3 Things You Absolutely Need to Know for Salon Interview Success — The Thriving Stylist (2022)

Imagine you're a stylist thinking about making the move...but if you’re going to do it, you want to work at your dream salon, right? Nobody wants to leave their current salon and work somewhere horrendous.

Or let's say you’re a salon owner who’s tired of having whoever working behind these chairs. You want it to be the right people who love being there.

These are the exact reasons the salon interview is so important for both the stylist and the salon owner!

The Three Interview Ps for Stylists

Presentation

Presentation is everything when it comes to salon interviews. Be fully prepared with this P by getting these four things ready before your interview:

In a lot of ways, paper resumes are outdated. If we wanted jobs as engineers, LinkedIn would be our resume, right? But in our industry, LinkedIn is not popular, so a paper resume is essential.

Here’s how to make your resume stand out:

  • Keep it short, sweet, and to the point; nobody wants to flip through a three-page resume.

  • Emphasize key points and highlights to show your experience and that you have the skills to fill this role.

  • Always include when you graduated cosmetology school! It shows how long you've been in the industry.

  • Include how many salons you've worked at and gaps in your work history.

  • Focus on your most recent work history and what you've done in the industry because that’s most important. Bullet anything else relevant at the bottom.

  • Include special skills and advanced education.

  • It’s fine to use the prefabbed resume templates in Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs. Just make sure it’s appealing to the eye.

  • Don't add a photo to your resume. It's cheesy and dated.

And most of all, showcase who you are as a person, but keep personal with a professional twist. Don't list your beer pong college championship; instead, that you love to hike these specific trails or you’re a dog mom.

If a salon owner is interested in your resume, they’ll Google you to look at your personal and professional social media. Why? Because your professional Instagram tells one story and your personal tells another.

As your employer, salon owners want to know the full story and your online presence shows it. What story will your personal and your professional social accounts tell?

Salon owners don’t want you to be perfect by any means. They want you to be passionate, consistent, have solid work and a brand, and be driven in the industry.

Having a wow factor could mean the difference between who gets the job and who doesn’t. Doing the basics isn’t enough, so you have to be a cut above. The best way to do that? Showcase your portfolio during your interview.

Yes, you could argue that social media is your portfolio and that can work during your interview…but we’re talking about wow factor. About if this salon is interviewing 25 qualified candidates, is that enough to stand out in the crowd?

Here are some ideas to pump up your wow factor:

  • Bring a small portfolio book with photos of your work inside. You might have an online portfolio listed on your resume, but there’s something magical about giving a salon owner a booklet of your work.

  • A website or an online portfolio is a must. Your website could also showcase your accolades, testimonials, and photos of your work.

Research the salon’s style and walk into the interview emulating that style.

If you walk in the door and look like somebody from another planet, it will be an instant disconnect. Take a look at what the salon’s vibe is and see if you could come to your interview in a way that meshes with their style and see how it feels.

If you think you don't want to be somebody you’re not, consider this: if you're applying to a salon where you'd have to be somebody you're not to work there, should you even apply? Probably not.

If you feel like you're wearing a costume, it’s probably not the salon for you. But it's good to go through the exercise and see if this is the right place. As you walk in the door, carry yourself with confidence and a big, high-energy smile.

Personality

Come to your interview happy, excited, ready to be a part of their team, and thrilled to apply to your dream salon. (If this is not your dream salon, why are you applying there?)

Don’t act like the salon would be lucky to have you. Salon owners don't need somebody who has a big ego. Show that you're amazing, a strong power player, and check your ego at the door.

Having questions prepared for the interviewer showcases your personality and interest in the job. It can be a turnoff when the interviewer asks if you have any questions and you say no. Even if the interview went well, that says you haven't done your research.

Some questions to prepare are:

Persistence

If you want to work for a salon, reach out and make the connection. Don’t wait for someone to run an ad; drop resumes at salons as soon as you graduate cosmetology school and call the owner. It looks good when you're hungry and persistent, right? Plus, you’re not competing against anybody but yourself.

What's the worst that could happen? You reach out to your dream salon with your wow factor, beautiful resume, and amazing social media, and they say no. That’s okay; life will go on. But the best-case scenario is they're impressed by your tenacity and hire you. Don't be afraid to throw your hat in the ring. You never know when a chair is opening up or when someone needs an assistant.

The best way to connect if they haven’t run an ad yet is to interact with their social media pages and go to their education events, even if they’re online right now. Be a name they become familiar with.

If you have an interview, send a thank you card or email as soon as you're done.

Some people think it's old school, but people like it. Those little touches make such a huge impact when someone's deciding between you and 25 other candidates. It might make all the difference if you’re the only person who mailed a thank you card.

If you haven't heard back in a week, definitely send an email to follow up. Don’t call; salon owners and managers have a full plate too, so sending an email to follow up is a good way to say you’re still there and just checking in.

If you get turned down for the interview or rejected for the job, send a thank you card anyway. You might not be the right fit at the time, but you best believe the next time there’s an opening, you’ll be front of mind.

The Three Interview Ps for Salon Owners

Salon owners, you know how important it is to find the right stylist, right? But it’s a two-way street. Here’s what to keep in mind when looking for a new stylist!

Psst: Even if you're a stylist, keep reading because it’s good to know what salon owners look for.

Presentation

Your salon’s social media and website must be banging to attract top stylists. They don’t want to work at a salon where the Instagram is sloppy, the Facebook page hasn't been posted on in a month, and the website is terrible.

Today's stylists get to be picky about things like that. Yes, you can find stylists who don't care about that, but if you want to hire driven, dedicated stylists for the long term, it’s important.

No smart stylist today will apply to your salon without looking at your social media and website first, so think about what it says. Does it say this salon is amazing or that you’re half-assing it? Take a hard look at your social media and make that judgment.

Stylists want to work for somebody who is warm, open to change and suggestions, and is willing to connect, not just be the rent collector. Being a salon owner is hard work, but unfortunately, nobody great will want to work for an owner who just phones it in, is burnt out, and just trying to get through the days.

Stylists want to work with an owner who wants to partner with them, right? Instead of trying to lay down the hard line, try to be open in the interview. Emulate that you’re innovative, moving the salon forward year over year, and looking for stylists who want to partner in that.

Stylists want to work for a salon owner who is dressed well, so dress to impress, whatever that means for you. It doesn't mean a three-piece pantsuit, but also not an outfit that says you forgot the interview was today.

Stylists understand you've accomplished a lot: you've become an owner, and that's huge. But nobody wants to work for somebody egotistical, so leave your ego at the door.

Be welcoming and try to connect with the candidate. They already want to work for you—that's why they're here—so that pressure is off. Now it's time to connect and show what the relationship will look like long-term.

One of my favorite quotes is, “People are always trying to tell us who they are. Sometimes we're just not listening.” That’s why pre-screening is highly effective because anybody can put it on a good face when they're doing an interview. It's the other moments that tell a story.

Screening should start the first time they reach out to you. Does it sound like they’re smiling when they talk to you on the phone, or over email and text? Screen the tone of their email for typos and the tone of their phone call, voicemail, everything.

Think about maybe leaving the candidate in your back break room for five minutes and see how they handle themselves with the rest of your team. Ask your stylists to have a conversation with that person and see how it goes. You'll learn a lot in those little moments in between.

Try to be eyes wide open when you're looking at how somebody comes into your salon. Did they research your salon? Did they come prepared with intelligent questions? Do they seem to know how you do things? Does their resume tell you they are organized, excited, and driven, or that they want to make this work but they’re a hot mess or just need a job?

If somebody's resume is sloppy, they're likely sloppy. If they aren’t putting in the effort on social media, they won’t when they walk in your salon’s doors. We can be mystified by an amazing interview and not see the forest through the trees, so look at all the pieces, not just the 20-minute conversation you had, to get the full story.

Personality

When you interview somebody, notice if they talk or if you lead the conversation. If you ask a question, they give an answer over and over, it’s probably a no, they won’t get hired, right? But if the interview is more conversational, that sparks a reaction and feels like a more natural working energy.

If they carry the conversation during the interview, that tells you a lot about how they carry on a conversation with clients. Most salon owners want somebody confident enough to carry on a conversation with a guest. If they're nervous with you, they will be nervous with guests too. That’s okay, but pay attention to how they navigate those nerves.

Start the interview with a silly comment or compliment. It might sound ridiculous, but it always breaks the ice. When you show this won't be a cookie-cutter interview, people will tell you everything because they feel like they are connecting with a girlfriend, not in an interview Everyone can put on their best behavior for 20 minutes, but you want to see who you’ll work with for the next few years if you hire them.

Not everybody likes to interview that way. Some people like formality; they think it feels better and is a better fit for the salon. Just know you will get different answers from somebody who's on their best behavior versus somebody who feels like they're connecting with you as a friend.

  • Why did you get into the industry? Be open to all stories, but look for the real ones. We've heard the story about cutting their Barbie dolls’ hair a thousand times before. But when you hear stories like the bioengineering major who was so drawn to hair that she gave up bioengineering, who would you hire?

  • What do you want me to know about you? A lot of times people will answer that with typical industry answers, so dig deeper and ask what else? Where will I find you on a Sunday? Who are your favorite educators to follow? If they don't know many or just named big names, that's great. But industry icons are a little bit different than educators, and that tells you a lot about how in tune they are with education and what's happening in the industry.

  • Who is the most difficult client you've ever dealt with? How did you navigate that situation and what services make you the most nervous? These questions show people’s true colors, which is what you need to know if they’re going to work for you, not their three worst qualities?

Think about what you need to know if someone is going to work in your building. That's what you should ask.

Persistence

How were their response times when you reached out to them? Did they get back to you within a couple hours or was it a few days later? Did they drop the ball? Did they follow up with a thank you note? How was their communication throughout the entire process? Did they show up to the interview on time?

People are always trying to show their true colors; we're just not always listening. If they can’t be on time for the interview, they probably won’t be on time to work.

As a salon owner, you should be persistent too. Have all of your paperwork ready on their first day. If you're hiring somebody as an employee, have an I9, a W4, and an employee handbook ready to roll for them at the time of the offer letter. If they’re rental, have an up-to-date rental agreement with an expiration date. Make sure the structure is there so if somebody comes on, you're both ready to go.

Preparing for salon interviews on both sides of the desk can feel intimidating, but if you keep these Ps in mind, you’ll find your perfect salon home or the best stylist for your culture easily!

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