Prepare for your M&S interview with these example questions
One of the main components of Marks & Spencer’s graduate assessment day is the interview. From all reports, the graduate interview is a fairly standard competency-based interview and isn’t designed to catch you out. Most of the questions appear to be centred around assessing whether you have the skills M&S requires (usually asking you for examples of when you’ve developed the skills in the past). Some also assess your reasons for wanting to work for M&S, as opposed to other retailers.
Previous Marks & Spencer graduate interview questions
Previous candidates have reported being asked the following questions. Use them to get an idea of what to expect and to practise answering questions – but bear in mind that interview questions do change from year to year and will depend, in part, on what you wrote in your application.
- Why do you want to work for Marks & Spencer? Why do you want to work for Marks & Spencer instead of [another retailer]?
- Why have you applied for this particular graduate scheme?
- Do you have any concerns about working for Marks & Spencer?
- How have you ensured quality in the teams you have worked in?
- Tell me about a decision you have had to make.
- Tell me about a time when you had to work with limited resources, and how you managed that challenge.
- Describe a time when you’ve had to deal with a dissatisfied customer.
- What does good customer service mean to you?
- What other company do you feel is on a par with M&S, and why?
- When have you implemented a change?
The values and competencies Marks & Spencer will be assessing you against
Marks & Spencer has previously advised candidates to think about times when they developed teamwork, problem-solving and communication skills, as well as business (commercial) awareness. Expect questions on how you used these skills in your academic life, your extracurricular activities and your work experience/part-time jobs.
Its likely that the questions you're asked will also be probing how well you match Marks & Spencer's guiding principles:
- Inspiration: generating new ideas and exciting and inspiring its customers
- Innovation: always aiming to improve things, push boundaries and encourage experimentation
- Integrity: striving to do the right thing and build trust
- In touch: understanding what is important to customers and communities
Think about how to use your answers to show that you align with these values.
Sample answers to the Marks & Spencer interview questions
If you were given the following questions, here's our advice on how to answer them:
Why do you want to work for Marks & Spencer?
Saying that you think it is prestigious or a great employer will just sound wishy-washy. Base your reasons around specifics and facts. It could be that you are impressed with the progress the company's made under its 'Plan A' sustainable initiative. It could be that you believe that you are well suited to the blend of formal and on-the-job training (you need to say why). It could be that you find its multi-channel e-commerce strategy interesting. Whatever your reason, back it up with facts – and don't mention pay or benefits!
Tell me about a time when you had to work with limited resources, and how you managed that challenge
Resources could mean materials, information sources or people. Perhaps you had to write an essay and couldn't get vital hold of vital research or work on the subject? Perhaps you were short-staffed in your part-time job and had to cover for others? Or perhaps you were manning a student society stall at a freshers' fair and the person supposed to be alongside you couldn't make it or you ran out of marketing material? If you can, give an example where the lack of resources wasn't caused by your actions or lack of action.
When giving your answer, explain the problems the lack of resources caused and the actions you took to remedy the situation.
Do you have any concerns about working for Marks & Spencer?
Key to answering this question is understanding why it’s being asked, as well as what type of ‘concern’ is appropriate to bring up.
One possible reason you’re being asked this question is that the interviewer wants to know if you actually want the job. Now is not the time to confess doubts about practicalities (such as not being able to relocate for the role – you will have ideally investigated this before applying), so don’t bring up these issues unless you are asked.
A suitable answer shows you’ve considered whether you really want to work there, and frames any concerns in a positive way. For example, if you were concerned about how you would progress after the programme, you could say something like: ‘I would definitely like to work for Marks & Spencer, but I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more about the career progression of previous graduates on the programme.’
Another approach, especially if you have no concerns about working for the retailer, is to use this as a chance to show off your commercial awareness – they would expect you to know how the retailer is performing and about its business strategy. If there’s been any negative news they would understand if this gave you questions about working for them, but again, frame things positively. You might say something like, ‘I don’t have any major concerns about working for Marks & Spencer; however, I would like to know more about how last quarter’s drop in sales could affect career progression.’
If you’re unsure about which approach to take, ask the interviewer to clarify what they mean.
For more tips on answering the M&S interview questions, see our advice article ‘Retail interviews: the questions to expect’.