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For emerging talent and seasoned professionals alike, the fashion industry has a highly competitive job market. With often hundreds of applicants vying for the roles, candidates face distinct challenges to stand out in their applications and interviews when showcase their differentiating skills, experience and understanding of the role and hiring company.
In an effort to better equip candidates with advice on how to distinguish themselves in an oversaturated market, BoF Careers spoke to fashion recruiters, hiring managers and DEI leaders attending events hosted by BoF Careers this year — from panel discussions on Protecting Fashion’s DEI Efforts During Market Disruption in March to The Next Generation of Fashion Talent and the Workplace in November.
Discover below a highlight of the insights and advice gathered by BoF Careers, to better understand how candidates can stand out, whether looking to enter or progress in the fashion industry today.
In November, BoF hosted a panel with industry experts Rhianna Cohen, creative director at Mørning, Pavel Dler, founder and CEO at Culted, and Erifili Gounari, founder of The Z Link, to discover how to meet the needs and expectations of Gen-Z as they enter the workforce.
Hosted at the Jimmy Choo Academy in London, the audience of industry executives and HR leaders represented the likes of Chanel, Threads Styling, LVMH, Karla Otto, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, House of Sunny, Margaret Howell, ASOS, Roksanda, Delos, Halfpenny, Fable & Mane and London College of Fashion, among others.
Review Your Applications Thoroughly
“I receive a lot of CVs and a lot of them are Word documents. PDFs always look and feel much more professional. I think they’re not necessarily checked over as much anymore. It’s not a good first impression — it takes longer to load and you can see where the spelling mistakes are,” said Molly Bray, creative development strategist at House of Sunny.
“Definitely pay attention to finishing touches — how [your application documents] are sent over and the professionalism of the email,” said Camilla Williams, managing director of House of Sunny. “And send a good body of text in your email as well. Use it as an opportunity to talk about the brand and why you would like to work for that company in particular, as well as just in your cover letter,” she said.
Embrace Change and Be Adaptable
“There are going to be so many new platforms coming in that will allow you to do your job so much better,” said Lily Stephens-Benjamin, hiring manager at Karla Otto. “A lot of people might be used to using older platforms that they’re comfortable with and they might be less comfortable with constant change whereas the new generation are easily adaptable to new technology.”
You have to do anything that you can to stand out. Don’t do the bare minimum at all because these days everyone is going the extra mile.
Stephens-Benjamin advises leveraging tech savviness and highlighting your flexibility: “Know your value and use that to feel confident. If you think that you are worth more than you’re being offered, [have faith in that] and always push for more.”
Emphasise Your Individuality
“The sheer volume of roles at the moment is challenging [to navigate]. And HR still have to be so selective in this market,” said Caitlin Culverhouse-Steadman, talent coordinator at Threads Styling. “You have to do anything that you can to stand out. Don’t do the bare minimum at all because these days everyone is going the extra mile.”
“Go to networking events, reach out to people on LinkedIn and in person,” Culverhouse-Steadman added. Networking can help you better understand who the key decision makers are, who you will address your application to and who can help you progress in your career.
Ask About Progression and Development Opportunities
“Working with some young people — they’re coming through with certain expectations of what a job should involve, what the workplace should look like, the perks, the progression,” said Hannah O’Byrne, hiring manager at Halfpenny. “They’re more fast-paced — they want to go from zero to 100 straight away because everyone is so much more ambitious now.”
“Always ask if there’s progression in the role. I think a lot of people come face-to-face with that barrier — especially when coming into a junior role — where they get stuck. I’ve worked for companies in the past that show a clear five-year progression span. You’ve got to have something to work for and work towards,” she added.
Broaden Your Search Criteria
“Once you are in, it’s much easier to manoeuvre and make contacts. But it’s really hard to get into [the fashion industry] in the first place. And a lot of internships and placements don’t pay — that’s a real challenge,” said Honor Gell, PR and marketing manager at Roksanda. “Definitely try and go for an agency first. I think getting experience in-house sets you up so much and keep going on careers platforms, talk to people.”
In March, 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.”
“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.”
Having your own narrative and your own position is always a benefit in my mind.
“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.
“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.
“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.
Discover the latest job opportunities, with 2,600+ roles on BoF Careers today.