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Fashion Brands Are Looking for Outsiders(BoF)

The article first appeared on the Business Of Fashion.

When recruiter Caroline Pill set out to hire a president for a major beauty company last year, intimate knowledge of foundation and mascara was optional. She ended up hiring someone from the toy industry who she found on LinkedIn.

While the fashion and beauty industries still have a reputation as an insular space, valuing style and connections over management skills, hires from outside the industry are fast becoming the norm. A growing number of brands recognise that e-commerce and social media are reshaping how people shop for everything from shoes to toothpaste in similar ways. Luxury brands facing scrutiny over the lack of diversity in their ranks are casting a wider net for talent.

Ultimately, whether it’s an online fast-fashion brand or a luxury house, these companies have come around to the idea that they need fresh perspectives or risk being left behind. Consumers demand brands engage with a wide audience rather than portray themselves as purely aspirational. Direct-to-consumer start-ups are flooding the market, convincing more people to shop for clothes and shoes online and redefining the idea of “affordable luxury.” Some of fashion’s biggest players have seen their status greatly diminished — or gone bankrupt — because they failed to adapt.

Survival means operating a fashion company today requires an understanding of this modern zeitgeist, as well as how to weave technology into every aspect of the business. Recruiters for corporate jobs of any seniority are looking for the type of people who think outside the box and have unconventional backgrounds. Where even a few years ago, the goal was to hire people who were a “good cultural fit,” the opposite is true more often than not, recruiters say.

“Fashion used to be a tight clique, and it still definitely has elements of that. But brands and retailers that are modernising finally understand they need to bring different strategic thinking to the table,” said Leonardo Lawson, founder and CEO of recruiting and consulting firm Bond Creative Search. “It’s not about looking for a square peg fitting into a square hole.”

With global unemployment at a 12-year low, according to the World Bank, employers are competing with one another for talent — especially candidates with expertise in technology, data analytics and social media marketing, according to Karen Harvey, whose consulting firm has helped place senior executives at brands like Kate Spade and Peter Pilotto.

“If you have a love for fashion or retail but are in an unrelated field, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance,” Harvey said. “The truth is that the industry needs rigorous and highly disciplined people in the marketing, digital tech world because we haven’t developed those people on our own.”

Still, fashion is an enigmatic field, with its own language and tribes. Impressing a recruiter still involves subtleties of conduct, attire and knowledge. Outsiders can capitalise on their expertise, but landing a job at a prestigious brand still requires the right savvy.

Here’s how to break in, according to some of the top recruiters in the field.

1. Don’t just network, socialise

Nobody likes to network. Lawson recommends job seekers outside of the fashion industry try volunteering instead.

Participation in certain fashion non-profits is a subtle but powerful indication that you are already part of fashion’s culture, he said. Fashion executives regularly participate in charities like Dress for Success and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and plenty of brands get involved in planning events.

For example, volunteering with the Council of Fashion Designers of America for New York Fashion Week preparation would help demonstrate a passion for the industry better than voicing it during an interview, he said.

“If you’re at a charity event and someone [you want to work for] is volunteering, that’s a natural way of getting your foot in the door,” he said.

Networking with the right people is still important. Because most jobs at luxury brands are privately posted to avoid an unmanageably large pool of applicants, knowing headhunters can provide a critical advantage.

When recruiters first begin their search to fill a particular role, they look within their network, including professionals they’ve met or are connected to on social media. When they exhaust this channel, they turn to friends in the industry and ask for recommendations. Only when neither method works do they typically search LinkedIn.

Read the full article on the Business Of Fashion.

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