All 18 John Lewis interview questions (and how to answer them)

The retailer and reigning champion of the Christmas ad has published all interview questions online to help more candidates get through its doors.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Department store titan John Lewis Partnership has published its job interview questions online, in an attempt to banish candidate nerves and supercharge its recruitment drive.

The company, which also owns the upmarket grocery chain Waitrose, has also recently raised pay to £12.89 in London and £11.55 elsewhere in the UK in an attempt to retain staff.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Lorna Bullett, Talent Acquisition Lead at John Lewis, said the move made “absolute business sense,” explaining, “we want the right people, from a variety of backgrounds, with the best talent to join our organisation.”

Below, we break down the questions you might be asked in a John Lewis interview – as well as how best to answer them.

John Lewis interview questions: revealed

John Lewis’ interview questions are organised into three different categories: Happier Partners; Happier Business; and Happier World. Essentially, these can be translated into teamwork, candidate skills, and customer service.

All John Lewis staff are known as ‘partners’ because the company offers an employee share scheme. Partners are organised into different levels. The majority of roles (like supermarket assistants, drivers, and team managers) sit within the Partnership Levels 8-10.

Applying for a job at John Lewis? Here is the full list of questions that applicants at Partnership Level 8-10 will be asked:

Happier Partners

  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  1. How would you respond if you were in a team where everyone is very focused on their own tasks but there are some major team goals that also need to be achieved?
  2. How would you respond if there were some differences of opinion that were getting in the way of you working well with other members of your team?
  • Effective Communication
  1. Imagine you are interacting with a peer you have never met before. How would you go about trying to establish rapport with this person?
  2. Imagine you are interacting with someone who is very different from you in terms of their interaction style. How would you go about trying to engage with this person?
  • Growth Mindset
  1. What would you do if you were to move into a new team that works differently to what you are used to, and you need to learn new tasks and processes quickly?
  2. What would you do if major changes were implemented within your work area, and you need to learn several new work methods that you know are going to be quite challenging?

Happier Business

  • Problem Solving
  1. Tell me about a situation when you have come up with a good solution to a problem you’ve faced.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to find the cause of a particular problem or issue that you had to solve.
  • Flexibility and Resilience
  1. Tell me about a time when something happened that you didn’t anticipate, and you had to adapt to new conditions or circumstances.
  2. Tell me about a significant change that you have had to adapt to in the past.
  • Action and Ownership
  1. Tell me about a time when you took it upon yourself to get something done, even though nobody asked you to do it.
  2. Tell me about a time when you took it upon yourself to speak up on an issue and make sure your views were heard.

Happier World

  • Quality and Reliability
  1. What does the concept of quality/reliable service delivery mean to you in relation to the role you’ve applied for?
  2. Can you tell me about a time when you worked hard to make sure that you met a high quality standard?
  • Customer Focus
  1. How would you handle a situation where you are interacting with an unhappy customer who wants their issue resolved quickly, but you are very busy?
  2. How would you handle a situation where you are approached by a customer who seems distressed and in need of assistance, but you have other tasks to complete?
  • Improvement Focus
  1. Tell me about a time when you came up with a creative solution to a problem you encountered.
  2. Tell me about a time when you had to think outside the box in order to achieve a successful outcome

How to answer John Lewis interview questions

Knowing what you’ll be asked ahead of a job interview puts candidates on the front foot. But to make things even easier for applicants, John Lewis has also published advice explaining how to answer the above questions on its company website.

Job seekers are advised to craft impact stories and case studies from prior work experiences that demonstrate the skills and experience highlighted in the John Lewis job advert.

Results-driven narratives are recommended, where you can show exactly where your efforts lead to success. One of the best methods to plan answers is by using the STAR framework.

What is the STAR framework for job interviews?

STAR stands for Situation (what was the scenario?), Task (what was your responsibility?), Action (what did you do in response?) and Reflection (what did it achieve?) 

For each point, consider these four points to guide your line of thinking and provide a clear response for the interviewer. As an example:

  • Situation: I noticed we were nearly out of stock for our most popular product
  • Task: I had to manage customer expectations during the inventory shortage
  • Action: I collaborated with the manager to create a product waitlist and recommended alternatives to customers
  • Reflection: This resulted in maintained sales and customer satisfaction

Why is John Lewis publishing its interview questions?

That John Lewis has chosen to publish its interview questions online will be great news to nervous job seekers. But the decision is about more than good will.

Instead, the move is part of a strategic turnaround that was first announced in December 2023. At the time, John Lewis bosses said they would prioritise growing the company’s retail division after disappointing Christmas sales which sent other brands into administration.

It will likely not be the only brand to do so. Labour shortages have plagued the retail sector for the past decade, due to low pay and dwindling customer demand for in-store shopping.

In a survey of 546 businesses, carried out at the end of last year, Startups found that 38% of retail businesses named economic instability as their biggest challenge for 2024 – the most of any industry besides education.

It may be facing a similarly uncertain future. But by sharing its interview questions with job hunters, John Lewis can at least boost candidate confidence, providing a more stable career foundation and proving that in their view, employee success is business success.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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