Hints from HR: Job Search Advice from the Senior HR Advisor at Brooks Brothers

Being passed over for a job that you really wanted is disheartening, to say the least!

Nearly everyone has been overlooked for a job at some stage in their work life, but how do you come back stronger and more successful? It’s by having access to the best job search advice from the pros in the know and incorporating the lessons learnt into your job search arsenal. 

Given that, with our “Hints from HR” series, we’re interviewing the professionals who make hiring decisions on a daily basis to ask them what you want to know: Advice on how to stand out? The biggest mistake you could make? Things you should never ask in an interview? And more…

In this instalment of our “Hints from HR”, we’re super excited to bring you insights from Victoria Wilk, Senior HR Advisor at Brooks Brothers Australia. For Victoria, “it’s having gone the extra mile in your previous roles” that will really set you apart from the other candidates. Read on for more of Victoria’s detailed job search advice…


200 years in the business and still going great guns!

In 1818, Henry Sands Brooks founded Brooks Brothers, the first ready-to-wear fashion emporium in America. Since then, Brooks Brothers has become an institution that has bought the American style of dress to the world through fashion innovation, fine quality, personal service, and exceptional value. Just like the quality of their products, Brooks Brothers prides itself on providing their employees with a fulfilling work environment.

Meet Victoria

What was your first job?

When I was around 10 years old I used to door knock on my neighbours’ doors and offer to wash their cars. I had a thriving business and my neighbours were incredibly generous considering the condition of their cars afterwards.

How long have you worked in HR?

For just over seven years. I have been very fortunate to work from some well-known global brands and have worked in a mix of recruitment and HR positions, the outcome of which has led me to secure the role of Country Head of HR for a luxury fashion brand.

When you were 9 years old, what did you want to be when you “grew up?”

I have always wanted (and still do want!) to be a TV Weather Girl. Although that dream didn’t come true, I was fortunate enough to recruit for The Weather Channel during my recruitment agency days and, through this Brooks-Brothers-Make-a-Wishrelationship, I was able to visit the station and watch the weather being filmed on a few occasions. Being able to place people at the Weather Channel and closer to the weather action made me feel like I had partly achieved my dream.

What is the favourite part of your job?

I know this is a cliché but it is definitely the people. I work with some incredible and inspiring individuals who make me want to be the best I can for them. Brooks Brothers have recently partnered with the Make a Wish foundation and one of my employees recently managed to get an $1,000 donation from one customer. I could not have been prouder… I put the phone down and thought, “Well, this is what it is all about.”


What I look for in candidates: 

A person who can demonstrate or articulate that they have previously gone the extra mile for their business. I want to see how you added value during your time with your previous employer and, therefore, how you could add value to us as an employee. Brooks Brothers have a recognition program called GEM (Going the Extra Mile) awards where we recognise those individuals who excel above and beyond their core duties. It is the GEMs that we are looking for.

To me, the most employable skills a candidate could have are: 

This is dependent on the position I am hiring for but, overall as a business, we seek self-motivated people who have the capability to show initiative in previous roles. Brooks Brothers is proud to support anyone with an idea to come forward and speak up. Some of our best processes and concepts have been ideas that team members have suggested. Therefore, I want to hear about how you have come up with innovative solutions to problems or pitched an idea to the business that was previously taken on board. If you can demonstrate these skills, we want you on board.

My advice to applicants who want to stand out: 

Find out who the recruitment or hiring manager is for that vacancy and email them directly addressing your cover letter to them personally. I really love it when people make the effort to find out my name and personal email and contact me directly as it makes them much more memorable. It also shows they are willing to do that little more to secure a job. My retail managers also like it when people visit them personally in store to say, “Hi, I’ve submitted an application online but I also wanted to come in and introduce myself to you also”. As a business, we have historically hired many of these walk-in applicants. If you have the confidence to walk into a luxury retail store and say, “Hi there, I want to work for you” – you are definitely the type of person we want to hire.

Something you might not know about working for Brooks Brothers: 

That we have 50:50 equal representation of males and females in our Australian stores and our Head Office. Brooks Brothers are very proud of this statistic and work hard to ensure we offer every opportunity for women to re-enter the workforce after having children. We love Brooks Brothers Babies and are big advocates of family life and work/life balance.

In addition, as Brooks Brothers hire a large international workforce we are also very understanding with requests for periods of extended leave. Brooks Brothers want our employees to achieve their travelling dreams, smash their personal goals and see their family overseas! Once they return refreshed – their job will be waiting for them! Due to this flexible holiday policy, we have a very low turnover and often have team members who have left for other brands return to us.

The biggest mistake you could make: 

Not asking any questions at the end of an interview.

All too often I am left with a blank expression and someone telling me that we have covered it all and they have nothing to ask. This question time at the end of an interview is your opportunity to reverse roles and interview the interviewer about the position and business. Do it right and you will build extra rapport and credibility with the interviewee. Do it wrong and you can end up losing out on the job, or even worse getting the job and realising early on that this position doesn’t meet your requirements.

The first thing I notice about a resume

General CV aesthetics.

As a CV is all we get to see of you, a poorly structured, un-aesthetically pleasing CV layout is unfortunately a poor reflection on you as a person and as a potential worker. Through my personal experience the people with an orderly, aesthetically-pleasing CV will be the ones who are the organised ones in their work life… and thus more hireable.

My advice would be to take some time to neaten up the CV and make it crisp, flowing and easy to read. If possible, get a friend to proofread and give you feedback on the design. Don’t complicate things, simplicity and ease of read go much further for me than infographic resumes with glitzy designs.

The first thing I notice about a candidate at an interview

Whether a candidate is poised and ready to greet me.

I know it is tempting to get your phone out and distract yourself whilst waiting for the interviewer to arrive, but the best candidates are the ones who have removed all distractions and are fully focused on that first interaction. The first point of contact should be engaging with eye contact, a smile and a strong handshake. No one wants to see the interviewee fumbling and trying to turn their phone off… or worse still having to snap them out of their Instagram/Facebook feed.

Questions a candidate should never ask: 

“How quickly will I get promoted/progress?”

I am finding more and more frequently that people are asking in interviews about how they can get to the top quickly. Whilst we love to see the enthusiasm with regards to promotions, an interviewer also wants to make sure that someone is genuinely committed to the role at hand. Make sure you express an interest in working your way up but a keener interest in the actual job!

Don’t shy away from asking: 

The one piece of information I give to anyone wanting a hot interview tip is “do not be afraid to tell the interviewee you want the job!”. I love wrapping up an interview and having someone tell me that they enjoyed the experience and they would really love the position. That one small sentence can go a long way.

Don’t let this hold you back: 

Experience. If you can demonstrate transferable skills, you are 100% in the running with a chance of getting the job! Just make sure that your transferable skills are articulated in the resume or interview. If you do not have the right experience, make sure you have a detailed cover letter explaining why you feel you can still do the required tasks. I will read past the lack of direct experience if it is articulated correctly. Better still, call me up to explain to me that whilst your experience does not entirely match that on the job description that you feel confident that you would be able to do the job detailing your transferable skills.

What I want you to know: 

That I have studied body language and that I can often tell in an interview if you are saying something that may not be not quite as close to the truth as you say!

What homework I expect you to have done before the interview: 

I have quite high expectations when it comes to this area. I expect the candidate to have completed some pretty extensive research on our brand values, history and product, as well as showing an understanding of our position within the market versus competitors.

I will also email the candidate in advance with the interviewers’ names in the hope that they research the interviewers and impress them with a fact about them. Nothing impresses me more than a candidate knowing my colleagues and my own career history. I personally would never interview with someone without doing a thorough Google search on them!

In addition, and this is more retail-specific, if a candidate makes the effort to go to visit the store location and mystery shops the team, they get additional bonus points from me! It has always baffled me how people can interview for jobs without even checking out the environment prior. I am always impressed if candidates leverage the information gained in the mystery shop to their advantage in an interview.

My advice to an unsuccessful candidate:

Always follow up post rejection! All too often I will reject a candidate with some positive feedback never to hear from them again. I know it can hurt being rejected, and that the last thing you want to do is send pleasantries, however you never know what might happen in the future if you respond positively expressing your keenness for future vacancies. The HR/Recruitment space is small, and we will remember those who have been courteous in defeat! Sometimes, the original candidate can reject the offer and your courteous email may just get you the job!

If this Q&A with Brook Brothers’ Senior HR Advisor has sparked your interest to work for this luxury fashion brand, then check out their current vacancies here

Want more hints from HR? Click here to view all… or skip straight to hints from the “people” people at Dymocks or Coco Republic.

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