Interview with Ease: Fail-Safe Tips and Tricks

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As the New Year begins, Julian August Salon is preparing to interview and hire new stylists. The process is eye opening; it serves as a barometer for one the many ways that our industry has shifted. Interview skills – once considered so crucial – seem to have worn thin. Though applying for a new job can feel daunting, learning the skills for communicating with prospective employers is crucial. Read on to get inside tips and tricks from a variety of salon owners – and learn how you can perfect your skills and land your perfect job, today.

As I sit and reminisce about my first-ever interview experience, I can’t help but be reminded of the excitement and anticipation that I felt – I wanted the job and nothing was going to stop me. To prepare, I researched my target, practiced my interview, and wrote down a series of my own questions (so I wouldn’t forget when nerves struck me). Additionally, I mapped out my goals: 1-3 years, 3-5 years and 5-10 years. This process helped me to reaffirm my belief that this was the salon for me. As a salon owner (and interviewer), I see that this level of preparedness is rarely met, today.

And I wondered: Is it just my personal experience, or do other owners and managers face the same roadblocks with our industry’s youth? To get a better idea of the picture as a whole, I spoke with industry veterans, responsible for their salon’s hiring process. Here’s what they said.

Keri Davis, Owner of Gila Rût Salons, San Diego, California

Q. Describe your perfect interview.

A. Ideally, a good candidate will arrive looking physically put together. A polished appearance is crucial; I like to see hair and makeup done. Personally, I like when a prospective employee is prepared with questions in regards to our salon, and what to expect as a stylist that works on our team.

Q. How should a stylist prepare for an interview?

A. Do your homework: know as much as you can about the company that you’re applying to work with. Best-case scenario, a stylist has their goals mapped out. If they can ask us questions pertaining to how we can help them to reach those goals, all the better. It will help the stylist to know whether or not we are the right fit for them, in the long term.

Q. What are some positive questions a future stylist can ask, to alert you to their suitability?

A. There are many questions a future stylist can ask. Here are some that we like:

  • What type of education do you offer?
  • What’s the average annual pay that a stylist in your salon can expect, after the five-year mark has been reached? This will let them know if they can afford to work in our space, long term.
  • What kind of hours can I expect to keep?
  • A description of their duties with us.
  • A description of day-to-day life in the salon.
  • What kind of support can I expect from management?

As an employee, it’s best to know the answers to these questions before getting hired, and a prospective employer likes to see that you’re thinking ahead – and thinking long term commitment.

Karie Bennett, Owner of Atelier Salons, San Jose, California

Q. What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced during the interview process?

A. At Atelier Salons, we audition all prospective stylists. On one very notable occasion, I had a stylist show up for an audition without his scissors. Another arrived in attire that I wouldn’t consider salon professional: shorts and flip-flops. However, I find that the most off putting thing is when a prospective employee knows very little about our company, our ethos and the products that we use. For a successful interview, I highly recommend that stylists do their research!

Q. How should a stylist prepare for an interview?

A. First, go through the salon’s website, and try to get a good idea of what the company is all about. For the audition phase of the interview, make sure to ‘dress to impress.’

Q. What do you look for in a prospective stylist?

A. We look for positive energy, a genuine smile, and I personally appreciate a good, firm handshake; it shows confidence. Steady eye contact is a must – and of course – a well put together look. We’re representing the beauty industry, and I like to see a positive display of that representation from the very first meeting.

William Putnum, Former Manager at Hoala Salon and Spa

Q. What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced during the interview process? 

A. Prospective employees not prepared – or worse – interviewing for the wrong job description.

Q. How should a stylist prepare for an interview?

A. A prospective employee should conduct thorough research. Know the company that you’re applying to work with: salon image and brand affiliation image, etc.  A stylist’s resume should be customized to the position for which they are applying.

Q. Describe your perfect interview.

A. While working as a salon manager in Hawaii, I hired the quintessential ‘perfect stylist.’ She arrived ten minutes early to her interview – and she was dressed for the part. While waiting for her interview in our product area, a guest had a question in regards to one of the products, which she answered flawlessly. When I inquired as to why she helped the woman, she answered: “The woman thought that I was an employee, and I didn’t want to make the salon look bad by not answering her question.” My immediate reaction? You’re hired.

Though interviewing for a new position can feel overwhelming, adequate preparation and simple self-confidence can make it a straightforward process. My simple tips and tricks are as follows.

  • Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job that you want. ~ Ray Ciyello
  • Be on time
  • Do your research
  • Be open about your goals
  • Always follow through with emails and phone calls
  • Be confident
  • Share what you can bring to the table

If you follow this advice, you’ll enjoy successful interviews - which can help to land you the job of your dreams, in no time at all.     

Salon owners and managers: please share your interview related challenges, tips and tricks in the comments below!

Thank you to Kate Wright, who inspired this post, and who is a constant source of craft related inspiration.