Interview Tips to Land a Salon Job

Terrie Mills, a graduate of The Temple, A Paul Mitchell Partner School in Frederick, Maryland, says when it came to dress, her school had a motto: “No boobies, no bellies, no butts.”

“The vast majority of students think that if it’s cool for a club, then it’s dressy and great for a job interview,” Mills says.

For the casual interview, Mills says she prefers a black blazer, dark or black jeans and a white blouse— all freshly laundered. Her goal is to look sharp but understated with minimal accessories, jewelry and makeup, and no fragrance (potentially irritating).

“For a more formal interview, I might do the dress and leggings look, or wear a dark tunic with slacks and terrific shoes or boots,” she says.

Formal or informal can be determined by whether you are cold-calling or have a scheduled interview—and by the type of salon. Some high-end Manhattan salons require stylists to wear designer clothes; the idea is that you should look like you have the salary and style of the clientele you’re seeking.

Fred Codner, vice president, human resources and legal for Jamison Shaw Hairdressers in Atlanta, has given his program, How to Get and Keep Your First Job Out of Beauty School, to nearly 1,000 students in various schools. What’s his take on dressing for success?

“Occasionally, I see the mistake of either being dressed too casually or dressed to go out on a Saturday night and not for a job interview,” Codner says. “I tell students you can get a great outfit at a discount store; you don’t have to wear Prada.”

Codner says he used to tell students that in high-end salons, they had to be discreet about tattoos and piercings during the application process and trial period. Then, after gaining salon cred based on performance, they could roll up their sleeves or put the piercings back in.

“With the increase in popularity of ink and individualism, I don’t think it matters as much as it did a few years ago,” Codner says.

Best advice? Look at stylists in the salons where you want to work and the clients you want to have. Wear what they do, but make it your own—hair, makeup and nails should follow suit.

If you target the type of salon you want to work in, presenting yourself in the best possible light will be much easier. Don’t forget chains, says Ivan “ClipperGuy” Zoot, men’s-grooming educator.

“They have tons of clients, so you learn speed, and you get education,” Zoot says.

Know what you want, then research the salon and the products its stylists use. To put your research to work in a personal presentation, visit as a client, suggests Mitchell Field, owner of Mitchell Field Salon in Fairfax, California. Then write the owner a personal letter detailing what you love about the salon (great decor, sense of teamwork), why you want to work there and how your skills could help the salon prosper. Ask the owner to meet you at his or her convenience.

“Sell yourself based on your experiences, and flatter the owner; don’t point out negatives,” Field says. “Salon owners want to know what you can offer them.”

If you target the right salon and decide to drop off a resume, don’t rush in on your way to the gym or grocery store; plan ahead and dress to suit the salon’s market and clientele. Even the front-desk staff is trained to make notes on your appearance and attitude when you drop off a resume.

“In my school presentation, we discuss the application process at length and that you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” Codner says. “You have to bring it!”

You showed up on time and look the part. Now what?

The internet is full of the most common job interview questions and potential replies, but it is always best to be yourself. Start by selling yourself humbly yet persuasively, Codner says. Be prepared for questions like, “Why do you want to work here?” “Why should I hire you?” “What are you looking for in a salon?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Mills advises doing mock interviews with friends and having them honestly critique every aspect of your presentation: appearance, resume, posture, handshake, and verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Video yourself to see what your interviewer sees.

“No matter how much you try to prepare, you always get a zinger that stumps you, like, ‘What do you consider to be your worst shortcoming?’” Mills says. “Be honest, but recognize that saying you want to be a platform artist or celebrity stylist is not the best answer about five-year goals. It means you want to use the salon as a jumping-off point to a different career. Show you are willing to work hard, learn and grow.”

And don’t forget your own questions, which prove you did your research. Ask about product lines and how the team works together to show you have a genuine interest in the salon.

Above all—be yourself! It’s normal to be nervous, but try to keep calm and be confident. This will show you can work well under pressure and in new environments.

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