The final assessment centre for Marks & Spencer's graduate scheme includes an interview. Most of the questions will be centred around you and 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?
- How have you challenged the decisions or ideas of others?
- 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.
It's likely that the questions you're asked will also be probing how well you match the behaviours Marks & Spencer value most – those that make up the 'M&S way':
- Own it and get it done: take responsibility for your work and do everything you can to make sure it's completed effectively
- Talk straight: give your honest view and actively listen to your colleagues and customers
- All in for the customer: always do your best for the customer; this involves doing your best for your colleagues, as a strong team is more likely to produce good results for the customer
- Make every penny count: take the money or resource you are using and make the most from it in terms of positive outcomes for the company and customer.
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 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.
How have you challenged the decisions or ideas of others?
An answer to this question should find a balance between showing that you are someone who actively listens to and considers the thoughts of others (see 'Talk straight' in the above section) and demonstrating your ability to think independently.
Clearly explaining what the idea or decision was and why you didn't believe it to be the most effective course of action will allow recruiters to see that you can make considered and rational judgements. The how part of this question may refer to both the argument you gave and the way you expressed it. Make it clear that you were diplomatic – describing how you asked the other person (and the rest of the team if applicable) what they think once you've expressed your view is one way to demonstrate this.
Whether it will be relevant depends on the example you decide to give, but explaining how you provided an alternative decision or idea will show problem-solving skill and an aptitude for coming up with positive contributions. Remember to discuss through to the outcome (eg did the others agree with you and did you decide to progress your proposition instead?).
For more tips on answering the M&S interview questions, see our advice article ‘Retail interviews: the questions to expect’.