Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stop waiting

I recently had a client who was disappointed in her boss. We have all been there at one point or another. My client needed her boss to make a decision in order to move forward with a project. Her boss was not making that decision. My client was frustrated and angry. She wasn't sure how to make her boss realize the cost of delaying the project. During our coaching call, my client realized that her boss had other priorities and the decision wasn't going to happen anytime soon. Although this was a disappointing moment, my client soon understood that she could move the project forward in another way. She identified her boss' reason for delaying the project and brainstormed a solution to help both her and her boss. The project quickly moved forward after my client removed the obstacle she identified.

It happens all too frequently that we let something stand in the way of our progress. Maybe the budget was cut for the project you were working on, or you are not getting the support you need from a peer to complete your task for the day, or maybe you are even waiting for your boss to make a decision. What can you do to push closer towards your goals? How can you take back control of a lost cause? What are you waiting for?

Learn more about Career Coach Kate Kibler at

Monday, July 29, 2013

Making the most of a job interview.

As a candidate there is a lot at stake when you have a job interview.  How can you determine whether the role and company are right for you within such a limited time?

A great deal can be done prior to the interview to make the most of the face to face time.  Research the company.   Review their website many offer great information about culture and benefits.  Review with profiles of employees who work at this company on LinkedIn.   When you get the schedule of people you will be meeting with review their backgrounds on LinkedIn.  Google articles on the company to see what is written about them.  Glassdoor can also be a great resource.  For public companies read the latest quarterly reports to see how their business is.  Google articles using the names of the sr. leadership team to see what is written about them and what you can find out about their point of view.   Use your professional network to see what you can find out about a company.  If you know anyone who works there visit with them about the benefits and challenges of working for the company.

If you start your interview fully educated on the company you won’t waste time asking questions that could have been answered with a little research.  You can formulate specific intelligent questions that result from your research.  For example if you read that cool weather negatively impacted sales of summer product and they lost margin in marking it down.  You can ask how they plan to recover that lost margin in second quarter.  Tailor these questions to the people on your interview schedule.  If you read something you want to know more about regarding their benefits that is a question for the person from HR on your schedule.  

This is a selection process for you as well so keep your eyes wide open.   How long have people on LinkedIn stayed with the company.  If you see a lot of turnover of employees this could be a question for the leaders.  While you are there look around you closely.  Are people smiling?  Are office doors open?  Do the people you speak with seem passionate about what they do?  Do they give a consistent message with what you found in your research?

When it comes to answering interviewer questions, whenever possible draw from your actual work experiences versus hypothetical answers.  We tell candidates to review their performance reviews and their business wins closely the past three years and make a list of their successes both financial and interpersonal.  Have this list top of mind and use specific examples to answer questions during the interview.   Have an honest point of view on the brand.  What you think they do well and where you see opportunity for them. 

We would love to hear about your interview experiences good or bad! 

Check out what roles we are sourcing candidates to interview for on our website

Monday, July 22, 2013

Building towards a vision

If you have ever worked for someone who is a visionary, you know how inspiring they can be. Unlike a strategy, a vision is meant to stimulate emotion. I actually picked up and moved my life across the country after a couple of meetings because I was drawn to the vision one person painted. What I didn't know at the time was that it was just a vision. Having a vision essential for building a brand and a business, but it's not enough on it's own. This is a common problem in the fashion industry. There are some very talented visionaries in the field, but very few with the skills and foresight to execute on a vision.

In my opinion a great strategy starts with a vision. Who do you want to be to your customers? What are people saying about your brand? What does it feel like? How are your customers shopping? Why did they choose your brand? How does your brand inspire its customers? These are some of the many intangible things you think of when creating a vision. Once you have a vision established, how can you build towards it? What is your strategy? What are the activities you create in order to construct your strategy? While I stated earlier that a great strategy starts with a great vision, a vision is nothing without a great strategy. A vision will never go anywhere unless you commit to it and build a strategy to support it.

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saying yes

There have been many books and blogs written about saying yes to everything. I even think there was a movie about saying yes. It sounds fun and adventurous until you think about the reality of doing so. It would simply be overwhelming to say yes to everything. I am way too pragmatic to make the sweeping decision of yes, but have realized that saying no shuts a door. I decided to say yes more often than not. I know that doesn't sound exotic or exciting, but it has helped me with my career.  

Whether you are looking for a job or happy in your current role, overwhelmed or content in your workload, I have found saying yes can have positive repercussions. When a recruiter calls about an open position, I have always taken the call even if I am not interested. Why would I waste my time? I found it is not a waste of time to make connections. I will listen to hear about the role and happily refer someone who may be a great fit. When I had a recent period of unemployment, I found those relationships I had built with recruiters over the years invaluable.

How else could saying yes help your career? There was a period of time when I was leading a design team during the day and completing my MBA at night. At work, I was asked to take on additional responsibilities outside the scope of my job. The new duties seemed like a strange request given my role at the time. I was already overworked but decided to say yes. Because I performed well in these additional responsibilities, I was able to make a much desired career shift into merchandising. I didn't sleep much during that time, but the short-term pain lead to long-term gains.

Although saying yes to everything could lead nowhere, I recommend you think before you close the door by saying no. What have you said no to that you regret? Where is there an opportunity to say yes right now in your career? How can you identify what you should stay open to?

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hiring Managers: Don't interview on auto pilot!

Our industry is intense, our schedules are packed and we are always juggling multiple priorities.  We do many things during the work day on auto pilot.  As a hiring manager when I had interviews squeezed into an already tight schedule I admit…I did some on auto pilot.  Racing into my office two minutes before the candidate, glancing at the resume and hoping it wouldn’t take the full 45 minutes because I had to get ready for a business review.

Here are some thoughts on how to get the most out of an interview.  First, realize this is a person who has taken time out of their life to explore an opportunity within your organization.  They are not a product to review and edit or adopt to the line.  If you have 45 minutes of your day scheduled to interview….then have the mind set to find out everything you possibly can about their capabilities in that 45 minutes. 

Clear your mind, desk and silence your email and phone.   This human being deserves your full attention and you will get more out of the dialog.  Some companies have a set list of interview questions for candidates.  This is great and creates consistency, however it is a good idea to review the resume and prepare some questions specific to their experience.   If they show 15% comps over last year in dresses ask them how they accomplished this, who did they collaborate with and what were the obstacles.

If they show career progression ask them about their promotions.   If there are moves between companies ask them to tell you why they moved from one brand to another.

Whatever the question, truly LISTEN to the answer.  Often we know what we want the candidate to say and if they start out differently we tune them out and move on in our own minds.  LISTEN with an open mind and they may end up surprising you.  Make sure you are not so focused on filtering for your brand that you miss someone who could make a significant contribution.  Create an interview environment where they can share their successes.

Treat candidates with warmth and respect.  If you want to attract top talent to your brand you have to have a stellar reputation.  This means treating candidates that you do not hire as well as those that you do.  Candidates talk about their experiences and you want them to say positive things. 

Have you conducted interviews on auto pilot?  Do you make up your mind before the interview is over?  What would candidates who have interviewed with you say about their experience? 

You can always see what opportunities we are interviewing candidates for at

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


There has been so much talk of omni-channel retail, but what does it really mean? The idea behind omni-channel is simple and makes sense. Basically, the idea is a seamless experience for your brand’s customer. For example, if you are an Apple customer and you see an iPad online, you will be able to shop that same product at the same price wherever iPads are sold. You would find the same model and price from Apple branded retail stores to Best Buy to any other retailer who carries Apple.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been frustrated as a customer by price and product differences in channels. Sometimes I see something online, but I’d like to check it out in person before purchasing and I can’t find it in stores. Often it’s worse when I see an item in a store, and decide to purchase later online. For me, this mainly happens when I am traveling.  I was visiting a large city and saw a great pair of boots that first, I did not want to lug around the city, and second, would not fit in my luggage. I made a note and attempted to order online later.  No luck. I was disappointed and that brand lost a sale.

Omni-channel was conceived to prevent that frustration and increase profitability. It’s a simple and easy idea that takes some serious time and financial investment to implement. Most companies think if they use the words omni-channel and rearrange their staffs, they are an omni-channel brand. That is simply not the case. First, you can have one merchant and planning team responsible for multiple channels, but often times there will be a General Manager (GM) or Business head with P&L accountability for each separate channel. One GM determines they need to run a sale and the other is selling well at full price, so they do what is best for their channel. That’s not omni-channel. Since companies have been focused on individual channel growth for so long, systems have been implemented to support that. For example, a retailer who has their own stores and ecommerce site often manages separate inventories for each channel. Combining inventory sounds easy until you face the IT hurdles. Sharing inventory, creating the same assortment or controlling pricing becomes even more difficult for a company that sells wholesale, retail and ecommerce. It’s not even legal to impose restrictions like that on a wholesale partner unless perhaps you work on a consignment model.

So what is the future of omni-channel? I do not know. I think the idea is amazing, but a company will need to commit more than just words in order to make it happen. Companies who have made this leap in a serious way are reaping the rewards; just look at Nordstrom.

What do you think of omni-channel retailing? Where have you seen it succeed? If you have seen failure, what was the cause? Would omni-channel retailing be right for your business? What would you need to do to ensure its success?

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

Monday, July 8, 2013

Don't be a wimp

I used to be a wimp. As a young person, giving feedback on performance or interpersonal issues made me uncomfortable. If someone did something I didn't like, I would let it slide unless it was a big issue. As I matured, I became a little braver. The real turning point for me was a leadership development class I took. My boss at the time strongly believed in leadership development and sent all of her direct reports to this course. I wasn't so excited about a class like this. What could they teach me in a week that would change the way I think, work or lead?

I went to a week-long Leadership Development Program (LDP) at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) in Greensboro North Carolina. There were several modules to the program including giving and receiving feedback, coaching, gaining perspective, and more. The ones I mentioned are the ones that remain top of mind years later. For me, the most transformative session was the one regarding feedback. I learned how to give and receive feedback objectively and without emotion. This skill changed my career and the careers of those around me for the positive. Objective, constructive, honest feedback can transform a team or organization. Obviously people like positive feedback. What has surprised me is that people appreciate negative feedback as well. After seeing the effects for all of these years, I would not classify myself as a feedback-a-holic.

For more information on CCL’s programs, go to:

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Professional References - Choose Wisely

References play a critical part of the candidate evaluation process.   At Apparel Resource we complete references checks for employers when they have a sincere interest in our candidates.  After speaking with a candidate’s reference,  we present a write up.  This happens after an onsite interview but prior to an offer being extended.   The references are usually reviewed by all of the people who will have a vote in whether to extend an offer or not.  Often, it is the last document they review before deciding to extend an offer.  We have seen excellent references have a positive impact on the decision to hire and sometimes even salary.  Unfortunately if references are not strong they can have a negative impact on a candidate.

If you are asked for references you need to think very carefully about who you select.  We typically look for a blend of references:  someone who you have reported to, someone who has reported to you, a peer and a cross functional colleague.  Your references need to be able to speak SPECIFICALLY  about your contributions on the job. 

We have had candidates select references from the work place that they spend time with socially….the reference loves the candidate personally and can’t say enough about what a great person they are but often can’t speak specifically to job performance.  This does not give the hiring manager material to support extending an offer.

Make sure you select a reference who will take the time to really speak to your abilities.  Sometimes we get a reference on the phone who gives one word answers and to draw out any more is like pulling teeth.  For example….one of our questions is:  "Is Amy able to meet deadlines and produce quality work under intense workloads?"   A good reference will not only say YES but will back up the answer with examples.

When you ask someone to be your reference make sure they understand this means they will be getting at least one call that will last 20 to 40 minutes.  It does not reflect well on you as a candidate when your references seem to not have time to visit.   Make sure you select someone who sincerely WANTS to be your advocate.   Select references who will return calls, emails promptly and who ideally would be able to schedule a call to complete the reference within 24 hours of being contacted.

Select colleagues who are well spoken, professional and stay on topic.   You should also select references that you have worked with in the past 5 years.  If it was longer than that, they rarely are able to remember specifics.

Do you have current references that you are comfortable with?   Have you ever been asked to be a reference?  Think about the questions you were asked and who would be able to speak to your performance.  What is the best reference question you have heard?

For information on our current opportunities contact me at