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What Fashion Recruiters Are Looking for in Job Candidates Today

BoF Careers spoke with recruitment executives, HR managers and DEI leaders from fashion brands and businesses including Selfridges, Burberry and Alexander McQueen, who shared their top-line advice for emerging talent navigating fashion’s job market.
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To stand out, candidates ought to showcase their understanding of the desired role, the hiring company’s positioning in the market and how their personal long-term objectives align with its organisational goals. (Pexels)

While global hiring freezes and job cuts continue to make headlines in various sectors during unpredictable market economics, the creative job market has started showing signs of recovery.

Vacancies in the arts and entertainment sector increased in the UK by nearly 370 percent between 2021 and 2022 — up 338,000 from their pre-coronavirus levels in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics and advisory firm Standout CV. In the US, overall employment in arts and design occupations is projected to grow 2 percent over the next decade, with an expected addition of over 20,000 new jobs by 2031, as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Still, fashion remains a highly competitive job market where, in order to stand out in the application and interview processes, candidates ought to showcase not only their skills and experience, but also their understanding of the desired role, the hiring company’s positioning in the market and how their personal long-term objectives align with its organisational goals.

Panel speakers from left to right: BoF's Sophie Soar, The Outsiders Perspective's Jamie Gill, Capri Holdings' Ben de Pfeiffer-Key and Selfridges' Sharlene John.

Earlier this month, BoF Careers and The Outsiders Perspective co-hosted a panel discussion about how fashion companies can protect inclusive recruitment and retention strategies in today’s unstable economic market, with an audience of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) professionals, talent executives and people team leaders from brands including Burberry, Selfridges and Alexander McQueen.

BoF Careers talked to some of the event attendees to find out what they look for in talent, and how candidates can stand out in the application and interview process today.

Demonstrate a Willingness to Learn

When we look for talent in the market, we are looking for people who are hungry, who want to grow — who have a growth mindset, and who are also brand ambassadors [and] love the brand,” said Scarlett Phillips-Jacovides, senior talent and development manager at Alexander McQueen. “It’s about your attitude rather than your skills, because skills you can develop — you can grow them, we can teach them. [...] Anyone can grow, anyone can learn, that’s the easy part. The hard part is having the hunger and desire to do that.”

It’s about your attitude rather than your skills, because skills you can develop — you can grow them, we can teach them.

“I think just that they want to learn, we don’t care if you don’t have the experience. Try and make a personal connection with the brand [or] company. [Establish] why, what you think you can bring and what you want to learn. That’s always what I want to hear from young talent,” said Ffion Collins, EMEA Recruiter, Deckers Brands.

Show Your Passion for the Brand and Role

“We’re looking for candidates today who are passionate about the brand, who are tenacious to work in an industry that can be super tough, and who have the skills — maybe not the industry experience, but the skills to fit the profile of the role,” said Melissa Boyd, human resources director at Victoria Beckham.

“I think just doing their research, making sure they were really aware of the business and the position the business is in, along with passion for what they do. Wanting to learn, wanting to achieve and wanting a career — not just a name on their CV — wanting to be here for the long haul and wanting to progress in the business,” said Salma Sodawala, talent acquisition manager at ASOS. “We have got great stories of internal talent that has been in the business [for] 10+ years, some of them starting as graduates, so we would love to see more of that.”

“I think passion is a key [aspect]. Someone that enjoys what they’re doing, that enjoys the process and someone who looks ahead. At Selfridges, we very much look ahead to the future, we want to be the trailblazers, so someone that will enjoy that journey with us actively, not only support, but [...] that wants to make a change within the industry. It can be at any level, just having that passion,” said Jacqueline Celis, head office recruitment manager at Selfridges.

Be Authentic and Honest

“What I’m looking for in talent at the moment would be authenticity [and] honesty, so just being honest about your experience and ultimately honest about where you want to go and what it is that you’re looking for. I think that’s most important,” said Jordan Hudson, corporate talent acquisition at Alexander McQueen.

Having your own narrative and your own position is always a benefit in my mind.

“Lean into your uniqueness and your understanding of something. I think a lot of the time, people expect if they were to go and take someone else’s thoughts or sentiments, that will open the door for them. Having your own narrative and your own position is always a benefit in my mind,” Geoffrey Williams, global vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Burberry.

“One [piece] of advice that I will give is that, there is no wrong answer as long as it’s something that you truly believe in, your work ethic, the way that you work. You will always shine through your answers, being your authentic self is very important and that is what I look for,” said Jacqueline Celis of Selfridges.

Tailor Your CV to the Role

“For junior talent, I know it sounds old-fashioned and I know it sounds boring, but I think the CV is probably the most important piece where you stand out because that’s your initial introduction, it’s your initial screening,” said Lubomir Jets, EMEA Talent Acquisition Manager at Deckers Brands.

Attendees at the BoF and The Outsiders Perspective panel.

“You would be surprised how many candidates still don’t tailor their CV for the role that they’re applying for. It gets worse in more competitive roles, especially in product roles [or] marketing roles where you get 200 CVs, and 180 of them are exactly the same. So I would say [unique] CVs stand out the most, that’s your first contact with the brand.”

Reach Out to the Recruiter

“Understand exactly what the role is. I don’t mind if they email directly sometimes and ask quite specific questions, I think that shows that they’re willing and they’re keen. That might not mean that they’ll get put at the top of the list for the role, but it definitely shows an interest,” Melissa Boyd, Human Resources Director at Victoria Beckham. “Be realistic about what the requirements for a role are, and how [your] skills and ability map across to that.”

“Don’t be afraid to get in touch through channels like LinkedIn — that will also make you stand out. Get in touch with the recruiter, with the talent manager, let them know that you have applied,” added Lubomir Jets of Deckers Brands.

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