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Building a brand as your hire: How Talbots has woven its values into the way it hires

The Goal

When you’re a fashion retailer, your job candidates are also some of your very best customers. You want them to keep loving your brand, whether they’re hired or not.

Talbots wanted to weave its brand values into its hiring processes, and create a candidate experience that left every candidate feeling respected and empowered.

We were blown away by their vision – and knew that we could help.

How We Helped

Self-empowerment is at the core of the Talbots brand. The clothing retailer even partners with Dress for Success, a global non-profit organization that helps disadvantaged women thrive in work and life.

The talent acquisition team was keen to make applying for a Talbots job an empowering experience too.

Susan Collins, Senior Manager Talent Acquisition for Talbots, said, “We think it’s important our candidates know we’re excited and we want them to feel ownership in the process and be excited about the next steps.”

The Talbots team used SkillSurvey Reference and our Pre-Hire 360 workflow to put candidates in control of their own reference checking process, and meet the company on an equal footing.

Job candidates contact their references, and ask them to complete a survey selected by the talent acquisition team to probe the behaviors and skills essential to success in the specific position they’re applying for— whether it’s a buyer, store manager or finance professional.

The results of handing the reins to candidates have been great. Candidates typically respond to the request for reference information in less than 24 hours, and the Talbots talent acquisition team receives a full report in less than two business days. (It probably helps that references can reply from a mobile device, whenever they have a spare moment).

Finding people who’ll live the brand
Even more so than in most industries, the people a fashion retailer hires must embody the brand on a daily basis. The Talbots team is constantly looking for candidates whose style, confidence, and dedication will help set its brand apart.

The insight that a Pre-Hire 360 report offers into candidate behaviors and values also helps the talent acquisition team select the candidates who’ll best represent the company’s philosophy and values, and ultimately help drive growth.

And since one in every five references opt in to hearing more about future Talbots job opportunities, the organization is gradually building a sourcing database full of potential staff members.

Empowering teams
SkillSurvey Reference is also helping build bridges within Talbots itself.

In two recent cases, hiring managers extended offers to candidates whom the Talent Acquisition Team—based on reference feedback—felt weren’t right for the organization. Both candidates were let go fairly early in their tenure.

Such proof points are helping build the position of the Talent Acquisition Team as a strategic partner for hiring managers, and create strong a relationship of mutual respect and trust.

“Our reference checking process puts you in the driver’s seat. The quicker you influence your references to put their information in the system, the quicker we can make a decision on our final candidates.”

Susan Collins

Senior Manager Talent Acquisition, Talbots

The Results


Cut response times to less than one day
with full reference feedback reports
ready in less than 2 business days


1 in every 5 references joins
a growing pool of possible
future team members


85% of references responding and over
half of which are former managers

About Talbots

Talbots is a leading specialty retailer and direct marketer of classic women’s clothing, shoes and accessories, with over 500 stores in the US and Canada, and an e-commerce site reaching customers across the world.

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