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Fashion Recruitment by Karen Collier : It all started with my mum’s sewing box as a child’

How Karen Collier Careers began….

My background?

My mum was always making clothes for my sister and I when we were children.  I would often dive into her sewing box to make clothes for dolls. I loved everything about sewing, so when I left school I started working in a local clothing factory.  After two years, I decided that I needed to get myself a qualification in Fashion and carried out a two-year Diploma in Clothing & Distributive Trades. Once I graduated from college with a credit, I wanted to be a Designer so I worked as a Design Assistant for 2 years at an M&S supplier. Realising that I missed seeing all the garments in production, I got myself a job as a Roving Quality Controller for a fast fashion supplier. I worked closely with the head office customers and took them to all the UK factories where their garments were being produced before they were delivered into the high street stores.  I then went onto work with some well-known brands such as Laura Ashley, Tesco, Warehouse, LK Bennett, and Jacques Vert and travelled to many off shore factories in Europe, India and Hong Kong.

How I got into recruiting?

If someone said that one day I would run my own fashion recruitment business, I would never have believed them as I always thought I would carry on working as a Technical Manager until I retired. However, I was made redundant from my Head of Technologist role at Jacques Vert during the credit crunch in 2009.  I had built up some very good relationships at business and supplier level over the years, so I decided to offer my garment technologist services on freelance bases, where I was inundated with work. I did not want to let my clients down so I started contracting the work out to Garment Technologists who had also been made redundant.  Before I knew it I had 15 freelancers working for me and my clients were so happy that they started to offer the freelancers permanent roles within their companies. I quickly knew then that I had a gift when finding the right candidate, so I set up a recruitment business by carrying out as many courses as I could on recruitment and joined a professional trade body for the UK recruitment industry, as I knew that jobs transform lives and it really does give you a warm feeling. Discovering hidden talent is rewarding.

The hardest part of my job is

Giving bad news, but thankfully it does not happen that often, as we don’t send lots of CVs to our clients for each role. We carefully draw up a short list of 3-4 candidates for each role, we find that our clients will generally interview 3 of those candidates and then we get a placement, so we only have to give bad news to a couple of candidates at a time. Sometimes we will only send one strong CV and that person gets placed, so we don’t have to give anyone bad news.

The easiest part of my job is…

What I love about the role I am doing now is that I have built up such a strong pool of people over the years and because of the nature of my job, I get to speak to and meet with them on regular bases. People generally get into recruitment as they love helping people and I get to do that with both my clients and candidates. It feels so good seeing businesses grow, because you have supplied them with the right candidate.

What keeps me motivated?

We spend so much time carefully sourcing our candidates. We have a candidate manager who spends time registering them and discussing their experience and where they see their next career move. I then personally carry out two businesses references for each candidate, I meet them all personally and when they attend an interview through us, I meet them again for a coffee an hour before their interview right near the location. This is not to prepare them for the interview, as we have already carefully selected them for having the right skill set and the right personality fit, but it’s amazing how nervous candidates get at any level, so we feel by meeting them for a coffee first gives them time to relax and calm down, which gives them more confidence, improves their interview performance, and ensures they get their skills across.

My most memorable candidate success story

I remember my first permanent placement.  When I called the candidate to let them know that they had been successful following two interviews with my client, the candidate started to cry over the phone and thanked me as they had been stuck in a dead-end job for eight years. They went on to say that other agencies had not taken them seriously and yet we had placed them in their dream job within two weeks of registering with Karen Collier Careers.  Two years’ later they were promoted to the next level, one year after that they were head hunted by another agency for a role based in New York (once we place a candidate we never approach them again). They have now moved to The Big Apple with their family from Essex and are living the dream.

My best piece of recruitment advice

If you get the perfect mix of people working for your company, you have a far greater chance of success. The first thing we look for when searching for a great candidate is someone with a personality that fits within our clients’ existing company culture. Most skills can be learnt, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. We have worked in the fashion industry for over 30 years and have a very clear understanding of what is required when sourcing the right candidate for our clients’ business. We strive to get it right first time.

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