Recruiter Interview – Brooke Sexton
Tell us a little about yourself.
BS: I grew up the oldest of 8 kids living most of my childhood in Iowa. I started working at the age of 13 in
a restaurant as a server during my high school years. I would work every Saturday and Sunday just to get out of the chaos of such a large family. I also had a paper route to earn extra money. I was very much in to fashion as a teenager so I would spend the money I would make on trendy clothing and lots of hairspray! I moved to California the day after my high school graduation, and attended Cal Poly Pomona and Antioch University. I’ve lived all over Los Angeles including Brentwood, Marina Del Rey, Westwood, Redondo Beach and now Pasadena. I’m an avid dog lover and have rescued 7 dogs in the last 15 years. When I’m not working, I’m hiking, doing yoga, running at the Rose Bowl or playing tennis. My secret pleasure is college football. During the fall, it is not uncommon for me to watch football from 9 in the morning until 10 at night. My fantasy job would be a talent scout for college football teams!
How did you get into recruiting?
BS: I actually fell into recruiting. In my 20’s, I worked as a Production Manager on commercials, music videos and live broadcasts promoting new film releases. My job was to hire the crew, make sure everyone got paid and manage everything else in between. I figured out that Production was not a lifestyle that allowed for much else. The hours were grueling and I needed to shift gears if I wanted to have a normal life. I rolled my production experience into an HR job working for a mini movie studio and this launched my HR career. After working in entertainment for a while, I was offered an opportunity to work in fashion as an HR Manager. I’ve been working in fashion ever since. Working in HR can be very broad so after focusing on everything that a generalist might do, I figured out that I was really good at selling a brand to exceptional talent, therefore I’ve specialized in Talent Management over the past 7 years. My career has been a lifelong evolution of discovering what I’m really meant to do. As a teenager I loved fashion and sports but I never had a thought that I could make a living working in fashion and now here I am!
Tell us about Kellwood
BS: Kellwood is a special place. Working for other brands, I always knew about Kellwood, but not until I got here did I really “know” Kellwood. I love the diversity. We have so many different cultures working together and it’s amazing to see the teamwork. I feel like I’m part of such an international group. There’s a nice work life balance here as well. I’ve worked for other companies where it’s hard for employees to manage work and family but the value of having a family is really embraced at Kellwood. We have pretty minimal turnover which is a good sign about a company culture. I can’t tell you how many employees who have left, inevitably try to come back. Kellwood has staying power. It has been around since the early 1960’s and they’ve launched some pretty significant brands over time. The big bread and butter of the company is its private label business. There’s such huge volume going out these doors and once you’re here witnessing it, you realize just how significant and what a big player they really are.
Why would a fashion industry job seeker want to work at Kellwood
BS: You learn a lot working at Kellwood. We’re a pretty sophisticated company with lots of systems and processes in place. I like to joke that it’s mom and pop meets corporate America. It’s the best of both worlds with values you might find at a smaller company but systems and efficiencies you might find at a larger organization. In the grand scheme of fashion brands, the benefits are top notch. Because we have so many different brands, mobility within the company offers increased opportunity. It is not uncommon to find folks who have worked here for 10 or 15 years. Promotions happen all the time. For me, having worked in both luxury and the casual market, it’s refreshing to work in an environment that has very little diva factor. Everyone works very hard and the motivating factor is an intent to do a job well done.
Tell us about the hiring process at Kellwood
BS: Hiring happens quickly. Sometimes too quickly but it’s the pace of the company. I think our hiring managers know what type of person will thrive in the Kellwood environment so they are able to make decisions at a more accelerated rate. Our fill time can run at two to four weeks. A large percentage of our hires come from referrals. We’re pretty dialed in collectively to the LA market and employees refer former colleagues to the HR department all the time. We also have a referral program in place that our employees participate in.
What types of fashion industry positions do you recruit for?
BS: I recruit for everything within our company from Creative to IT, Finance, Ecommerce, and Customer Service to Sample Sewers. I touch all the roles necessary to keep a company operating.
What are some common misconceptions job seekers have about your job?
BS: I’m a one man show at Kellwood handling the Los Angeles recruiting function. At times when we have such a high volume of job openings, we may bring in someone to help but mostly I’m operating alone. As much as I try to respond back to every person who applies, it isn’t always possible. Contacting me through LinkedIn is great because a resume comes directly to me. Candidate experience is very important to me and I try my best to respond to everyone as best I can. A candidate should know that I always look over resumes that come to me and if I’m not in touch, it doesn’t mean that your background hasn’t been considered.
What should job seekers know about your job as a recruiter?
BS: Recruiting can be a highly stressful initiative especially when you work for a company that has multiple brands. You have to shift gears so often between brands, hiring managers and candidates that you can experience information overload. Remembering so many names and faces can be challenging so I never mind when candidates contact me repeatedly. My job is extremely rewarding. I get to offer opportunity that can change someone’s life. I really enjoy the career coaching aspect in helping someone to sort out what might be the next right move for themselves. I feel like I’m making a difference. I also have a fantastic manager so I feel that I’m set up for success. We’re true partners and she lets me run with owning the recruiting function and checks in when I need her help or support. I feel fortunate and grateful to know that I’m respected and my voice within the company is valued. It’s empowering.
What are some of the most common mistakes fashion industry job seekers make when looking/applying/interviewing/etc… for a job?
BS: I personally don’t mind if candidates contact me directly for a position rather than just applying on the website. I read every email I receive so getting a resume in my hands through email can be very effective for the candidate. Being afraid to contact a recruiter can be a mistake. You can find almost anyone on LinkedIn these days. When interviewing for a job, come to have a conversation to reveal the real person that you are, not a scripted version of what you think you should say. Recruiters and hiring managers want to know you. Don’t be afraid to open up. Not being transparent can be another mistake. As a candidate, if you can convey that you are willing to work hard and do what it takes, you will distinguish yourself from the rest. It’s a mistake to not bring this up during the interview.
What’s the craziest thing a job seeker has ever said to you?
BS: Asking pretty quickly in the process, how much does this job pay? This tells me you’re interested in a pay check and not making a decision based on what you’re truly interested in doing. There’s an appropriate time to talk about compensation but not initially before you understand what the job is.
What’s the most inappropriate thing you’ve seen on a resume?
BS: I’m not a fan of photos on a resume. Getting a job interview should be based on your background and skills.
What advice do you have for younger job seekers?
BS: Be willing to work hard and build experience. If you work hard, you will get hired. If you gain experience and work hard, you will be promoted. Have patience and know that careers don’t happen overnight. You have to earn it and this takes time. Make connections. It will be these connections that will help you find your next opportunity. Listen more than you speak. You will learn through listening. Put the phone away and stay engaged with the task at hand. Practice being in the present moment. Learn how to be a good connector through conversation, not just email. Good connectors become great leaders. Show appreciation and gratitude for your mentors. They will take you with them to their next opportunities. If you bring great energy and optimism to your job, you will always have a job because people will want to be around you. Don’t become too comfortable. This breeds laziness and stagnation and kills creativity. Continue to push yourself outside your comfort zone so that you thrive and learn. You will be amazed at what you’re capable of.
What advice do you have for older job seekers?
BS: When applying for a job, tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. If you have too much experience, it can be confusing for the recruiter to figure what specific open role you might be good for. Extract the experience you have and make it specific to the job you’re seeking. We recruiters often work within salary ranges. If we’re hiring an Associate Designer and you’ve been a Design Director, we may pass because we think you’re too expensive. To give yourself the best shot possible, customize the resume to the position you’re applying for.
What are some common mistakes fashion industry job seekers make during the job search process?
BS: I do not look at cover letters. Not that it’s a mistake to write one, I just think they’re becoming less important. I’m looking for experience and background first and foremost. An interview is a great time to say what you might say in a cover letter. If you really want the job, send a thank you note or email. This is a small gesture that can go a long way to demonstrate your passion and excitement around opportunity. It’s also the perfect time to show that you can write well and express thoughts on paper.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
BS: Have hobbies, some sort of family life and a sense of humor! It will get you through the tough times at the office and there will be tough times.
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