Amanda O'Sullivan is the Director of Recruiting at 24 Seven, a top recruiting firm placing candidates in roles in the fashion, beauty, and wellness businesses.
StyleSage: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to work on the recruitment side of fashion?
Amanda: I went to FIDM and LIM College, focusing on marketing and merchandising with a background in fashion. I started my career in fashion PR working for some of the best in class luxury fashion houses, Tom Ford, Cartier and eventually transitioned into retail and buying for Dream Downtown and W Hotels, The Store. During my time as a buyer, I met the Director of Talent Acquisition at Intermix. Our love for the Patriots, fashion and people lead us back to each other two years later. Little did I know, two years later, I would join 24 Seven as a Junior Recruiter underneath the same person I interviewed with as a Buyer. I started recruitment on the retail team where I built some of the most amazing teams at brands such as Chanel, Zimmermann, Intermix and Brioni, to name a few. Fast forward 4 years I have, over time, taken on Executive, Marketing, Digital and Sales categories.
StyleSage: You have an invaluable and unique perspective, as you’ve worked both inside the fashion industry and in its recruitment, so which skills do you think are most critical for those starting out in the fashion industry today? What are some of the biggest misconceptions job seekers have about the fashion industry?
Amanda: Experience and networking skills, hands down. The best advice I can give to those starting out in the industry is to always sharpen your skills and to take an internship while you’re in school. Experience and drive will get you far, I promise!
For my last semester in college, I worked 4 days a week in a fashion PR firm that represented the diffusion lines of John Galliano and Ermanno Scervino. There, I learned that although I loved PR, it wasn’t for me long term. Try internships in different areas of the business and learn what suits you best.
Get out there and network! There are so many amazing events/panels/meet-ups, especially if you live in a city, to attend. Don’t be afraid to network and ask questions. In my experience, people always want to help. Stay in touch with former internship bosses, colleagues and professors. The industry is small, you never know where they will go. Attend your alumni events, the same applies.
As far as misconceptions - it's The Devil Wears Prada. It is no longer 2006! The fashion industry has become much more of a lifestyle than a cult.
StyleSage: What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the types of skills that fashion brands and retailers are looking for in their talent?
Amanda: The fight for strong digital talent across retailers is a category we continue to see growth, especially for direct-to-consumer (D2C) fashion brands. A year ago, it was a fight for influencer talent. Now, it’s performance marketing/growth marketing, acquisition, retention and CRM. Fashion retailers, on the store side, are seeking talent from other industries such as hospitality. They are looking for talent who can give their clients an experience without an old school retail mentality.
Another is culture fit. Do your values align with the companies and those in it? This is somewhat hard to explain in words, but it’s basically like dating. Do you both want to go on another date with each other?
Soft skills are extremely important. What are soft skills? Work ethic, ability to adapt to changing environments, interpersonal skills. Never stop working on your soft skills.
StyleSage: How do the needs, in terms of talent, differ between, say, an established fashion retailer versus one of the younger, digitally-native ones?
Amanda: You would be surprised as the needs of both are very similar. The main difference is that a majority (not all) of established fashion retailers have more robust teams and bigger budgets to hire, generally speaking.
The digitally native retailers are hiring the up and comers. They are getting funding early on and getting their first hires “right” is crucial. The younger companies (5 years in business or less) don’t necessarily want the 20+ year industry professional. They want someone who took a risk and started with their competitor in the early stages and helped them grow. A decent amount of founders in this space are millennials (take Tyler Haney from Outdoor Voices as an example) and although they value experience, they also want someone who has a high risk, high reward mentality.
StyleSage: From our side, we’re seeing more and more cross-industry collaboration, especially when it comes to tech, and we’re curious, are you seeing fashion companies hiring more people who don’t have a strictly fashion background? If so, in which types of roles are you seeing this kind of cross-pollination?
Amanda: Yes and no. A majority of the D2C fashion brands are hiring across categories- beauty, agency, editorial, especially on the digital side (ie. eCommerce, Social Media, Performance Marketing and Growth). However, there are some who still seek category experts for their opportunities, specifically in the marketing sector.
StyleSage: As we all know, experience and learning outside the classroom are equally if not more important than a degree. What would you advise those eager to bulk up and learn about what’s happening now in the industry do, in order to keep ahead?
Amanda: I always advise my talent to immerse themselves in their industry or the industry they want to be in. Do you want to understand or brush up on your skills in the digital world? Get a certification from General Assembly. There are also some really amazing continuing education courses at FIT. Dependent upon which company you join, they may offer continuing education reimbursement. Take advantage of that benefit!
StyleSage: In your experience, what makes a candidate for a role in fashion really stand out from the pack? What other advice would you give to today’s job seeker who wants to join an exciting fashion brand?
Amanda: Aside from experience, passion for the brand and the willingness to go above and beyond. Simple things like sending a thank you email or handwritten note after you’ve met the team, researching the brands most recent accomplishments, following them on social media, listening to podcasts or watching the CEO speak on a panel on YouTube. You have so much information at your fingertips. Do not walk into an interview without having done your research first. Trust me when I say, you’ll feel more confident and comfortable in the interview if you do.
Know your audience. Today, more than ever, it’s crucial to do your research. What excites you about the brand? Why do you want to work there? (Know the answer to this question and have a personal connection to the brand).