Life // How to ace a job interview at Debenhams (Or how I did anyway!)

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*Updated - Added a few answers in and more relevant information 17/7/14
*Updated - March 2016

Hey!

So I didn't really know whether or not to do this post, because obviously I'm not a career expert or anything and what worked for me to get this job may not necessarily work for you, you have to genuinely want it!

That being said, I was researching the job role (Sales Adviser) when I was applying and I was looking for what sort of things I'd have to know about the role and what questions they would ask me during the interview process just so i could be a little more prepared and I would have loved for someone to have written this blog post or something similar for all the information I needed to be in one place and easily accessible rather than on 5 different forum posts. I couldn't find one so I'm writing it for people in the future who will be in the position I was in, so lets get started!



Applying
I got the job of Lingerie Sales Advisor on December 4th 2013 and had my first shift on December 9th 2013. My shift was 9am - 4pm and I had my induction 9am -1pm. Usually it's a full day induction where you get till trained, account trained and just basic job training but as I was a late candidate, my training was significantly shorter, If your an early applicant your training may differ to mine, I'm not going into detail on training at all, this post is just about the applying/interview process. I had to go through 3 stages to get the job, which were: 

1) Online application form - where I basically saw the job listed on Indeed.com and then applied for it. There is a short questionnaire/application test (for lack of a better word) where they ask you basic interview type questions, if you pass that you get moved onto step 2.

2) Telephone interview - where someone from HR phoned me and asked me a few details about myself, National Insurance number, DOB all that legal stuff and then some more job related question/typical interview questions such as "Why Debenehams" and so forth. 

3) Finally, one on one interview - which is basically the Telephone interview but repeated by a store manager in your chosen store and face to face. 

Usually there is a group assessment also which would be after the telephone interview but before the one on one, which entails a group of hopeful employees, you go around the store having a browse, then you all sit down and introduce yourself's and so forth. I don't know much about this bit as I didn't do it but there's a heap of information online and it's always best to read up on what to do as just because I didn't have it doesn't mean you wont and you want to be as prepared as possible. I don't think there was time for me to do the group interview considering I was a late starting Christmas temp so it wasn't really needed. The whole process of applying to my first shift was around 1 week to approx 5 days.

Online application
I found the listing on Indeed.com and I am actually subscribed to them and also have the app on my phone. Its a jobs website that you type your post code into and it finds jobs in your area and they send you emails when jobs come up so its really handy, I was applying for lots of jobs at the time but really wanted the one at Debenhams as it was closest to me and it seemed a nice place to work compared to others I'd applied to, which is probably why I got it, because I was determined.

I thoroughly read the job listing/description and then signed up to Debenhams jobs to apply online. Once you get to the application process it asks you a lot of basic things like gender and age then some legal things like whether or not you have any convictions, your ethnicity, your right to work in the UK and so on. You will also need to prove these through documentation later on, so there is not point in lieing.

After those basic questions you get the awkwardly worded common sense questions such as "why do you want to work for Debenhams?" (because I need money, duh - seriously though, do not say that haha!) "How/what will you add/bring to the team?" and "Who are Debenhams customers?" and "When you're upset or annoyed, how can people tell?"

With these questions do not lie about your experience, they will go back to them in the interview and expect near enough identical answers or proof of previous experience so you'd only be screwing yourself over if you lied, plus 1-to-1 interviews usually get people a little nervous, I know I was, so if they catch you off guard and ask you about your experience and you've lied, chances are you'll go blank, if you've previously lied about it, so best to tell the truth

Just make sure that it comes across clear that you know Debenhams is the right choice for you and that you are right for them. Make sure you show that customer service is very important to you, also make it clear that they would be making the right choice employing you by showing your knowledge of the store offers and services like customer accounts/store cards, online/in-store order service (which offers click and collect & next day delivery) the Debenhams app and store cards i.e Beauty Club Cards if you're going for makeup or even if not as you may have to work on one of the tills in that department, it shows you've put in the research and effort and are committed to the position even if it is just a day job, if you need a job you need a job. Basically go the extra mile, some candidates won't even bother to research and will go in and be like "Yeh I'm good at tills and with customers n that and I need the money" and that little bit extra will set you apart from them.

After I'd done this I literally expected a rejection email to arrive in my inbox in the next few weeks but next morning I got a phone call to arrange a telephone interview!

Telephone interview.
The telephone interview made me nervous even at the thought of it as I'd never done one before so I did a little research to see how it would go down. There are a lot of threads/forums on thestudentroom.com about Debenhams interviewing process, so that's where I got my help and information from but anyways this is how my interview went down.

The woman called me and asked if I was still interested in the job then asked if I had any holidays booked, when I could work and what times I could manage. It is more favourable if you're going for a Christmas Temp job that you have NO holidays booked as Debenhams staff cannot take holidays from November - end of December usually, you can have days off, but they wouldny be holiday days so having 2 weeks over Christmas when you're applying for the Xmas temp position may not make you the prime candidate for employment. 

She also asked me if I had a passport and a national insurance number. As I did not have a passport at the time, having never been abroad or needed one, I had to take my birth certificate in. After this was out of the way she began the interview. I thought it was important to know that the woman was not from Debenhams where I'd applied she was simply a tele-handler from the call centre in HR who would type my answers and send them off. For some reason this calmed my nerves, just because I knew that, if/when, I started at Debenhams there wouldn't be someone stood there smirking at the insanely ass-kissing answers I gave.

Some questions she asked were:
  • Why Debenhams? My Answer: Debenhams is a company I would be proud to work for as they are a company of high reputation and I would enjoy promoting the stores reputable status.
  • What do you think the job of a sales advisor entails? My Answer: A Sales Advisor is the face of Debenhams, as when a customer comes into the store the Debenhams reputation is portrayed through them first and foremost. Being polite and understanding throughout any situation is a must as customer service is a key part of sales advisors job. A sale advisor would also be required to keep standards high within the department, operate the tills when required, keep up with tasks set by the Sales Manager and keep up to date with trends, fashion and company sales information in order to give the best advise and help to any customers with queries. Being up to date with technology is also key as a Sales Advisor would need to offer the stores services such as the Debenhams App, the order service as well as opening accounts. (obviously you don't have to say all of this, I didn't but this is good answer, just make sure you drill in customer service, standards and products/services e.g accounts, store cards and order service)
  • Who are Debenhams competitors? My Answer: Other department stores such as M&S, BHS and John Lewis. (recognising your competitors is one step closer to being better - it's all about sales after all, I have absolutely nothing against these stores and regularly shop in them, just as an FYI and can't speak for Debenhams as a company!)
  • What has been your greatest achievement? Answer: I increased the sales of a certain product in my last customer facing role by making the customers aware that the product was in fact on offer and they would be getting a bargain if they purchased it on this specific day. (In real life I had just told some customers in the chippy I worked that they would receive extra peas if they got a £1 portion because the fry cook made too much - long story short, try to be clever with words.)
  • How do you feel the store would benefit from you working there? My Answer: I am a polite and friendly person who has a love for working in customer facing roles, I'm good with people and always like to offer assistance. I enjoy working in a team and would bring a positive and can do attitude to the workplace. I work well and efficiently in a team as well as on my own initiative. I also have (X) amount of years experience working in retail so can bring some of my knowledge from other roles to this role.
Basically the questions were the same as the online questions but worded different and all to test I had common sense and that I would put the customers needs first. I researched online what other people's interviews had been like (I just typed debenhams phone interview/debenhams one to one interview into google) and what questions they were asked and how to best answer, them before hand. I also researched on the Debenhams "about us" page on the website, which gave me information about the store and how they're solely focused on excellent customer service, customer accounts and high standards. Again I tried to push my knowledge of the store card/accounts and tried to relate all my answers to the job role and customer service.

When the interviewer had asked me all the questions she stopped talking for a half a minute and asked me to bare with her for a few seconds and she told me then that I'd passed and would shortly be contacted and given a one to one interview date.

Usually when recruiting, Debenhams do assessment days where they take a bunch of hopeful employee's, who have passed the previous interview stages, and they do a group interviews that lasts around two hours (i think) and are mainly to test your team working abilities, doing tasks such as describing a person you're partnered with, selling products found on the shop floor etc. As I didn't do this I can't really help with it, but if you type 'Debenhams group interview tasks/questions' into Google something will pop up telling you what you can expect. 

The 1-2-1 interview
This was the most nerve racking part for me as I hate being put on the spot but luckily I passed it so I'll try and tell you how.

I took my birth certificate instead of a passport (because I didn't have one) and I also took my NI card, this is just to prove I have eligibility to work in the UK and that I'm of legal age to work.

I dressed smartly (more on that later) I was polite and friendly, I made eye contact to show confidence, even though I  shitting myself, and I made sure everything about me was clean, perfect and well presented. 

The way you look and act is so so important especially when you want a job as you need to look and act presentable and correctly to customers in the store. Also, first impressions stick and you don't want someone who could be a potential employer to not employ you because you didn't look presentable or because you were having an off day. Try to mask your emotions if you're feeling a bit down, pretend you're upbeat. This is also key as if you get employed you're not going to be happy every single day, but you cannot show customers this. It takes a lot to get a good review, you could be the best sales advisor ever and you wouldn't get a WOW review very easily but show a customer even slightly that you can't be arsed and they'll be online writing about their bad experience.

Some questions asked (apart from basic criminal offence, age etc ones) were:
  1. Why would you want to work here?
  2. What can we learn from our competitors?
  3. How will you make an effort to fit in and what will you bring to the team?
  4. What do think the job will involve?
  5. When was a time you received good customer service?
  6. When was a time you received bad customer service?
  7. Do you think customers expect high standards? 
  8. What do debenhams sell and who are our customers? 
  9. How have technological advances changed a sales advisors role?
  10. What skills can you bring to the role and how will you apply them?
  11. Anything you would like to add or any questions?
Not gonna lie, I choked on question 2 and straight up admitted I didn't have a clue and didn't really know what to say, which the manager replied to me "there is always something we can learn from our competitors" and then I was like damn why didn't I just say that, but I answered all the other questions to a Tee. You have to really research and know about the company you're applying for otherwise you may as well not bother, you need to show interest and that you know about the company your applying for.

At the end I added 'I believe you have covered everything and I would like to add that I really feel working for a reputable store such as Debenhams will benefit me greatly."

Debenhams have given me such good and valuable retail experience. 

Personally, I just needed money and a job but I feel so lucky to have been able to get this particular job as it genuinely is something I'm interested in and i enjoy working there, the people I work with are amazing. My main career choice is makeup artistry but weirdly, I like having the skills to bra fit and I like knowing I've helped someone find the right bra as it is important to the customer, hence why they ask for the help - you'd be surprised how many women have never been fitted through embarrassment or lack of time but trust me, I have been there and before working at debenhams I had only been fitted once, when I was 11 getting my first bra, but now I don't even bat an eyelid at someone coming in for a fitting, it did take some getting used to but at the end of the day every woman needs a good fitting bra and it's my job as well as the people I work with to provide the service to a professional and good quality standard.

Dress code & make up (if you want to wear it) 
There isn't necessarily a dress code they just say smart and all black for the interview but it is better to look like you've made the effort and look professional. At the time of my interview I had bright pink hair, I knew it wasn't an issue as I'd seen people working in the store (when I went in as a customer) that had all sorts of colours in their hair and Debenhams don't discriminate towards it, but I thought it polite to ask after my interview about the companies policy on hair colour, I also said "If I were to be successful...would I need to have a natural hair colour." To which the sale manager replied "No your hair colour is your choice, we just ask you maintain a clean, well presented appearance."

So Some guidelines that I followed were:
  • No jeans or trainers and I didn't wear heels, but that's your choice (employees/sales advisers working on womenswear/lingerie where I was applying for didn't have them on when I went in store and they never have when I've shopped there, but some of the makeup girls do, so i didn't see it necessary, plus you don't need them to look smart.) but if you want to wear them, go for it.
  • All black clothing looks smart, you can top it off with accessories if you'd like, just don't go overboard I would say, keep it simple. I wore black tailored trousers, a black sleeveless top, cardigan, black shoes and a gold necklace and watch.
  • Don't overdo the make up, try keep it simple and professional looking/effortless.
  • Make sure you smell good/clean.
  • Make sure your clothes are perfectly ironed and your hair is freshly washed and your nails aren't a mess, I wouldn't advise going in with greasy hair and broken/chipped nails haha.
  • Keep all the documents you need in your bag where you can easily grab them, fumbling around and taking an age to grab your NI card probably isn't an attractive quality in employee but that just MY opinion. No managers said this to me.
Finally...
  • Be polite
  • Be confident (or at least pretend...I did! But I get nervous at everything haha!)
  • Don't interrupt or speak over your interviewer
  • Smile and enjoy yourself! Its a learning experience and if you fail you will get better, that's the point of interviews, to test your knowledge and see what your personality is like! This was my first interview and the only reason I got through is because I was so in need of a job that in my mind I wouldn't let myself slip up or fail, I had been unemployed for 2 and a half months and at this point I was beyond determined. I don't know how I would've coped without a job for any longer!

Anyway I hope this has helped you and thank you for reading, like I said I'm NOT a career adviser or expert as you can probably tell, I just wanted to give you the information i wish I could've had when going in for my interview. I know that if you're reading this you're probably nervous and want to be well prepared like I wanted to be but at the end of the day you're the only one who can ace the interview and I hope that you can take bits from this post and apply them to your interviews!

Good luck!


Alicia x 



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53 comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. What did u wear to group assesment? X

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  2. this helped me so much! thankyou

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  3. thank you for this blog post, it helped me very much. I was wondering how long after the interview did Debenhams get in touch with you??

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    1. After the online application it was 24 hrs, after the phone interview I got a one to one interview within 24hrs and after that one to one it was within 6/7hrs that I got the call saying i'd got the job. I was late applying to be a Christmas temp, so I'm assuming they needed someone pretty sharpish to fill the position that someone else had left I'm not sure how it works for normal applications but that was my time frame. x

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    2. After applying last week online for the Xmas temp sales advisor role within 24 hrs I got a phone call off recruitment to arrange my telephone interview for a few days later. I knew that I was successful and that I got to the group stages, because straight after the interview ended the HR woman switched me through to someone else who congratulated me then talked me through what was coming next and where I need to improve for my one-one interview. My group interview is tomorrow, so I'm glad that I found this blog post.

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  4. This was SO helpful- thanks for posting! I have applied for both Restaurant assistant and Sales advisor roles (both Xmas temp). So far I have reached the 1-2-1/group interview stage for the Restaurant position and have a telephone interview scheduled tomorrow for the Sales advisor position. Keeping my fingers firmly crossed and shall take all of your tips on board! X

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    1. Ah that's great! Thank you, just remember these are just what helped me you don't have to follow them to a T :) Plus i think they were just rushing me in as they were short staffed. Good Luck! xxxxx

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  5. How did you answer question 9? I have an interview tomorrow and I'm familiar with every question but that one!

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    1. Well you have to use Tablets (ipad type things) to get summarys up, order points to order items for customers and also promote the debenhams app :) which 10-15 years ago didnt even exist! xxx

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  6. Roughly when do you know if you have got the job? Do they call you or email?

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    1. The sales manager who interviewed me called me to let me know I had the job the same day of my interview x

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  7. Hey, I was just wondering what date you applied for the job? I'm applying for a Christmas temp. Have my phone interview today, so just wondering if it will be group interviews too or just 1-1 like yours! It's is October tho so still a bit early... Thank you! :)

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    1. I applied on December 4th, got the job on the 9th. Since its so early it'll probably be a group interview but it's nothing to be worried about :) everyone is on the same position and probably just as nervous :) xxx

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  8. I have an interview tomorrow and this article really is helping me prepare for it, Thanks alot Alicia if it wasn't for you I don't know where I would be searching for help. Many thanks

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    1. That means a lot, thank you :) glad I could help xxx

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  9. hiii can you please help meee!!!

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  10. Hi, I need help with answering these questions:
    1. How has technology changed the Sales Advisor position? /How have technological advances changed a sales advisor role?
    2. How will you make an effort to fit in and what will you bring to the team?
    3. What can we learn from our competitors?
    Please can you help me! My interview is on Friday and I'm really nervous about answering those questions if they do come up.

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    1. Well for the first one, its simple, just think of how far technology has come in the last few years. Debenhams are now able to use apps, a website and instorw devices to help customers. So the sales adviser has to know how to use these.

      For 2) I just said I was friendly, polite a d worked well in a team as well as on my own. I understand that in a retail enviroment team based work is essential but it is also essential to work individually.and I feel I have a good balance between the two.

      3. Is where I struggled, something along the lines of there is always learn from our competitors, customers need to feel like they are getting the best deals when they are shopping so we can see what are competitors are doing well and how they're doing it and apply it to our own store.

      Hope this helps! X

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    2. Hiiii can you help me with this last question: How can you tell if a customer needs help and what can you look out for? How can you engage with a customer?

      Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate it! as this would be my first job.

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    3. Sure!

      I would say something like "I'm quite good at reading people, so if someone looks a little lost or overwhelmed I would ask if they are ok and if I can offer any help. I would also look for signs of someone browsing for a long period of time and approach them and politely ask how they're doing and if they need any help. Engaging with customers is very important as it could be the difference between making a sale or not. I would approach them as I would approach anyone, just walk up, ask how they are and ask if they need any help, if they do I'll try my best to help them, If I can't I will do my best to find someone who can assist them. If they do not need any help I would leave the customer to it and let them know me and my colleagues will be near if they have any other questions."

      Hope this helps! like i've said I'm not an expert! Just letting you know what I would say, hopefully you can take something informative from this!

      xxx

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  11. this helped me so much, thank you! I've been invited to an induction day, how long does it usually take? XX

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    1. inductions are usually 4-8 hrs depending on whether it's combined with training xxx

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  12. They told me that I was successful on the day and that my induction is on the 8th November at 10am. During the the interview I said that the latest I could work is 7pm and they said okay. Now they called me saying that they really need someone that is flexible and asked me if I could do some late night shifts but I said no I can't and then he said he is going to have to put my application on hold. I'm really upset I really wanted that job but they need someone that can do late night shifts.

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    1. Ah yeah, towards xmas the store opens later for christmas shopped and black friday and the times vary. In my store we all take turns doing late night shifts, I have some 7pm finishes a few 8/9pm finishes and one 10pm finish. But no later than 10pm (in my store) The job role usually says on the application that they need flexible applicants. xxx

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  13. Did you have to do any late night shifts

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    1. Yes I do them every year, more hours is more money! xxx

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  14. Hi Alicia
    Thank you for your blog post. It really helped me to prepare myself well for the kind of questions which could be asked at the time of telephonic n 1-1 interview.
    A BIG THANKS TO YOU FOR SHARING how you got job at Debenhams as it has helped me to bag Xmas temp job ☺

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  15. Hi Alicia
    Thank you for your blog post. It really helped me to prepare myself well for the kind of questions which could be asked at the time of telephonic n 1-1 interview.
    A BIG THANKS TO YOU FOR SHARING how you got job at Debenhams as it has helped me to bag Xmas temp job ☺

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  16. You are literally a life saver, been stressing so much about this. Couldn't be happier I came across your blog! Thank you so much X

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  17. Hi what did you wear to your induction day? X

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    1. To the interview I work black trousers, a black top and a black cardigan, to my training day after I had got the job I wore black formal work trousers and a black plain t-shirt as I didn't have my uniform yet. I didn't have a group interview x

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  18. Hi, I just applied for my job 2 days ago and I got a confirmation email in which they said that they'll contact Me in 7 days but I got any call from them. I'M worried will they select me?

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    1. If they said they will then I'm assuming they will. Make sure you wait the seven days, if its taking a while they probably have a lot of applicants. The only reason mine was so quick was it was a last minute job opening and only me and one other person applied. Just be patient and if you are really worried, maybe chase them up and express your determination x

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  19. Hi!
    Your post really helped me with the interview process and I managed to ge the job so thank you very much!! I was just curious to what actually happens on the induction day? Can you help?
    Thank you again :)

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    1. Induction day is fine, they will just tel you about your role and I'm not sure, but possibly till train you at the same time, they did in mine anyway, good luck & congrats! xxx

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  20. thank you for this I have a telephone interview for a merchandise assistant(still dont know what they do exactly) so searching around to find out all I can in preparation

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    1. ahhhh merchandise assistants put the stock out, when they get a delivery, it's quite fun! they have to keep up with trends and seasonal colours etc to make the mat look really good :) it's a fun job :) good luck! xxx

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    2. in swindon?

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  21. Thank you so much. I had my telephone interview today and your advice really helped. Waiting on the date for my one to one interview :) xx

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  22. thanks again Alicia,I now have a proper interview. can you tell me what you meant by "to make the mat look really good" didnt understand that bit. Still looking to find out as much a possible, do they do displays in store or just put stock out. thanks in advance I tap in merchandise assistants and get assistant merchandiser which is a completely different thing :-( so annoying

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    1. Each department within debs has its own "mat" basically the area which all the clothes are :) displays in store are usually done by Visual Merchandisers, such as window and mannequin displays but if a department has shelf space you may have to find stock, e.g shoes, bags or folded tshirts, to put on there! xxx

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  23. thanks for that, despite all the research, I dont think the interview was a success :-(

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    1. Oh no, why don't you think you were successful?! xxx

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  24. Hi, I was successful in the application process and my scheduled telephone interview is this week. The woman on the phone, when I was scheduling my interview, said to make sure i'm confident with Debenhams services ready for the interview. Does this mean the services they offer to customers such as store cards, benefits, click and collect, the apps etc or services as in the different departments? xxx

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    1. i would assume the services the company provides for it's customers, which are as you mentioned, store cards etc. different departments don't offer different services :) xxx

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    2. if you read through my phone interview section, you will see what sort of questions they asked me, I can't guarantee they will be the same but you will get the general idea. xxx

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Thank you for taking the time to comment :) xxx

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