Fashion Retailing Graduate Schemes


Different from BIG 4 etc.

Anybody been through one of the big high street retailers graduate assessment centres before? - Particularly for the more numerate roles like merchandising.

What interview questions do they ask?

Any tips?


Hello Spartacus,

I used to work as a graduate recruiter for retail/fashion retail firms, so I may be able to offer you some help.

Where are you at right now? Have you made applications? Are you thinking about it? Have you been to interviews? Are you only interested in merchandising?

Merch assessments will always include at least one GCSE/[[SHL]] level maths test. Assessors are looking for different characteristics from candidates planning to work in merch roles than other roles… for example, it’s more improtant to show mathematical/analytical ability for merch roles… and more important to show confidence, evidence of team work, outgoing personality for buying roles.

Graduate assessment centres vary from company to company but most include the maths test, group discussion (assessed), and one-to-one interview. It’s important to be well informed about the sector of the retail indsutry you want to work in (what are your favourtie products, etc), informed about the company (know what’s going on with them right now, are they struggling/doing well? …new product lines), their competitors, and to have thought about what you would do to improve their service (…what would you do to improve the quality of the retailer’s service). You should also conduct store visits, to show you have put in effort before your interview, and be able to answer your interviewer, if they ask you how the firm could improve it’s shops for customers.

Am able to offer specific tips on Topshop, BHS, John Lewis, Waitrose, Aldi, etc, etc. Let me know what you’re after. Let me know.


Thanks Redsuperted,

Interested in Topshop and rest of their group. I’m on an assessment centre within the next two weeks, (awaiting date). I expected that merchandising would be slightly different from the rest. What sort of group exercises do they do? I think my analytical side may come through, in fact, I may come over as a bit quiet and spoddy, so the group exercise and the interview questions will be more of a challenge for me.

'Appreciate the help.


You’ll need to work on that. Although the most important requirements for merchandisers are to be analytical and numercial, merchandisers with these qualities who are also outgoing and confident are an even more attractive hire to companies like Topshop.

Make sure you wear a Topshop style outfit to your interview - something smart, but with a little bit of flair. It won’t make or break your interview, but it is important to show assessors that you ‘get’ the company and would fit in to the company culture there.

If memory serves me correctly, the Topshop merch interview is just one stage. You turn up, and are led in to a room where you sit the maths test which is relatively straight forward - GCSE maths standard. If you haven’t done this kind of maths for a while, practice percentages, ratios, etc. It’s very important you do well in this.

Group exercise - not 100% sure Topshop do one of these. If they do, it will be a group discussion on a topic to do with merchandising. It is important you make interesting/clever suggestions from the start. Be confident about yourself, communicate with people - and when you do, maintain your eye contact. This is a sign of confidence assessors will look out for. Don’t go overboard and be obnoxiously overbearing, just put forward your views, challenge other people’s view if you don’t agree with them and try to wrap up the conversation at the end - it’s a sign that you are in charge, which is a very strong sign that you’d make a good employee.

Interview - you need to be more than enthusiastic about Topshop. Make sure you understand the challenges facing Topshop/retailers right now - who Topshop’s competitors are - who Phillip Green is and what other companies he owns (e,g, BHS) - know about this seasons fashions.

Most important of all you need to be able to explain WHY you want to work as a merchandiser. It’s one of the duller jobs in fashion as it is more number based/office based. For a merch role at Topshop the ideal candidate loves fashion and loves maths/is analytical. You need to be able to show that you would a) be a brilliant merchandiser and b) love being a merchandiser.

Two questions that will come up:
*Why do you want to be a merchandiser?

*What do you think a merchandiser at Topshop does?

Try answering these for me, if you like and I’ll give you feedback.


That’s really useful advice. I’m preparing for something completely different for tomorrow and Monday, but the group exercise tips will work in the same way. Thanks again!


No probs - what you got Mon/Tues?


Food manufacturing tomorrow and chemicals Monday… Maths test, interview, group exercise. They should be good warm-ups. In fact, I’m off now to catch a train as I’m on parade at 8.30 in the morning.

Good luck to everyone going through the mill.


Lets us know how it goes - feedback on your interviews would be a great help to lots of people on here I’m sure!

Remember that with each industry - food/fashion/chemcials - make it clear that you are interested about working in that specific industry. Research each company’s product range - if your going for an interview at a biscuit manufacturer, be prepared to tell them which biscuits you like, which ones your don’t (and why you don’t) and how they could improve their product range. Know your market!!!

Good luck


Popped up something to help anyone interested in [[Merchandising]] jobs this evening. Just a little introduction and explanation of the job that should be helpful. See - [[Merchandising]].


I have been invited for an interview for Graduate Merchandiser/Buyers Assistant role. I am in retail now. Actually, I cannot even remember applying for this sort of roles. Perhaps, the agency browsed its files and found my old CV :slight_smile: I have a banking + retail experience in my cv. More or less analytical. Maybe that’s why the agency considered my application for the role. I asked them to put my application on hold until the end of July as I am not 100% whether to go to Accounting or Retail. I have already accepted an offer of a place to do MSc. what would you suggest? I heard the salary is normally just 15K+?? is that true?? that sounds bad?

i am 80% sure of doing msc but any suggestions welcome!


I’d be slightly worried if the job title is Merchandiser/Buyers Assistant. The role of a merchandiser is very different to a buyer - is this for a respected company? It could suggest you’d be covering two roles. On the plus side, you’d be getting experience of both merchandising and buying, but on the other hand you might find yourself doing a little bit of everything and not really learning any one thing in depth.

Retail is something to be viewed with great caution generally, in my opinion. The high street isn’t doing so well right now, and as more and more shoppers move to online, there is less and less money in retail - fewer jobs each year - less possibility for promotion, etc. Getting a job at a company who are doing badly could mean losing your job if the company make cut backs, and that your training will be compromised by uninspired/unhappy people, with little time to show graduates how things are done. An example of such a company is BHS - not doing so well, apparently unhappy workforce, poor management, etc.

However, getting a job at a big supermarket or online retailer on the up could be very good - in experience terms/cv/and salary. That said, you’re right in thinking buying/merch roles start with low salaries. Assistant Buyer/Buyer’s assistant roles generally start from 15k+ and Merch roles from about 17k+ (merch roles pay higher because you need more mathmatical skill, and less people want to do them).

Long term, ther most you’d ever realistically earn as a merch/buyer is about 70k-80k. As an accountant you could be earning this by your early 30’s.


Thanks Ed.
yes the role is mixed with everything I guess. The agency told me that it requires numerical skills and math stuff so that’s more or less both probably. They send me some info and asked to come to an inverview, instead i asked them to delay the process.
thanks for the post above.


No problem. …you said agency - is it a rec consultancy that offered this to you?


Right, it was a rec consultancy.


Not to put you off, but all the signs suggest this particular job could be a bit rubbish!
-You didn’t apply for it, but were contacted by the rec firm…
-The job title is very general…
-The starting salary is low…
…and have you been told anything about the training you’d receive?

I’d be a bit sceptical, unless you do have a real passion for retail/merch, particularly as you’re set to do the Msc.

Do you know which company the job would be with?


I have no idea of the company or whatsoever. They sent me info pack which includes everything about the role and the companies i might work. I even did not read it fully as I thought the same as you did. It might be a rubbish one. The pay section stopped me from reading further. I put it aside as an alternative but I have now decided that I am not staying in Retail any more. I think they found my old CV which might have some points about my education and experience required by the role, so they called me. Anyway, I will do accounting.


Good choice. Good luck!



Ive got an Assesement Day for Graduate Merchandising Scheme with New Look…Has anyone been on this before??

Any help would be great as Ive never been on one before



I have just had an interview for a role as a buyers administration assistant at topshop and have been asked to come in for a second interview with two of the buyers-

has anyone had a stage two interview before- i was given a few tips by the HR manager about things they’ll be asking-

i.e why buying
fav= designers/ inspirations

She also said i would probaly also have to do a few practical tasks, i think one is a clothes rail activity in which I have to catagorise clothes by trends etc…

If anyone has any helpful tips or has been through the second stage of interviews i would appreciate any further advise as to what they’ll be expecting from me.
thank you.


hello Redsuperted,

do you know anything about what will be asked and required in a second interview for a buyers admin role? I think they may ask me to do a few practical tasks any tips?

Any advice would be helpful!! thanks.