When Amber Fillerup Clark, influencer and founder of the hair care brand Dae Hair, first started searching for a president for the two-year-old brand, she looked to other beauty brands for candidates. Her investors wanted someone who could think strategically and be flexible when it came to growth, hoping to avoid the unsustainable trap of burning too bright too quickly to which a number of direct-to-consumer brands have fallen prey.
Eventually, that thinking made her realize she wanted someone who would look at beauty through a more unconventional lens, and hired Jenny Son, who served as the head of private equity at marketing agency WPromote — and had never worked at a beauty brand before.
“When [Clark] was going down that traditional path, she was like, ‘No, there’s someone else out there,’” said Son. “She needed someone that was outside of that beauty mold to … really look at this brand and be able to scale in a non-traditional beauty way.”
Son’s hiring is something of a response to greater shifts happening in the beauty industry, which is embracing e-commerce and new distribution channels against a backdrop of increased M&A. With these changes, beauty brands are creating unfamiliar positions including director of digital, head of growth and chief brand officer, to stay competitive.
To fill these roles, brands are often bringing in talent from outside the industry, and molding their executive positions to reflect a more digital, technology-reliant and competitive space, as well as prioritizing values like sustainability and diversity and inclusion.
“It seems like there’s more of a preference for someone outside of industry who can, in a different viewpoint, help diversify how [brands] are doing things,” said Lisa Butkus, retail and luxury goods practice lead at search firm Hanold Associates.
The Big Positions Beauty Brands Are Hirings For
Beauty brands today are looking to hire “jack of all trades strategists,” who can maintain a top level view of the business and have a fundamental understanding of all its segments, says David Schneidman, director, Alvarez & Marsal Consumer Retail Group.
To fill that need, brands are responding by hiring for roles like chief brand officer or head of growth, who can see across topics on product, merchandising, marketing or sales.
But there are skills that are in particular demand. Demand for e-commerce experts is still high, and salaries have increased accordingly, said Edouard Thoumyre, managing partner at Accur Recruiting Services. Lindsay Stevens, partner at retail-focused executive search firm Kirk Palmer Associates, added that brands are asking for talent with experience working with Amazon and subscription models, in particular, as they target building customer loyalty. Brands are also hoping to beef up their operations in sustainability and diversity, as well as data and analytics, to create more personalized experiences for consumers.
“We have so much data. How do you actually leverage this data in a more structured way to hit your core consumer?” said Schneider.
In the midst of an active M&A environment, brand experts are also in demand, said Accenture beauty lead Audrey Depraeter-Montacel, especially as potential acquirers think beyond finances and headcount efficiencies earlier on in the acquisition process.
A common thread throughout sexual wellness brand Maude’s hiring strategy is finding people with strong backgrounds in brand building, such as those with experience at direct-to-consumer brands like Everlane and Warby Parker, said founder Éva Goicochea.
“That [approach] is very different from trying to build hyper-growth brands that really focus only on selling products,” said Goicochea.
For businesses that have been acquired, bigger conglomerates and funds are also pushing to hire human resources employees with experience in M&A who can “help with the integration of business on the cultural side,” said Butkus. This comes as founders are becoming more demanding about the environment their brand will enter and whether it will grow with respect to its values.
“If you lose those people, you lose part of the value of the acquisition, so retaining the people and talents is key,” said Audrey.
Where Top Beauty Talent Comes From
Brands today have to have a balance of beauty experts, who know the industry inside and out and “functional experts” who leverage new technologies, understand analytics, product development, e-commerce, and manage acquisitions and partnerships, according to Schneidman.
“Looking outside of the beauty industry gives you a competitive advantage to bring in the best of the best,” said Tula Beauty chief executive officer Savannah Sachs. She added that the majority of the company’s digital team doesn’t have a beauty background.
Within the industry, there’s been a shift, said Thoumyre. Smaller brands used to pluck their C-suite from the middle management of big conglomerates like Estée Lauder and L’Oréal. Now, it’s not as simple. Category experience is not so much a requirement, and Thoumyre said he mostly recruits for transferable skills.
Beauty experience does still have value. Digitally native brands like Tula and Maude are focusing on brick-and-mortar. Having just entered the retailer, Maude said its next hire will be someone who has led a brand through Sephora strategy. After a fundraising round last year, he hired an industry wholesale expert from Diptyque and Byredo.
“It was critical that someone came from that world … The beauty world and how to navigate it is essentially where we’re going and where we are,” said Goicochea.
Brands have also started to ingrain diversity considerations throughout hiring, as opposed to keeping it exclusive to one C-Suite or adviser role, said Stevens. Today, nearly every employer wants to see a diverse set of job candidates, compared to just half a few years ago, said Butkus.
“Bringing diverse talent to the table is something that has turned into an expectation and a given,” said Stevens.
In a way, it’s another avenue for companies to prioritize longer-term brand-building efforts. People want to buy from brands that represent their values, and they look at who brands are employing and how they treat them, says Butkus.
What Talent Wants From Beauty
What’s more, values like sustainability and diversity and inclusion aren’t just good for business, but crucial in snagging talent.
“Talent is only interested in brands that have those shared values with them,” said Stevens.
The realities of today’s job market, in which the workforce has found itself at an advantage, makes it even more challenging for companies to attract and retain top talent. That’s particularly the case for senior roles that were already hard to recruit for, said Thoumyre.
Some won’t consider positions that don’t come with workplace flexibility, and Thoumyre noticed candidates are more discerning about what specific skills they can learn in each position, thinking about their prospects down the line.
Brands are making adjustments accordingly. Ulta Beauty’s Anita Ryan, who will be promoted to chief human resources officer in April, said the “war for talent” is top of mind for the year ahead. Ulta Beauty is doubling down on what she calls “upskilling” to retain talent, and recruiting from industries outside of retail — especially tech.
Ulta Beauty also no longer requires employees to work from its home base of Chicago, which has widened its recruiting pool significantly. Tula, which was acquired by P&G in January, has done the same thing, and is working on setting up new hybrid options. Sachs said adapting to working remotely is a key driver of bringing more talent in-house, especially from other industries.
“There’s still room for disruption,” said Butkus. “A lot of the brands that are hiring right now want the kind of talent that can navigate that and activate it.”