van geuns

recruiter specializing in fashion & luxury
February 2014
Isrid van Geuns - Recruitment - Specializing in fashion and luxury
interview by Yildiz van den Elzen

'I want to take the worry out of the search'

There is a continuous rise in luxury stores in the Netherlands and the demand for talented retail professionals is climbing. Entrepreneur Isrid van Geuns is rising to the occasion with IS Boutiques, her new recruitment agency, specialising in the recruitment of staff in the luxury segment. “I want to take the worry out of the search”, says van Geuns.

There are numerous employment agencies in the Netherlands. Why did you decide to start Is Boutiques?
“It is true there are various recruitment agencies in the Netherlands, however, none of them focus specifically on the luxury segment. In order to find a suitable candidate, a luxury store often needs to run an ad or needs to search the internet. Sometimes they may contract a Paris based head-hunter, who is totally unaware of the talent available in the Netherlands. They just don’t have the experience. My office is located around the corner from the P.C. Hooftstraat, we know what’s going on! I have a great amount of passion for the business and that is the value added factor in this profession. Recruiting candidates has the image of making fast deals. I call it pushing resumes. Luckily it can be done differently. I enjoy approaching people discreetly, to interview people and to build a team.”

'As a partner, I take over the entire process, relieving the retailers from any concern to find suitable staff themselves'

Why use recruiters to find staff, how come the retail stores don’t do this themselves?
“Anyone can basically do it themselves, but one needs to focus on their own specific talent. As a partner, I take over the entire process, relieving the retailers from any concern to find suitable staff themselves. Once a luxury store posts a job opening online, it might receive hundreds of resumes in return. A company may find it difficult to know how to proceed and if they don’t respond to all resumes, they may be subject to a bad reputation. This can put a lot of pressure on a company. It is for that reason I do all the leg work and pre select the candidates. The candidates are being interviewed and I get to the bottom of it, that is my job. In the end I introduce a select amount of people to the company from which it can choose. It saves the company a lot of time. I am happy to take on that burden and take a bit of worry away.”
What is the difference between staff from the luxury segment as supposed to staff from the middle to lower segment?
“At some stores you expect to serve yourself, you are pleasantly surprised if someone is there to hand the clothes to as you are leaving the fitting room. Customers shopping in the higher segment expect a different kind of service. They expect more from the staff since they spend a significant amount of money. They are interested in knowing more about the product they buy. As an employee at Hermès, you need to know where the leather comes from, how and where the product is made. At that level, you, as an employee, need to know these specifics in order to make a connection with your customer. In fact, you need to be one with the brand.”

'Knowledge you can learn, having a personality is a given.'

What are you specifically looking for to recruit staff? Do candidates have to comply with certain requirements?
“At what level someone is currently working, career background of the candidate, specific brands he or she has worked for. Aside from that I am looking for a solid base, but in the luxury segment it is very much a certain personality that counts. It is the very reason I frequently interview. I ask questions like: What can you bring to the company? What is your motivation, what makes you service oriented? As for motivation it is important a candidate enjoys working, communicating and helping people. Suitable candidates may also have a hotel or restaurant background. Knowledge you can learn, having a personality is a given.”

Why do you focus specifically on the luxury segment?
“It is a beautiful industry that revolves around products that are particular and unique. A lot of craftsmanship goes into it. It is far less here today, gone tomorrow, there is a certain depth to it that appeals to me. It is in the higher segment I get to enjoy that, it’s rarely found in the lower segments.”

'They are looking to find a trustworthy partner in the business'

In 2009 you founded Is Works, also a recruitment agency. Is Boutiques being a division of that. What is the difference between the two?
“I started Is Works as a recruiter and head-hunter for main offices in the fashion industry and focus my time finding buyers or design managers. Aside from recruiting I also take on the roll of consultant and chairman for various companies. At Is Boutiques I focus specifically on the luxury and high fashion retail, recruiting candidates for postings in or around the actual stores. In doing so I also recruit candidates for store manager or district manager positions. Aside from that I run various workshops. Is Boutiques connects with a lot of foreign partners since there is an increase in store openings by global companies. Many of these companies don’t have an office here in the Netherlands but do want to start up a retail store here. It is for that reason they are looking to find a trustworthy partner in the business.”
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