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.
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.
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!
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.
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!