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What It's Like to Work at Sephora

18 Secrets From Sephora Employees, Including When to Buy Top-Selling Products

Sure, you shop there all the time (heck, you might as well live there), but how much do you really know about the beauty megastore you call your home away from home? We interviewed a handful of Sephora staffers (who alo prefer to keep their last names anonymous) to find out what it's like to work "the stage" — as we learned the main floor is called.

From getting paid (gratis) to attend pro makeup lessons concerns to wearing face uniforms (at least three eye shadow shades!) to helping women with a wide range of beauty (er, and sometimes relationship) concerns, read on as they let us in on the best, worst and weirdest parts of the gig.

1. They get gratis

Some women pay for pro beauty lessons. Sephora employees get rewarded to attend them.

"Each month, we have an hour-long learning session with a Sephora educator to learn about new products and brands coming to the store," says Kasey. "Once completed, we get sign-off to take home our gratis bag for that month. There are times when we receive the products we learned about in the session and others where it's just a bunch of random stuff."

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When it comes to the gift of gratis, it especially pays to be a seasonal employee.

"I was originally hired during the holiday season (October through December)," she explains. "We don't have education sessions during that time so we end up getting four gratis bags after our January session. It's like Christmas for us!"

Another staffer Sarah adds: "One of our girls once told me 'I will never have to buy another piece of makeup again because Sephora not only pays for my bills, but feeds my addictions!"

2. Discounts are par for the course

If they don't manage to score what they want in their gratis bags, they can at least do so with a sweet discount.

"We get 20 percent off regular store items and 40 percent off the Sephora collection," says Chioma "Sometimes, we are even able to use our discounts on top of already-discounted items, but only for a limited time."

Discounts can range depending on the brand being purchased and the store in which you work.

Kelsey, who works at Sephora JCPenney, a pop-up Sephora located inside the department store, explains: "Our discount is 20 to 25 percent off almost the entire JCPenney store, including Sephora products, depending on method of payment. SiJCP employees cannot use our discount in freestanding Sephoras, and freestanding employees cannot use their discount at SiJCP."

3. There are exclusive sales

As for Sephora's sales, there are more than meets the consumer eye.

"A couple of months ago, the Urban Decay Naked Smoky Palette was on sale for $27, and all of the Sephora employees got it for only $18!," says Chioma.

"We have a once-a-year promotion where you get an extra 35 percent off plus your already existing discount!," adds Sarah.

4. There's a pecking order

As with any job, there's a ranking that determines what you do and where you can go (literally).

"We have our top manager and then our assistant managers, whom are called CELs," says Chioma. "CELs are usually the ones who make sure everything is running smoothly on the black tile (Sephora grounds), while the manager is taking care of things in the office. Managers also have access to certain areas that other Sephora employees are restricted from, such as the stock room and the trash bin room."

5. It's a stage

At some stores, managers are referred to by their staff as directors and assistant managers are labeled cast members.

"It feels like we are performing in a play and acting for our clients. You do get a new name once you get promoted and there are many, many variations for what you could be called!," says Sarah.

6. They're only as good as their last sale

At Sephora, the only thing next to a promotion is bragging rights.

"Our manager gives us an opportunity to shine when it comes to sales, says Chioma. "If we get a $300+ sale from a client that we personally helped, we are featured in the board room with a copy of that sales receipt next to our picture! It's the manager's way of saying 'you're bringing in heavy sales; keep it up!"

In case you were wondering, they're also reading those surveys.

"We are evaluated as a store on our sales and service, so we individually strive to each reach personal goals in sales and service," notes Kasey. "Earning great survey comments from clients that we work with at the beauty studio and making big skin care sales in my particular store, are the top two ways to get recognized by our team leaders for doing a great job."

7. They work in different worlds

If working at a freestanding store, you better be prepared to know your zone.

"In freestanding stores, employees are separated by world (skin care, hair care, makeup, fragrance, and cashier) but, at SiJCP, we get to do a little of everything!," says Kasey.

8. They don't need makeup experience

Good news! According to the pros we spoke to, you don't need to be a former makeup artist to get the gig.

"My hiring experience was based off of how well I interacted with a group of people, how much energy I brought into the room, and how warm, inviting and helpful I came off," says Chioma. "The hiring manager wasn't focused on how much I knew about makeup or how skilled I was at it — that spoke for itself on my face during the interview process. I was actually surprised that I didn't have to put makeup on a model in order to be hired!"

Of course, retail experience and a love of makeup can't hurt.

"Most of us are completely self-taught and come into the job with basic retail experience," adds Kasey. "Some of the girls have gone to hair school and/or work in a salon and therefore have some experience in the industry, but most of us start out as makeup-lovers who want to grow and expand our artistry and knowledge."

9. They have a beauty uniform

While no prior experience is required (it's learned on the job), employees are expected to put their best faces forward.

"When it comes to makeup, the rules are: you must wear some kind of complexion base (such as foundation or face powder), at least three eye shadow shades, a cheek color and a lip color," Chioma explains. "Hair has to be secured so it's not being messed with or in the way, and nails must be manicured and well groomed, but can't be extremely long so they aren't poking clients when we give them makeovers!"

Unlike some other uniforms, this one still allows for some creativity.

"Funky colors and tattoos are encouraged, as we love to have individuals expressing themselves!," says Sarah.

10. They leave the drama for the makeup

There are employees who tend to form closer bonds, but there aren't cliques per se, at least when it comes to Chioma's store.

"Our staff is fairly small since I work in a small town, so we usually have outings and events that we all do together, like go out for pizza and drinks and have holiday parties," says Chioma. "Our staff members get along with one another. If something rather scandalous happens, we discuss it in a mature way so there's no conflict in the future."

That said, you can kiss any secrets goodbye.

"Since our staff is so small, if one person gets super wasted at a college party, everyone finds out about it! It's usually something we laugh about at work the next day," Chioma explains.

11. Weekends and holidays are insane

If you're looking for some one-on-one time, you'll want to stop by on a weekday.

"Working in a mall on a Friday night is always interesting," says Kasey. "Weekends are when we do the most custom makeup appointments for special events, so sometimes it's tough to get walk-ins sat down at the beauty studio for assistance with other concerns. Holiday is so different from the rest of the year for obvious reasons!"

12. There's a list of hot-ticket products

With popular times come in-demand items.

"If you're coming in looking for the newest Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit ($40) or Too Faced Eye Shadow Palette, there's a very high chance that it's sold out. You might not be lucky trying to find Kat Von D's 'Lolita' Lipstick ($21) or Becca's 'Champagne Pop' Highlighter ($38), either," says Chioma.

And that mask that went viral? Forget about it.

"Everyone wants the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask ($34) right now!" notes Kasey. "It flies off the shelves and we get nonstop phone calls asking if we have it in stock. The Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eye Shadow Palette ($42) and the Kat Von D Alchemist Holographic Palette ($32) have also been super popular and sell out quickly."

13. They stock up regularly

When it comes to nabbing the latest, the early bird gets the worm.

"The days that we get new shipments in are random, but we usually do restocks before the store opens," explains Chioma. "If you're looking to get first dibs on a new or sold-out product, I would recommend coming in during the morning time."

If you can't swing by in the morning, Kasey suggests giving your local store a ring.

"If you're looking for a specific item, our store can put it on hold or add you to a list so we can call you when we restock something," she says.

14. They get first dibs

Of course, this is one of those instances when it helps to be or know a Sephora employee.

"We get first dibs on all of the newest products and having the inside scoop on the upcoming collaborations and collections that are coming to the store in the future," says Chioma. "There's a special release coming in the Fall that I'm not allowed to say anything about yet, but it's going to be phenomenal!"

Sometimes, they luck out and get items before anyone is supposed to.

"We get early access to products if they're delivered early, and we're allowed to put products on hold for ourselves to make sure hot-ticket items don't sell out," adds Kasey, noting there are sometimes restrictions.

15. Their clientele ranges significantly

If you're looking for consistency, you might want to look elsewhere because, as Kasey puts it, no day at Sephora is the same.

"I have put lip gloss on a 4-year-old, helped a 95-year-old woman find the perfect retinol serum, built a first makeup collection for an upcoming drag queen, helped YouTube beauty gurus find the next products for their videos, and everything in between," explains Kasey.

16. They know you better than you think

Even though there's a wide range of clients and interests, there are some requests that come up over and over again.

"Some questions I get asked frequently are 'Can you help me find a foundation that won't make me look cakey?' or the classic 'I know nothing about makeup and I have an event this weekend — can you teach me everything?," says Chioma.

This includes regularly playing matchmaker.

"Our top request is probably to help clients match foundations," notes Kasey. "We also have people who come in and ask for online-only brands (like Kylie Cosmetics, Morphe and Jeffree Star)."

17. They're expected to get personal

Then again, there are always surprises.

"I once helped a woman who'd developed facial hair from a medication she was on color-correct and conceal her 5 o'clock shadow," says Kasey. "She was so embarrassed, but we are a judgment-free zone and I was so happy to help her to move past her insecurities."

Some customers hold nothing back.

"I think the weirdest thing that I've been asked at work is 'what's a good lipstick that won't smudge or rub off when I get intimate with my boyfriend?' In case you're wondering, I recommended Kat Von D's Liquid Lipsticks," Chioma offers.

18. They absolutely love what they do

All in all, they wouldn't have it any other way.

"The best part of the job is making women feel as loved and special as they can. The love you give out is only a fraction of the love you get back from your clients!" says Sarah.

After all, they're making a difference.

"It sounds corny, but we literally change lives! Making clients feel beautiful and getting to know them and seeing them come back is such a rewarding feeling! It makes it all worthwhile," adds Kasey.

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