MAC vs. Sephora: Where Should You Work? - QC Makeup Academy

As a makeup artist, or someone who’s generally interested in the craft, there are many career options open to you. Although freelance is a popular option because of the freedom it allows, many artists choose to take the retail route.

Among the many options that exist in the malls closest to me, I managed to be taken on at both MAC Cosmetics and Sephora at different times. I’ve worked in retail for the majority of my working life, so being able to work at places that also included what I’d trained for at school was extremely appealing to me. Let me take you on a brief journey through both of those short experiences.

When deciding where to apply straight out of makeup school, I set the bar high for myself and went to a MAC Cosmetics job fair. I had been told at school that this was one of the most prestigious brands to work for, how there was a whole “MAC Girl” culture and how wonderful it was to work for one brand and know absolutely everything there was to know about one particular product line.

Looking at job postings on a career board

After I was hired on as “on-call” for MAC, I was unfortunately never called for a shift, but I remained on their employment list. After years of waiting I decided to apply to Sephora during the past holiday season as a seasonal employee—and it was wonderful!

Even though I didn’t have a real shift during my time at MAC, I definitely picked up on some differences between the two companies. Let’s start at the beginning, when I was being interviewed for both positions.

The Interview Process

At MAC, there were a few trend-heavy and application questions pertaining to the way I presented myself, as well as practical workplace inquiries about my values. This interview was done in a room with several other one-on-one interviews. Each interview was conducted by a current manager at MAC. Makeup education was not required, but my training was brought up in my interview.

Alternatively, at Sephora, I was called and asked to attend a group interview. It was very relaxed and open and had more “getting to know you” questions that made me feel like the company wanted to know my personality and style.

At the second round of interviews for MAC I had to do a physical makeup test to prove my skills as a makeup artist. This is when I brought in my own model and was watched and critiqued, along with other interview candidates, while we applied looks to our model.

Makeup artist working with palette and brushes

For my second interview at Sephora, I had a one-on-one interview with the acting managers of the store. During this interview, I had to do a selling scenario where I acted out how to help a client within the store. It was a very general interview that I think may have been more relaxed than an interview for a permanent position for the store. At the end of the interview, they offered me a position as a seasonal hire, one of around 30-40.

Sephora hired me on that second interview, but MAC had a third and final interview with the manager of the store I would be working at. It was a very intense interview about workplace habits and general selling questions. They also talked about the trends of the current time and how my makeup could be adjusted to fit them. I was called about 2 weeks later and offered an on-call position!

The Clients

Although I didn’t get a full work experience at MAC, I got a feel for the clientele at each store. MAC has a pretty loyal client base that loves the products and knows exactly what they’re buying. Sephora also has a very dedicated set of clients that love the rewards program and the way Sephora changes its product lines every once in a while. Each store’s customers cover a very diverse group of different ages and can’t really be narrowed down to one specific customer “profile”. Both stores offer full or mini makeovers that are done by the talented artists who work there, as well as providing advice on how to apply the product once you leave.

One of the major differences I notice between the stores is the store size and sheer number of clients versus the number of employees working. MAC stores are much smaller than Sephora, which are understandably larger as they contain 10x as many brands. Even though there are many employees at MAC who are eager to help, many times it’s busy and the employees are occupied with helping clients in the chair receiving a makeup application.

In my experience at Sephora, the emphasis is placed very heavily upon greeting clients and making sure they are helped in whatever way they need. Although there is no commission at either store, there are sales goals for both. MAC Cosmetics has personal sales/store goals, whereas Sephora works on an entire store goal basis. It seems like Sephora had a very team-oriented way of achieving success for the brand.

applying makeup on client

The Management

The interview process at MAC gave me a feel for how the brand manages their stores. My experience with Sephora’s management was more hands-on—I absolutely loved working for Sephora and would have continued working there had I not been seasonal! I think both brands are very focused on making sure that their clients are happy and respected. If given the chance, I would definitely work at either MAC or Sephora again. One thing I loved about Sephora in particular was the freedom we got with our own makeup. Each store had rules for the makeup we had to wear, but Sephora had so many more options for creating a face, so I definitely preferred the creative licence allowed to me with so many more products at my disposal.

If you’re thinking of applying for either store, go for it! I didn’t think I would have the confidence to get through all of the interviews, but I did and it resulted in some amazing work experience in the retail work industry! You never know what a workplace is like until you give it your all and work up the courage to apply. Good luck!

Note: The experiences described in this article reflect on individual’s experience in applying for and working at MAC cosmetics and Sephora in August 2014 and November 2015 respectively. QC is not affiliated with MAC or Sephora and thus we cannot guarantee that your experiences will be similar to the ones described above. For more information on jobs with MAC cosmetics or Sephora, please contact them directly!

Dreaming of a career with a makeup company like MAC Cosmetics or Sephora? QC’s master makeup artistry course can help get you there!

Author Jamie Smith

More posts by Jamie Smith

Join the discussion 86 Comments

  • Maria Novak says:

    I used to live in Connecticut which is where I received my makeup training. I was lucky enough to quickly receive an interview with MAC and was hired on the spot for “Special Events Artist. I loved it! I travelled to Rhode Island, Boston and various towns in Connecticut. I also was lucky to get hired with Christian Dior for the same. I was also hired as an instructor at a prominent modelling agency in Hartford. Unfortunately, I had to move back to Toronto and was not so lucky! I’m still, after many years, on the MAC waiting list! My point, if you are having difficulty finding a makeup job in a big city, go small!

  • Amanda says:

    I worked at MAC yorkdale mall in Torono and they treat employees horrible really high expectations it’s a busy store your highly out numbered by customers that need not only to grab things so they can get what they need and go but ppl hold you up doing makeup applications on the floor which I loved doing it was my favorite part but your expected to do that plus be a cashier too all well having good sales even though you don’t make commission. If you dont make good sales you will likely get cut hours or cut completely there’s plenty who submit resumes and are.competing for the job. I love the brand of makeup but horrible company to work for I worked permanent full time a hard level to reach just means guaranteed employment got promoted to special events Co ordinator worked there for 2 yrs been doing makeup 15 yrs… best makeup worst job sadly … super degrading wish they treated they’re employees better

  • corey deslage says:

    super informative loved the interview and client sections. thanks so much qc makeup for always posting these informative blogs. they are amazing.

  • Taylor Elise says:

    Great post. (:

  • aja cooke says:

    i love sephora. THe amount of time and money i spend in there is nutty. I love mac products as well but i find the overall experience in sephora to be much nice and much more relaxed. i never feel ignored or pushed to buy something as i do at MAC.

  • Interesting read, though where I live I wouldn’t be eligible to work for either MAC or Sephora as there just isn’t any here in New Zealand. Besides I prefer to be cruelty free and both these roles would be against my values there.

  • Kelly Petoello says:

    Love both sephora and mac but i would probably like working in sephora better just because of the variety of everything in the store overall! i would want to learn about all aspects of makeup and skin care to have better knowledge of different companies and products

  • Chloe says:

    I adore Sephora and I worked at a SiJCP (Sephora Inside JCPenney) for two years. It was a great experience and I learned about amazing brands!

  • Mellissa says:

    I love this very much . I love everything that has to do with make up

  • Donna Michelle says:

    we don’t have stores like Sephora here in the uk , but ive been looking around between a few brands to work for so its good to see a comparison

  • Emma Brown says:

    Thanks QC for showing us all of the makeup world ♥

  • ashlee lavington says:

    I was happy to read this mac vs sephora. Ive been think about applying to sephora.! It helps that they covered clients interviews and Mangerment. Cover Mac very well but sephora is my favorite store in the malls.

  • Veronica Lewis says:

    I am planning on applying at both Sephora and MAC this coming fall to further my experience in working at makeup counters. This article was very helpful !

  • Ashleigh says:

    I’ve always wanted to work in a cosmetics store, The MAC stores always looked so chic to me but after reading this I think I’d much rather work at Sephora, my personal experience shopping at Sephora has always been very pleasant and the staff are so helpful, however, when shopping at MAC I have found them alway very busy and not enough staff on to assist in a timely manner, Although I can’t say that has stopped me shopping there.

  • Kirsten says:

    I feel like when I go to MAC they don’t help as much with people who aren’t as experienced and they have a snooty attitude most times . Then ive gone to Sephora and they’re very helpful with beginners when i first started out . They didn’t take advantage of me .

  • Taylor Barnes says:

    I worked for a Sephora inside JCPenney and while I loved my job, I wasn’t the biggest fan of management on both the Sephora side or JCP side.

    I’m one of the original employees from the store build. Only the manager is left, and over 20 employees have quit since in the last year, some only lasting a week.

    But honestly: best job ever. 🙂

  • Meredith says:

    I’m not sure I’m trendy enough to work at MAC, but I would probably fit in well at Sephora.

  • Pamela says:

    This is a new world for me as I have not been in either store before! I enjoyed reading this informative article thankyou 🙂

  • Alicia Beckwith says:

    This article defiantly gave a lot of information on both companies, and much of it I do agree on. MAC is what I believe held to a much higher standard than Sephora. They focus on only their products and the product knowledge, they are also known on a higher scale in the makeup world. Whereas Sephora is known to sell many different brands and know a lot about many different types and brands of makeup. Both companies use the basic knowledge of makeup application to execute their jobs.

  • Rachel Arthur says:

    I’ve always wondered this, so this blog post definitely answered all of my questions! Unfortunately, I live in a small town, so they only “makeup stores” around here would be the local Peebles at the beauty counter. Has anyone worked in that position? And if so, what were the pros and cons (if any)?

  • kristen solis says:

    I’m a frequent shopper at both MAC and Sephora. I love the feeling I get when walking into a Sephora, the environment is so friendly. I’ve never had an awful experience at MAC, I just prefer to order online with them. I think I’d enjoy more working at a Sephora.

  • Kimberly O'Loughlin says:

    I would love to work at MAC or Sephora! MAC is probably the only option for me though as there isn’t a Sephora in my state.

  • Karen McDonald says:

    I live overseas and I found that for me works better Sephora but I will love to work with Mac 🙂

  • Karen McDonald says:

    I will like to work in Sephora or Mac 🙂

  • maria otero says:

    I deff love going to Sephora! They have a more versatile product selection (of course) so it caters to my special needs, where MAC just sells their products. Both franchises carry great products. But at least Sephora has a point system.

  • emily says:

    interesting 🙂

  • Id absolutely love the opportunity to work at either store! Unfortunately where I live doesn’t have either business which has stopped me from applying.

  • Stephany Alonso says:

    Super informative. I feel like sephora would be a good place to apply to when I get my certificate.

  • Samantha-Ann Comeau says:

    definitely informative.

  • Kathryn Bilbrey says:

    This is an awesome article, I really loved that it doesn’t seemed biased in anyway.
    This also helped me to decide which place to apply to later in the future when I advance with my makeup skills through QC.

  • Bran says:

    I would never work at MAC ! They Test On Animals ! Sephora is amazing and my go to place for everything !!!

  • Mereana Hill says:

    Iv’e been asking myself this same question for so long and glad yous have answered all that i needed to know! Although the opportunity to work with both successful companies would be amazing! I’d say, Sephora has many Makeup Artist that become successful with their own cosmetic brands etc.. and i’m very hopeful that someday after i graduate i can also launch my own cosmetic brand. I’m so excited to read more articles!!! Thanks QC for been the most magical help ever.

  • melissa baker says:

    great article QC thanks so much for sharing stuff like this with us.

  • Taylor Novlan says:

    Great post!

  • Beth says:

    Personally I would Choose Sephora. As they stock Cruelty free products. MAC is not cruelty free and that is something that I am very passionate about.

  • Ashli says:

    Intersting Read! very helpful!

  • Nicole says:

    Good read, considering i rarely go to either store, very insightful

  • Laura Manka says:

    I would choose Mac. I use a lot of the products and I like the quality.

  • Leah Bright says:

    Great Article – not sure which I would choose. Thanks for sharing!

  • Chelsea Seagle says:

    This was very helpful to me. Thank you!

  • Mary Carr says:

    I have a friend who is a self-taught makeup artist. She’s wonderful, and she has worked at Sephora and recently just went through the same MAC interview as mentioned. She too received the “on call” position. Reading this, I wonder if she will ever be called from MAC.

    I think Sephora would be better for me, I actually like a lot of their products better.

  • Mariah Kelley says:

    Trying to get employed at either place currently!

  • Brittney Vernacchio says:

    This was super helpful! In my option, makeup is my PASSION, I enjoy freelancing and going about things my way, I’m in this business for the artistry not the retail! Just my opinion though!

  • Kyira Gardiner says:

    interesting, very helpful

  • RenaLyn Gascon says:

    This article really opened my eyes! I can see why many would want to work at either of the companies , MAC and Sephora are both so amazing. Although, I pray some of you might agree, they both have two different environments. In other words I strongly believe the workers there really do make the experience when shopping for makeup products. If I were to choose I personally would want to work at Sephora based on her experiences.

  • Paige says:

    such an informative helpful article

  • Jessica says:

    Hopefully one day I’ll be good enough to work for either of these companies, I love Mac especially

  • Dede Richardson says:

    I prefer to be a freelancer. There are a lot of great opportunities since I live in high population metropolis and I’m pursuing this career with the specific goal of being self-employed. MAC has more street cred but I suspect they use that to get away with treating their employees like… well, you know! So in that case it’s a draw.

  • Andrea Schaffer says:

    Thanks QC academy for really showing me how much I love makeup.

  • Ingrid Flores says:

    Sephora is in my opinion the better place to work at! From all of my experiences at Sephora, it’s the best place to be if you love makeup!

  • Dayna says:

    I applied for many jobs at make-up counters in the UK and found it very difficult to get any interest unless you had any make-up experience under your belt. I had specific trouble with MAC who said i ‘didn’t have the right look they were after’

  • Alexis Epps says:

    I would choose Sephora over MAC. I like Sephora more because you get to work with diverse clients and many makeup brands. I like MAC Products but there is more to the world than just MAC.

  • Sharikia Simien says:

    I love MAC makeup and I hardly ever go to Sephora so I’m going with MAC. I haven’t yet tried to work at a makeup store but planning too in the near future. This was a great read!

  • Misstella09 says:

    Very Interesting post, but for me I wouldn’t either work at MAC or Sephora. Maybe it’s great if you want to acquire some experience and skills at painting faces. But they still remain stores and they want to sell. I cannot judge, I never worked there but I got through the first group interview for Sephora. And the first and most important thing they are looking for ; customer service, and not really your skills, well.. it’s comes after..

  • Diandra Navara says:

    Great Article

  • Gloria says:

    love this article! it’s really informative 🙂

  • Kiersten Penry says:

    Honestly, I’ve never worked at either but just going there as a customer you can really tell how each store is taught differently! I love them both, but Sephora really does have a more relaxed atmosphere than MAC. If I had to choose which one I’d like to work at, it would be Sephora, mainly because there are so many cosmetic options!

  • Nancy Roman says:

    Both places seem difficult to get into. The spots seem to fill up fairly quickly. A makeup artist should have great customer service. I feel MAC does this very well. Sephora does as well, however, some of their JCPenny stores lack the customer service.

    Great tips from this article.

  • Tish Dolby says:

    As a user of both products, based off of the story above I believe I would be able to work at either location but for me the Sephora location would fit my personality better, I like the team effort in reaching the goals as well as the fact that there is more product choices.

  • Rachiel says:

    Great post! Unfortunately, I live in a small town in Texas so I will be unable to apply to either of those – but off to Bealls I go! I know my QC makeup + fashion styling course is going to get me in the door and help me to serve clients, not many people here have that going for them.

  • Candace says:

    Love this ive always wondered how to get into either or or how the interview process works 🙂

  • Ethan says:

    head-to-head comparison between sephora and mac:

  • Ebonee Rhymes says:

    This is a really helpful post; especially for those of us who are looking in to applying at these jobs. I have been looking at applying for Sephora recently and I shy away from MAC just because I have found it intimidating. But after reading this blog I am feeling confident in applying for both.

  • Ebonee Rhymes says:

    I think this blog was very informative. Especially those of us who are thinking about applying for these companies. I recently have been thinking about applying for Sephora; but have shied away from MAC just because Ive felt intimated. But after reading this blog, I am going to apply for both.

  • Stephanie Langlois says:

    I would love to work for Sephora, I think it would a fast paced and fun environment to work in but who know’s, I guess you need to experience both before you can say.

  • I’ve worked at sephora and I did enjoyed it but I guess it is not for me as it focus more on sales than putting makeup on people 🙂

  • Monica Mailman says:

    Awesome article. The information is great! Quite helpful in helping decide which career path to follow after completion of the course 🙂

  • C Brookes says:

    I cannot wait to get to the point where I am working as a makeup artist…dream job. Love Mac. thanks 🙂

  • Jane says:

    I personally would not work at Mac as they are not cruelty free. I will only ever use cruelty free cosmetics, so could not work for them.

  • Courtney says:

    Loved this!

  • nia taylor says:

    I enjoyed this post because it gave me a great perspective for both brands. I have always wanted to be a Mac Girl because it’s like a sorority but I have heard many horror stories. That is why I choose to work for myself at I control my time and my money. I joined QC Makeup school to increase my skills, and I look forward to all it has to offer.

  • Emma Flint says:

    LOVE all the information given here, super interested in knowing a business before I become a part of it!

  • Moni says:

    I love MAC and Sephora. I would go towards Sephora. The reason why I would pick Sephora is because there is a huge and wide selection of cosmetics, skin care, and just plain diversity. In order for me to satisfy my clientele I need different and many options versus feeling this is all we have and not satisfying my clients needs, wants, and preference. There are so many people out there they may want vegan friendly, gluten free products, all natural products, paraben free, the list could go on. I see that Sephora is able to offer that diverse city for this diverse world. There are so many new products that you could learn, play with, and educate yourself continuously where you are able to fit your clients preferences. I also feel Sephora gives a very warm and welcome mean atmosphere to anyone. They are willing to help those that have no clue about make up, that want to learn about makeup, and even skin care products in order to fit that client’s satisfaction. Sephora is definitely the place I would want to work under because I love to help others, teach, and making sure they leave happy, delighted, satisfied and educated.

  • Misty says:

    Very informative! I think I would prefer a more relaxed environment. I feel more comfortable shopping at Sephora vs MAC.

  • Brit says:

    This article gives a good look at both companies, to show what each company looks for, and how they are ran… every company has it’s differences but I still say working for yourself gives your dreams a bigger way, make your own dream a reality…….!

  • Njeri says:

    Great article! I’m going to apply to both MAC and Sephora once Im certified. I prefer MAC though

  • Chelsea says:

    I personally would love to work for MAC, I use a lot of MAC products and find them amazing !!, Sephora I have never personally used, so I am opent o trying new things, However Mac I have a lot of their products and the finish they have is unreal !!

  • Tyler says:

    This article is a really interesting comparison of retail makeup artistry experiences. Reading this has really made me consider my options about retail makeup artistry.

  • Sydnie says:

    This is actually really helpful. I was always more for Sephora though.

  • Dominique Welch says:

    I loved it!! It definitely gave some really great insight on the interview process for both MAC and Sephora. I personally feel like Sephora has a better atmosphere but that’s just from my personal experiences.

  • Sophia Amis says:

    Thank you for posting this, while I am not currently interested in applying at either store, it offered some great insight into what to expect when applying for a cosmetic store! Great blog post!

  • Tara Wilkinson says:

    Great article, very interesting, thank you for sharing

  • Thank you for this article. I actually am having this exact debate right now of which place to work and I love that mac has a great trustworthy brand of products but I also love the fact that sephora has everything in terms of the diverse amount of brands available to choose from.

  • Charlie says:

    Great article for future reference should I ever decide to go the retail route. Thank you!

  • Leslie Mendez says:

    I recently applied at Sephora, waiting forward to get a response, I truly love shopping at Sephora, more than I do at Sephora.

  • samantha says:

    I’ve interviewed at Sephora once. It was pretty stressful on who my competition was. I wish I would have gotten the job though but now I work at Ulta and it’s amazing.

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