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All in the (Little Brown) Bag: At the Bloomingdale's Info Session

by Pia Ceres '17

“Now how many of you,” asks Jessica Begley, “have heard of Bloomingdale’s?”

The hands fly up.

Smartly appareled in a black dress and a swipe of red lipstick, Ms. Begley, Senior Manager of Omni Merchant Talent Development at Bloomingdale’s, represents the full-line department store with its finger on the pulse of contemporary fashion. Last night at the WIB's Bloomingdale’s Info Session, Ms. Begley’s visit was greeted by a lecture hall full of Brown students interested in learning more about the brand. Want to work in retail but can’t fold clothes for your life? The industry, Ms. Begley says, hires more employees in finance and engineering than Wall St. and Silicon Valley. The retail industry, it appears, is diverse and vital.

She primarily highlights the roles of Buyers and Planners. A Planner’s domain, she explains, is in finance, analyzing sales data in order to inform future purchases. Using this information, a Buyer operates as an owner of an area of business who buys the products Bloomingdale’s will sell. The Buyers  then “go to market” to see the pieces in the showroom, and the products are selected and coordinated into a collection. The scorecard at the end of the day is sales.

Finally, she closes with helpful interview tips, which are applicable in any industry. “You have to build it as a skill set,” she says.

1.) Tailor your resume to the specific position by referring to the job description.

She suggests reflecting on the functional applications of the role. Don’t, she cautions, downplay your experiences. If, for example, you have retail experience, write about your ground-view insights - why make a deficit of a unique strength?

"It's about head, it's about heart, it's about gut."

2.) Research the specific organization.

This is where Ms. Begley performed a LinkedIn magic trick. Go ahead. Search for “Bloomingdale’s” on LinkedIn. Turn to the left sidebar, scroll down to the tab that reads “School.” Type in Brown University. Then be dazzled by the familiar Brunonian faces who are also employed at Bloomingdale’s that are smiling back at you! This is your network. Ask them your burning questions. Bonus points if you can spot former WIB president Eva Gonzalez.

3.) The interview is all about preparation.

“What are you going to wear” is never a superficial question, especially when it comes to making a first impression. Ms. Begley says conservative business casual is safe, but mind the noisy jewelry and perilous heels

What questions will the companies ask you? Will they include case studies? You may already be a veteran of behavioral questions that ask applicants to talk about leadership positions, working in a team, a time that you made a mistake, etc. (If these questions are new, schedule a mock interview with the CareerLAB, posthaste!) Ms. Begley emphasizes listing not only one, but multiple answers to each question - if interviewers repeat the same question, you’ll want to have diverse stories. She also proposes a formula that never fails: Talk about what you did, why you did it, and what happened as a result.

Lasty, an interview is the prime opportunity to find out what you want to learn. Ms. Begley stresses the cruciality finding out if the company culture fits with you. To illustrate, Ms. Begley repeats a mantra popular at Bloomingdale’s: “It’s about head, it’s about heart, it’s about gut.”

4.) A sincere thank you note goes a long way.

You might want to reward yourself with a well-deserved nap and a jumbo bag of Cheetos, but your interview isn’t over yet! Not only is it in good taste, but a thank you note shows that you care enough about the position to make specific references to conversational topics, ask follow-up questions, and even (this is gutsy) revise your answers to some questions after having reflected a while. Being remembered as the genuinely thoughtful applicant is worth the few extra minutes of your time.

If you want to take these interview tips all the way to Bloomingdale’s, Ms. Begley will be recruiting for full-time and summer internship positions for rising seniors. All applications will be processed through the JIB, followed by on-campus positions for full-time and internship applicants and on-site interviews for full-time applicants. Interested candidates can reach out to Ms. Begley at

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