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Victoria Foley

Topshop resourcing manager Victoria Foley tells Rachel Howat how she sources staff for the retailer’s team.

What are your busiest times in terms of people looking for new jobs?
January is definitely one of the busiest times. We really gear up for it, doing lots of advertising. The peak time is towards the end of January, when people have settled down enough after the holidays to start looking for a new job. It’s also when the Sales are over and we take stock while there is a lull – as much as there is ever a lull in retail.

Which job categories are the most competitive?
We get a lot of general interest enquiries, especially in buying, merchandising and public relations, which are seen as the sexier areas. We get 1,200 CVs a month for our retail management roles. Within Topshop we take on 40 graduate trainees a year in retail. The aim is to get them into a management role within a year. In areas such as buying and marketing we have a more vacancy-driven process.

What advice would you give to people hoping to work at Topshop?
It is key to understand the role. We get the most queries about buying, and it’s important that people realise buying isn’t constant travelling to exotic locations. That only happens at the top end of buying, and although they travel they also work incredibly hard. People who work here live and breathe the brand.

Where do you look when recruiting at Topshop?
For specialist areas such as design we’re more likely to use recruitment agencies. Retail is the area in which we take the most direct action, sourcing candidates through a range of media, from press ads to websites.

Are there any job roles which are hard to fill?
There is quite a small pool of good merchandisers out there. It can also be hard to find people at the more senior end of retail – they need to be able to manage the fast pace.

We attract a lot of job seekers, but we can’t be complacent. We look at people from a variety of backgrounds. We would never say you must have a fashion degree – you might have done something more academic at university. We want people to show us their skills, and to see if they have an eye for fashion.

How did you get to where you are today?
My degree was in classical studies and ancient languages at King’s College London. I did it because I enjoyed the subject, and had no idea what I wanted to do.

After university I temped, including at a recruitment agency. I worked my way up from front desk to assistant, and after working for a recruitment consultant in the City I moved in-house to Arcadia five years ago. I have spent the past two-and-a-half years with Topshop as resourcing manager. It is really rewarding seeing people grow and develop. I guess I’m a bit of a geek – I love what I do.

Which area sees the highest rate of staff turnover?
The sales staff on the shop floor. This is to be expected, as these jobs are frequently taken by students or young people saving up to go travelling.

What potential is there to progress for someone starting in a retail role?
In the UK there is not a positive perception of working on the shop floor, and we want to show how rewarding the role can be. If it wasn’t for the 6,000 sales staff on the shop floor, none of us would be here. We are encouraging stores to recruit people who want careers in retail. There is definitely the potential to advance.

Topshop is opening its first store in the US. Will you be involved in the recruitment process?
We will be at some point. It’s just starting to pull together now.

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