask if it's going to be a fixed or """flexible""" (aka on-call can't-have-another-job) schedule?

This would be for a job paying $11-14/hr so I don't know if this is a "beggars can't be choosers" situation...
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Generally speaking, retail and service managers have a lot less flexibility in terms of pay or benefits - most will have a set package they can offer you and if you say no will move on to the next candidate. That said - asking about those things, in particular if there are any raises/performance-related components to pay, and how your scheduling will look is totally kosher.
posted by notorious medium at 5:23 AM on May 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

What notorious medium said, plus ask them after you've asked about other job aspects.
posted by Homer42 at 5:47 AM on May 16, 2018

They'll probably tell you up-front about benefits, pay, and raise structure (if any), without your having to ask; asking is definitely considered normal and is in no way considered 'bad manners' or gauche. There's no room for negotiation, but generally the interviews are refreshingly straightforward, at least.

In many cases you can ask for a fixed schedule, and your manager will agree (with no guarantees) to do their best. Whether or not it works out will depend on the schedules of the other employees, and how good the scheduler is at their job. Truly 'on-call' schedules are rare; usually you'll know your schedule a week in advance, at least. Juggling two jobs, or job-plus-school, is common, but how well it works will depend on employer needs. It's generally easier to make it work if you can be flexible about time-of-day-worked but keep to fixed days-of-week.
posted by halation at 5:56 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can I tell the interviewers that I am looking at other places and don't want to accept a position until I'm done with my other interviews?

You can, but they would probably rather hire their second choice now than wait more than a couple of days for you.

It seems sketchy, but the better play is to just accept the job if they offer it, and if something better comes along in two weeks, take that.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:57 AM on May 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

This may vary a bit depending on where you are, but in general, there's a shortage of potential low-wage workers in the US. Unemployment is super low, and teenagers are less inclined to take low-wage summer jobs than kids were ten or fifteen years ago. So while you're going to have limited scope for negotiating, since managers probably don't have a lot of say over pay or benefits, you absolutely should ask questions, and you absolutely should hold out for the best possible job. (It's also fine to quit with no notice if you find something better.) If you are looking for a job with regular scheduling so you can take a side gig, tell whoever is hiring, and ask if they can accommodate you. If they can't, tell them that you're going to keep looking for something that can, but you might be in touch to see if the job is still open if nothing better pans out. You don't have to take the first job that you're offered. You're probably going to be offered a lot of jobs.

You shouldn't worry about what's "good manners." These jobs need you more than you need them, and you don't owe them anything.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:00 AM on May 16, 2018

It's fine to ask what benefits are available. It's also fine to ask what pay is available-- try to ballpark them high, even if you are not qualified, so there's room for them to talk you down. If you express a willingness to work for minimum, they'll be firm on minimum, when they usually have a little leeway to go up a quarter or so, if not the top of the range. (The top of the range is often the top wage that anyone has ever made, including people who have been there for multiple years. Typically what they advertise and what they hire at are very different. I was not allowed to hire above minimum when I was in retail, though we advertised a range of min +$4.)

You can also tell them you have interviews until X date and you don't want to make a decision until after you get all the offers. A lot of places, especially if they're hiring over minimum, will want a second interview with a district manager or something anyway. You can also just say "I have a few commitments in the next two weeks, but I can start on Y date with these hours, but after X date my schedule is open."

My strategy with retail jobs was always to tell them that the job that pays me more or gives more hours will become the primary job that will determine the scheduling for the other one. I usually sold it as "I have to make a living, so I have to maximize my time. If you make me full time, I will give you full time availability, but if you make me part-time, at some point I will have to reduce my availability in order to guarantee that I can get hours at this and my other job. I can be flexible with what that looks like week-to-week. Is that something you can work with?" This is fair to both of you and if they start acting like it won't work, that's a red flag for a bad place of employment. Smart and fair minimum wage employers understand that you need to make a living and will work with you.

Not all retail managers are smart and fair. If you are desperate for a job, and you get the sense that the manager is a jerk, you need to appear to be a doormat with 24/7 availability, and my advice changes drastically.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:28 AM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

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