What does it take to be considered for a position at a great salon? It all starts with a great resume.
What does it take to be considered for a position at a great salon? It all starts with a great resume.

Most salon owners visit schools to recruit talent. Some may personally invite you to visit their business, but whether they do or not, you’ll want to research and visit several salons on your own. In either case, should you just drop in unannounced? And, do you always need a resume? The answers are “it depends”…and “yes.”

“When I graduated, I sent my resume to several salons, but never heard back,” says Jaelei Yang, who works at Bold Salon in Appleton, Wisconsin, and has been in the business for two years. “At the time, I had nothing to help me stand out, and I didn’t visit those places. The one salon that did grant me an interview was the one where I dropped off my resume in person. So, make sure you visit personally to offer your resume, and don’t just email it unless specifically asked to do so.”

Some busy, high-end owners don’t like it when a self recruit waltzes in—but most applaud the effort and want to see what you look like. After all, this is a personal appearance business, and the desk can always take your resume. One caveat: If a salon owner visited your school and invited you to the salon, call and make an appointment. It gives you the opportunity to remind him or her of your personal connection.

When it comes to a resume, the need is clear-cut. “You’d be surprised how many grads don’t have a resume,” says Fred Codner, director of human resources at Jamison Shaw Hairdressers in Atlanta, who has taught his How to Get (& Keep) Your Beauty Industry Dream Job seminar to thousands of beauty school students. “Creating one isn’t as difficult as you might think. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked career-fair candidates that I was interested in for a resume, only to be told they didn’t have one. Guess what happened to my interest level?”

Why is a resume a must-have in a business where appearance and personality matter most? And, if you have no beauty experience, what do you put on it?

Resume Smarts
The best salons are overloaded at graduation time. Your resume acts as your personal promotion, calling card and “leave-with” piece, so salons have something to remember you by—or write notes on. You can’t walk in empty handed and say, “Here I am, I want a job.”

Codner recommends you include a photo of yourself and your date of graduation. “I may speak to hundreds of candidates during a career fair, and a photo helps me to remember our conversation later,” he says. “Also anticipated graduation dates tell me when they are available to enter the job market. If I am looking to hire someone right away, an upcoming graduation date might move your resume to the top of the pile. If you are a promising candidate, but still have a good deal of school left, I may start corresponding with you by email in anticipation of your graduation. I might even invite you to our salon’s educational events while you are still in school to expose you to our organization’s culture.”

Owners understand you are fresh out of school with limited experience. Most say they want to see indications you’ve gone above and beyond school with photoshoot work, advanced classes or hair competitions. In short, something that underscores you are seeking a career, not a job.

When it comes to what you put on paper, Noah Keck (who owns two Blaze Salon in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, Iowa, and William Wesley Grand Salon and Spa in Davenport, Iowa) says, “I look for a very clean resume. Often, people cram too much job history and irrelevant
details into their resumes. Resumes should usually be no longer than a page and focus on a job history that pertains to a salon career. Things to include are any customer-service experience, charity work or fashion competitions and hair classes. We look for things that applicants chose to do when they didn’t have to.

“A resume should be the best representation of you,” he continues. “Too often, I see a pizza place listed, at which someone bussed tables four years ago. If you were directly involved with customers, focus on that.” Yang says that if you have little working experience, just make sure your resume is clean, simple, and direct. “Employers skim through resumes for key words,” she says. “If you have no previous work or salon experience, include the education you have received and skills that you possess.”

Resume Don’ts
While they abound online, sample resumes aren’t for copying and changing a few details. Use the structure if you like it, for instance, starting with a summary of your qualifications or a list of skills. While objectives are no longer popular, you can begin with an objective—if it pertains to the salon’s mission and not yours. Avoid “Team player is looking for a job…” and replace it with an objective such as “To care for clients and help advance the profession.”

Other over-used descriptors to avoid include “organized, and “great communicator.” Substitute these with specific examples: “Organized blow-out demonstrations for a street fair.” “Partnered with other staff help to develop a system to reduce customer complaints.” Show, don’t tell.

Just as your personal appearance matters, so does the appearance of your resume. Use quality paper and show some creativity, Codner says. If you’re not a expert at word processing, ask someone who is to help.

“Use fonts, graphics, formatting, photos, color and layout to make your resume stand out and express creativity,” he says. “There’s little that’s more boring than reading a lackluster resume.”

What Salons Want
Bobby Thompson, the director for Blaze in Cedar Rapids, knows what he wants in applicants, and these skills are quickly noticed even if they are simply dropping off a resume. “We initially look for candidates who have a firm handshake and a friendly disposition,” he says. “Eye contact and confident body language are very important. We look for people who smile, exude happiness, and have a passion and excitement for the industry. Our systems can get new stylists to succeed in the technical aspect of hairdressing, but it is hard to teach enthusiasm. It is crucial that a candidate has future goals. We hire stylists who see this as a career, not just a job.” Thompson isn’t alone: most salon owners stress that they “hire for attitude and can train for skill.”

A Word on Portfolios
Beginners aren’t expected to have portfolios, but if you put your work online or can present it on a tablet, edit it as carefully as you do your resume, and show only your best work. Yang presented her best photos from beauty school in a clean black portfolio to her first employer. When she was ready to change jobs, she had a digital portfolio, which she sent to the salon before her interview. An invitation to view your work can be a great addition to the written word, so be sure to offer a look when you drop off your resume. When Needs Match Yang says that finding a salon is like finding a significant other.

“You have to make sure you’ve got the same longterm goals,” she says. “At my very first interview, I was extremely nervous, but now I realize that you should interview the salon as well. Make sure the salon will really help you as much as you’re willing to help them. If not, you will find yourself leaving within the first year. There are a lot of new graduates, and salons are selective. Be humble, be hungry, and show you possess the passion it takes to get through tough times. Be confident, not conceited. Be yourself; don’t change to fit in.” Finally, don’t forget the follow-up. If you dropped off a resume, call a week later and ask for an interview. If you landed an interview, send a handwritten thank-you note, and reiterate one main point you want to make or may have missed. Then, stress how much you’d love working there.

Interview Ready
Think of the interview as a thorough consultation. Dominique L’Heureux, team development director for Keck’s William Wesley Grand Salon and Spa, provides these tips for being prepared.

1. Try-on and lay out what you will wear the night before, so you won’t feel rushed the day of the interview or suddenly discover a rip or grease stain. Check out the salon’s dress code in advance, or call and ask about it.

2. Apply your makeup tastefully, not excessively, and get a good manicure.

3. Remember, first impressions are crucial. It takes an average of three seconds for a person to make a judgment about you. Dress appropriately even when handing in your application and resume. You never know who will be at the front desk and how much power they have.

4. Be yourself! It is completely normal to be nervous, but try to keep calm and be confi dent. This will demonstrate that you can work well under pressure and in new environments. Questions that L’Heureux says she asks job applicants include:

  • How did you decide on a beauty career?
  • Can you describe a moment you are the most proud of?
  • Where do you see yourself professionally in one year, five years and 10 years?
  • How well do you handle stress and work under pressure? “I am always impressed when potential hires come ready with questions for me as well,” L’Heureux says.

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