Wednesday 28 September 2011

Look beyond the shimmer: Luxury means competition

Fast recovering from recession, the luxury sector has toughened up by being more demanding when it comes to hiring candidates. Are you ready for the challenge?
Pundits who cried death for the luxury sector in recession have been proved wrong yet again. The luxury market has revived with a vengeance and is tougher than ever before. Spring 2011 Update: Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study released by Bain & Company, the leading advisor to the global luxury goods industry, has revealed that worldwide luxury sales are projected to grow to Euro 185 billion in 2011.This notes an eight per cent increase from Euro 172 billion in 2010. Emerging markets such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and the Middle East have also fuelled a steady growth at a global scale.
But with this regained customer confidence, the luxury sector has turned out to be even more competitive and cutthroat to work in. Linda Clark, MD, The Human Choice, an executive search firm in the consumer market says, “The luxury sector recruiters have become fussier now.” So what is it that they are looking for in a candidate?
Recruiters are now looking for crème de la crème candidates. They are scanning CVs in even more detail and sifting candidates with relevant experience and background. Aspirants with genuine industry knowledge, passion for the sector, language skills, a global approach and relevant business skills apart from having a great personality are more favoured by recruiters.
“A candidate should be ready to fit the role, be able to adapt quickly and contribute to brand promotion. Recruiters look for a candidate who can offer new ideas and alternative strategies to make money for the enterprise. We look for the best of the best candidates to put forward to our clients,” says Mohammed Mirza, founder and managing director of Luxury recruit and Luxury Talent.
Today’s luxury sector is strictly open for those who have the relevant industry experience and an extensive knowledge of the industry. Also, it is essential that your passion and enthusiasm for the luxury industry gets adequately reflected when you give an interview. “Companies want candidates who know the luxury industry and the market. They should know which companies are doing well and what new strategies are being adopted. They need to be fully informed about the whole market, not just one brand, show their passion for the luxury market,” says Clark. She suggests that it is better to look for a job in a smaller company if you haven’t managed to gain entry in your dream company yet. “Small companies,” she says, “are easier to get into and you can always sell your experience from a smaller company to a bigger company.” Even if you work for six months at the shop floor of a luxury company, the experience should be enough to kick start a serious career in the sector.
Candidates with a masters degree in luxury are also being preferred. “Any applicable knowledge and experience gained is always complimentary when applying in the luxury sector. A masters in luxury would give a good standing and perhaps increase your chances of securing a job,” says Mirza.
Since most of the institutes providing luxury courses are in sync with the market demands, all theory is well-matched with practical requirements in the industry. “The recruitment trends are changing fast and the boom of technology and e-commerce require all our students to become experts in Customer relationship management (CRM) and digital marketing apart from learning the hard and soft skills required for the job,” says Annalisa Tarquini, director of the Master in Luxury Goods &Services and Master in Luxury Retail Management programs at the International University of Monaco (IUM). Marinel FitzSimons, an alumnus of IUM, who specialises in champagne and works for the drinks business magazine, adds, “The skills such as brand identity and premiumisation learnt at the masters course are relevant at my current job. Besides, regular opportunities organised by the university to interact with industry experts have been invaluable.”
The global face of the luxury sector, with emerging markets in developing countries, has made language skills an asset for those who wish to join it. “Knowledge of English, French and Spanish works wonderfully, but other languages come handy when dealing with specific markets,” says Clark. Tarquini adds, “Students with more than three languages, mainly coming from BRIC or new emerging markets interest recruiters very much.” This global avatar of the luxury market has also inspired recruiters to look for candidates who have a cosmopolitan, international outlook. “Candidates must be flexible, adapt to new situations and deal with all types of clients from anywhere in the world,” says Mirza.
Being well-presented is a pre-requisite to enter the luxury sector. However, one must not forget the appropriate business skills. Says Marinel, “First impressions are crucial but don’t be fooled that a designer suit and a sharp pair of shoes will land you the job.” The right mix of hard and soft business skills are required to hit the bull’s eye. Being personable, service-oriented, detail oriented and dynamic are just a few of the many qualities required.
The business of luxury is deeper than the glamour and opulence it dazzles zillions with. It is for those who are ‘willing to go beyond the surface’ and add value to the industry with their talent, hard work and creativity. Are you up for it?

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