Ecommerce Interview Tips

What you need to know to do well in an ecommerce job interview.

As I am currently between roles, I have been in a few interviews recently. I enjoy interviews, both as the interviewee and the interviewer. It is an opportunity to have an honest conversation to work out if the candidate and the role/company are a good fit for each other. Given that over my career I have conducted a couple of hundred interviews as an interviewer and reviewed probably a thousand CVs, I thought it would be helpful to give some top tips to help you shine.

It is aimed at those who are just starting out on their career path in ecommerce, and in particular it is for roles such as ecommerce assistant, ecommerce executive or digital marketing assistant.

1. Be honest

Be honest with yourself. Is this the right role for you? Yes, it is easy to just fire off your CV to any and every vacancy out there, but you aren't going to get an interview by some random luck of the draw. Even if you don't have direct experience, there is a big digital skills shortage out there, so you may be able to pick up a junior role if you have something you can bring to the table. But be honest with yourself, does your CV —your employment history, your educational background— help you stand out?

Be honest on your CV. While all of us put the best spin we can on our previous experience, it must still be true! It is not going to go down well in the interview if you're CV says you are proficient in Excel and I ask you the parameters for a vlookup formula and you've never heard of a vlookup! I wouldn't deliberately set out to trip someone up with a technical question, but my job is to check that what you say in your CV is actually true. Another honesty point for your CV is if there is an unexplained career break. As I review CVs I will look back through your own personal timeline. If there is a big gap in there, it is going to raise questions. I don't actually mind what you did in the gap, you can just say six months career break and that is fine.

2. CV clarity

Imagine you are a hiring manager, and reviewing CVs for a new role. There may be 50 or more applications for the role. The first read of a CV probably takes me 30 seconds, it is just a quick skim to see if it goes in the no pile or the maybe pile. If I can't get a very quick understanding of your suitability then you are increasing the chances of it making the no pile.

Stick to a standard format, for example, your work history, education and some key achievements. That is not to say that your CV needs to be boring.

3. CV red flags

I have already mentioned unexplained career gaps, that is an easy fix.

Another red flag is if you have moved about a lot in your CV. If you frequently hop between roles then I am really going to think twice. It takes a certain amount of time and effort to on-board someone in to a role, I am going to want you to stay around for a bit so I don't have to go through the whole process again in the near future. And to be honest, frequent hopping makes me concerned that you might not be very competent, because a) you left before you could become competent and/or b) you aren't interested in becoming competent and would rather just move on than be challenged. Frequent hopping to me would be less than a year in subsequent roles. If this is you, then you are going to have to work hard to justify the hopping.

4. Add something personal to your CV

I mentioned above about being standard in your CV, but that doesn't need to mean boring. If you have to use CV formatting to give it more personality then maybe you need to take up some hobbies!

As I mentioned, I will typically have reviewed many CVs for a particular role. So, throw me a bone, show me you are human. What do you like to do in your downtime? I don't really mind what it is, it could be stamp collecting; but give me something non-work related to talk to you about in the interview. Who says philately will get you nowhere?!

5. Check your spelling

This is not actually about spelling and grammar. It shows me that a) you have good attention to detail and b) care enough to get it right.

English may not be your first language, but there are plenty tools out there, or ask someone to proof read it for you.

Bad spelling on your CV isn't going to exclude you from proceeding further but it will certainly raise questions on why you didn't use a spellchecker.

6. Be data driven

This is a much-used phrase, but let me tell you what it means to me in an interview context.

Firstly, you are numerate. You don't need to be a Fields Medal winner, but we're dealing with sales, stock and profitability.

Secondly and more importantly, being data driven should mean that you care about delivering good results and seek evidence to demonstrate that, and that you use data (information) to inform decisions about how to improve performance. If you can demonstrate this on your CV and in the interview, you go to the top of the pile.

7. Know the business

Firstly, know the specific business you are applying to. But don't just have a cursory look at their website, here are some specific ideas:

Secondly, make sure you understand ecommerce KPIs, KPI is a Key Performance Indicator. Another phrase for this would be ecommerce metrics, what are the numbers that matter. Here is a good starting list:

There are many other metrics that matter, but those above are key. Gain an appreciation of these, and try to establish what the averages are for the particular vertical the business is operating in.

If you have used an ecommerce analytics package like Google Analytics before, I would recommend you look at some of their free training, there is demonstration account you can look at.

8. Rehearse interviewing

One of the rewarding parts of interviewing is when I bring a colleague with me to help and they haven't had any experience being an interviewer before. They find it so insightful; it gives them a new perspective on how they would act as an interviewee.

While rehearsing being interviewed will be very useful for you, if you had the chance, also rehearse being an interviewer. It lets you think more abstractly about how you would answer the question when you are asked in the real thing.

9. Relax

As an interviewer, I want you to do well. Yes, I am there to find out if you would be the right candidate for the job. But I don't want you to feel too nervous, I will do all I can to put you at ease, probably by employing some dad jokes. I want you to shine, I am not going to go out my way to trip you up. I meet every candidate with optimism, otherwise they wouldn't have gotten the interview in the first place!

On the flip side, I would urge you to be careful if you go for a role and the interview is confrontational. If you get a bad vibe, be brave and draw the interview to a close.

10. Have a conversation

While it is useful to think of some questions you can ask the interviewer at the end, as tradition dictates, I would say it was more important to have questions as you go through the interview. It is a great way to show that you are engaged and well prepared. But it also allows you a chance to steer the conversation.

By way of example, I was recently being interviewed for a senior ecommerce role. Towards the start of the conversation, I asked the interviewer how would you currently rate your satisfaction with the ecommerce website? they replied with a very low score. This allowed me to frame a lot of the rest of the discussion on how I would close the gap and raise that number. This allowed them to visualise an improved future state brought about by me.

Bonus points

What makes you stand out as a candidate (in the right way)? Some ideas:

In Summary

This may sound like a lot of work to try and get a single role, but many of these tips will apply to many roles, I hope you have found this look behind the curtain of ecommerce interviewing helpful. Best of luck at finding your new ecommerce job!