May 10, 2014

a recruitment day with benefit cosmetics


A few weeks ago I noticed on the Benefit job search part of their site that they were holding a recruitment day within Debenhams in my city, and as I've always loved the idea of having a part time sales assistant role with them I took the day out of my week to go along to it yesterday, I've been using Benefit for over eight years so I'm certainly no stranger to the brand or their products.

It all started fairly well with all the girls who worked there being super smiley and welcoming until eventually there were so many candidates that had turned up that we all were crammed around the small shop floor space, if I were a customer I wouldn't have wanted to try and fight for space that's for sure. This was for the initial interviewing process which took around five minutes per girl and was done by both a Benefit and Debenhams employee (not too sure exactly what their job roles are). I'm never one to complain about having to wait, it's just a part of life, so I wasn't too bothered about being the last of around ten girls to get seen. Once I was taken in for an 'interview' (by the Debenhams woman) I was sat back to back with another girl being interviewed in a tiny room that four of us only just squeezed into, I can't say it felt very professional. I was taken through what felt more like a quiz as every question I answered there was no engagement on my answers, for example I told the lady that I write a blog and I've been to a few Benefit blogger events to which she seemed completely uninterested which was slightly disheartening. I was told after a couple of minutes that I'd got through to the next process but I'd have to come back the next week as they'd filled up all the slots for that day but was called back half an hour later being told someone had dropped out so I could go back that day if I wanted to which I was happy to do. 

I went back in the afternoon (two hours later) with all the girls that I had seen in the morning which obviously made that whole process a complete waste of time since no one had actually been 'short-listed' as we were made to feel would happen. I have a beauty NVQ2 qualification and I'm well trained in all types of waxing whereas most other girls were aged around 17 and didn't have a single beauty qualification to which I was a little surprised they were asked back. After a bit more of us all standing around like lemons on the shop floor we were eventually all taken up to the training area within Debenhams. The next part we all sat around a table and were shown a role play of how to approach a customer (within Debenhams and not actually at the Benefit counter) to then tempt them to come over to Benefit for a free mini make over which they referred to as 'pamper session'. We were talked through all the ways to rebuff a customers initial decline of having the pamper session such as them saying they don't have the time etc, this included a demo on how to usher someone using your hands and body language which was more a how to of invading someone's personal space. When did it become ok for brands to actually encourage their employees to go up to and psychically grab hold of strangers? This describes it perfectly..


Next we got in pairs and had to show off our acting skills of this process to the whole room, I wasn't majorly bothered by it and found it quite fun if not a little cringe. After this we watched a demo of how we'd be applying five key make up items to a customer, there wasn't much said about each individual product and it was almost as if we could have been working for any brand as it felt like we were being taught how to sell, not how to sell Benefit. Sales is sales and I get that completely but I think it's more appropriate to teach it to your actual employees and not to candidates. I did start to wonder at this point if we had just been brought in to be used to make sales that afternoon rather than being put through a proper recruitment process. 

So after all of the role play and practising the mini make overs on each other we were 'let loose' onto the shop floor. Just beforehand we were told that if we hadn't managed to find ourselves a customer wanting a make over within the first half an hour then we would be told to leave as it would be deemed that we weren't appropriate for the job, I found that incredibly harsh and small-minded. The Debenhams itself is fairly small compared to most and happened to be near on empty for most of the afternoon with either a professional on their break with no time spare or an older lady who wasn't so interested in make up, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack with ten other girls passing by you every few seconds. I was lucky enough to find a pair of lovely ladies within the first ten minutes and let another girl take one of them instead of making the customer wait around for me instead. If the manager had actually bothered to be observing us properly then I'm sure this would have been seen as me showing signs of working well in a team. As it happens there wasn't nearly enough space for all of us to do the make overs and in addition wasn't enough products to go round either so we had to spend a lot of time wandering around looking for a particular product or a mirror that we didn't have which wasted much time. I had a great chat with my lady and everything seemed to be flowing well so I was quite pleased at this point and felt relieved to have been getting on so well. Once I'd finished the make over it was back out to the shop floor to fish around for another customer, at this point lots of girls were mentioning to each other that they didn't expect this would be what our afternoon would involve and lots of eye rolling went on. In all of this time I had not once seen either the Debenhams manager or the Benefit manager on any shop floor observing girls, I know they can't be in all places at once and were clearly overwhelmed with the amount of candidates but it felt very unfair. I found it utterly ridiculous to have ten candidates wandering round three floors at a near-empty Debenhams with others completing make overs at the Benefit counter with just two managers to oversee the whole thing. 

I have to admit that bothering shoppers who were trying to look at clothing felt rather humiliating and I did get a few sharp responses at times from people who were completely fed up of being asked over and over again. If I were in the store that day as a customer I would have ended up leaving pretty quickly with having girls continuously come up to me trying to get me over to the Benefit counter. The whole tactic felt very cheap and like I was on the restaurant strip in Turkey trying to get people in rather than working for a high-end beauty brand. In my opinion I think a recruitment day should consist of a thorough interviewing process where candidates are then short-listed to around half and then each girl should be respected enough to be given proper time to be observed thoroughly to show their potential rather than it all becoming a game of who can reel in the most people. I also noticed that our skills at applying the make up to clients weren't being noticed and if they were it was clear this was the bottom of the criteria rather than at the top which it should have been. Talking someone into buying products that they most likely can't afford makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable and doesn't float my boat at all, I'd actually rather be jobless than be spending my time exploiting customers who might I add hadn't even come over to the Benefit counter in the first place. 

An hour after we began and I found another really kind lady who was wonderfully easy to talk to and called me a sweetheart a number of times. I was really pleased as the products looked lovely on her and she seemed really engaged with the whole process which was completely reassuring. Once I'd finished her make up and was back on the shop floor I took the decision to stand my ground on the bottom floor close to the doors where new people were coming in to avoid the nightmare on the top floors of people who had been asked over and over again. I saw this as taking initiative and being confident enough to be directly in the eye-line of both managers rather than taking the easy option of hiding away on the other floors; apparently the manager didn't agree and shortly after she came over to tell me that they wouldn't be taking me any further and this was the reason. To be told I hadn't got a job on the shop floor with all of the other girls and customers walking by in what took less than 20 seconds was completely humiliating and I was in complete shock that this would ever happen in a recruitment process. The other reason she gave was that 'two customers in two hours isn't good enough', I'm not sure what logic she based that on as I think that's more than good enough in a deserted store with ten girls running around like headless chickens, and if she took the time to give me constructive feedback I could have explained that in fact I got three customers in that time. I was then taken to get my bag and told I would get a 15% discount code (so the thanks I get for making them sales that afternoon and giving up my day is to put money back into their pocket) and to reapply again in six months time.. cheers Benefit and Debenhams. I have to admit I did let out an accidental laugh when she mentioned the discount.. maybe she should have paid more attention to me telling her that I'm a beauty blogger.

Ultimately employers can't employ everyone and that's just life but having a brash and unforgiving attitude towards candidates is absolutely not on. It was my first ever recruitment day and formal interview kind of situation and although I wasn't too nervous I feel incredibly sorry for any of the girls who got the same treatment who struggle with confidence or self-esteem.

I'm going to round off this lengthy blog post now but just to clarify, I don't hold Benefit as a brand completely accountable for the absolute mess of a process that took place yesterday, I've sent in a complaint to both Debenhams and to Benefit to hopefully find out just what went wrong. If this is standard practice and how Benefit usually treat candidates then I'm really disappointed that they are letting themselves down like this! If a beauty brand's price point is set at the luxury end of the scale then they sure as hell shouldn't be trying to teach their employees market stall tactics. 

26 comments:

  1. Ouch. They didn't handle that very well at all nor did they seem to take you guys seriously. How disappointing!

    Terri
    territidy.blogspot.co.uk
    xoxo

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  2. This sounds terrible. I however don't believe its just happened to you, I read a post very similar last year. Xx


    Kate | A British Sparkle

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  3. That sounded like a really chaotic and ill thought through recruitment event. To be honest, Benefit have always struck me as a gimmick-y sales orientated brand and I'm not really that surprised unfortunately. I have been to one of their blogger events and it was pretty much just a sales pitch! x

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  4. That's pretty atrociously handled - I've heard other tales of Benefit interviews which have been as badly organised as this! Sorry to hear about this Jess, I'd be really annoyed if I were in your situation x

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  5. That's awful and not how it should be done at all::; no wonder you put a complaint in, I would have to, benefit is a well thought of brand so they need to sort out their interviewing skills and how they go about employing people: you don't jump on shoppers either, shoppers hate that xx

    Laura x

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  6. I have heard about this so many times!!! How atrocious. I wrote a similar post back when I was blogging about how I turned down an interview due to their focus on sales over anything else. Would love to hear what they say about your complaint! xx

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  7. I'm not surprised you were disgusted at the process. They clearly don't know how to run a store - and if it helps, you were clearly too good to be employed by a chaotic and pushy sales team. x

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  8. This is why I don't like sales assistants, because most of them don't care about selecting products that will suit you- they are just being pushed to make sale after sale! Benefit especially, the amount of times I've been hounded walking up to their counter is ridiculous. You're better off without the job, it's best to be an honest person with skills, than someone who's begging people to buy products that they don't even know anything about!

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  9. This sounds awful! Although sadly I'm not surprised, I've read other experiences similar to yours too :(

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  10. So sorry this happened to you lovely, has basically exactly the same experience last year. I got four women in 90 min and sold 6 products but was told this wasn't good enough. I was made to feel very small! Was not a nice experience! x

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  11. I found the experience with Lush very similar to be honest, made 30 sales in one hour on a quiet tuesday, but because i let a lady browse who had headphones browse after approaching her once, didn't get the job. X

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  12. That sounds like a complete nightmare. Super unprofessional for such a high end brand! Would love to hear what either Debenhams or Benefit have to say if they get back to you!

    XO, G from grace'd

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  13. The whole process sounds like a joke, I'm really interested to hear the reply you get! Although benefit is expensive it's definitely not high-end (further proven by their recruitment process..)

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  14. It sounds really awkward and unprofessional of Debenhams/Benefit. I guess you can just put it down to experience now but it's such a shame!

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  15. It sounds like they were really unprofessional, sorry this happened to you! I've read a similar post to this before, such a shame xx

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  16. This sounds truly horrendous, what a terrible process!

    Stephanie
    http://missstephanieusher.blogspot.co.uk/
    http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/3436251
    xxxx


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  17. This is awful, can't imagine how embarrassing it was but I do know that you're definitely not alone a few people I know who have gone to work for Benefit or had an interview said the same thing. Ony of my friend got a job and left shortly after as they weren't interested in people or make up just 'bums on seats' and it's such a shame! X

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  18. That sounds disgusting!! I don't understand how that can begin to create a good relationship with any staff member and those girls who are sent off like you were would be pretty peeved off. Bad experiences spread like wildfire and I bet a lot of people would start to avoid purchasing from them.

    Nicky
    zeeblikesit.blogspot.com
    xx

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  19. I read this whole post and I got more and more socked throughout it! Woah! That's such a shame, benefit are a brilliant brand usually. What a shame, that sucks! :-(

    Beauty Soup | UK Beauty Blog

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  20. That sounds horrific! Fair play to you for sticking it out though - I'd have given them a piece of my mind (professionally) then walked out.

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  21. I just don't know how on earth they can still think those tactics are actually making them sales. I walked in Lush the other day and the sales assistant actually assaulted me with "what are you looking for" blah blah blah. I was about to purchase something, I was not planning on just browsing but this just made me leave the store and spend my money elsewhere instead! Poor employees though. I'm sure theyre good people.

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  22. I went for a recruitment day with Benefit too in my town and I didn't even get through even though I know the brand backwards. I was told I needed more experience in retail and targets (apparently 5 years isn't enough) and was then told to do mystery shopping.....what good is that going to do me!?! I never applied again.

    I did have a similar interview process with Urban Decay though, had to do traffic stopping for an hour on the shop floor with them not even watching, they were just talking around the counter amongst themselves. I told them 45 minutes in (after being shouted at numerous times by older ladies) that I was leaving as I wanted a job in make-up and it wasn't what I expected at all and I wouldn't enjoy the job as in fact it wasn't make-up artistry at all.

    Never ever have I gone into Debenhams and seen girls on either UD or Benefit trying to "attract" customers. Both their recruitment processes are kind of a joke to be honest.

    I loved reading this, going to read the update now.

    Claudia xx | Beauty and the Chic

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  23. I'm glad I happened to stumble across the follow up post to this and end up reading this too. That's awful and I suppose they're eating their words now they know you've written an expose, I'm also glad you got listened to! Great post.

    http://floradorarose.blogspot.co.uk/

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  24. You would be surprised at how many of the 'top beauty brands' do this! I work on a makeup counter and have seen a few of these recruitment days take place. Unfortunately Benefit are quite well-known for it within retail, good on you for exposing them! x

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  25. That’s awful. I wouldn’t think that this is just an invented story because I also had a bad experience with their representative at a kiosk. From then on, I’m purchasing Benefit cosmetic products at online shops like http://www.kallony.com.ph/brand/benefit

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  26. Wow such a thoughtful insight. I was going to apply online for a part time position in Debenhams also. This post has made me reconsider. I already had my doubts, hence stumbling upon this post. It seems Benefit are after sales people as to opposed therapists/artists working their counter. I hate hard sell... I find it extremely annoying. I guess I'd be sent home too!

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