Unfair Hiring Practices in Esthetics

Unfair Hiring Practices in Esthetics
This is a letter, albeit long, that was sent to me from one of our readers here regarding hiring practices in the esthetics industry. It's very dear to me because I too am and aesthetician. This is an important wellness issue because if the people we entrust to rejunvenate, heal, and care for us from a holistic standpoint are slighted and mistreated in the industry, that will eventually trickle down to the care we receive. Also, shouldn't we value them more than what's evinced in this letter just because of the work they do with and for us? I would love to hear your opinion in the forum!

August 24. I’m going for my second interview at Ames’s Health Center*. I think the place might be great, just the right establishment for me to place my roots and grow as a new esthetician. Possibly even better than where I currently am. My only reservation is that I’m pretty broke and I really need to find a position that can pay me something while I’m building clientele if in fact they don’t already have clientele. And Ames’s Health Emporium fits into that no clientele category. Lots of potential, like so many other places, but nobody knocking down their door for facials just yet. The industry standard is what is worrying me. Apparently, it’s customary for estheticians to only make commission and so only make money when there are clients but still be expected to be at the spa a set number of hours regardless.

So I really want to talk with Dr. Ames*, the owner, before we get to the other business of me doing a facial for one of their employees/family members. I want to see if this is something I can even do financially. Though I love the natural health emphasis of the place and my background as an herbalist and pharmaceutical/chemical engineer fit right in, I can’t afford to have two jobs where I’m building clientele and sitting most of the day with no work and no pay. That’s my current situation. What sense does it make to duplicate it?

So the office manager greets me and asks if I’m ready to set up for my facial. I say sure but I was hoping to be able to talk to Dr. Ames first. She looks a little perplexed but says ok, if you don’t mind waiting, he should be with you when he’s done with his client.

At this point, I think everything is ok. There are no issues. And it seems perfectly acceptable in my mind that I’d want to speak with him first. Especially since I have valid reasons and the first interview went so well.

An hour later, Dr. Ames steps into the reception area where I’m sitting, shakes my hand, and says how can I help you. So I explain that I was hoping to be able to speak with him before the facial about the position. He looks perplexed and says he’s a little in the dark. I explain again and he says well the office manager is who makes all the decisions. So then I say well the office manager is who told me I’d be speaking with you in my last interview. So he leaves and sends the office manager back out 10 mins later.

She tells me they’ve decided not to go forward with the second interview and she thanks me for my time and apologizes for the wait. This is the point where I become perplexed and pissed off. You mean to tell me because I wanted to speak to the owner first, I’m being penalized and denied an interview? I took two buses and a train over to sit in this establishment’s office for an hour and a half for them to tell me no thanks.

When I try to explain to her my situation, she goes on to tell me “well the other two estheticians we interviewed came in and did the facials with no problem” and when I further try to explain how I had no problem performing the facial and that my situation may be different than theirs, she continues with “I doubt very seriously that it is.” So at this point, I just leave. I’m flustered, angry, and embarrassed with the whole experience.

And through that frustration, I finally hit upon my true issue with that whole ordeal. It’s not so much that Ames’s Health Emporium’s singular behavior towards me is the wrong here, it’s the general industry standard of hiring practices for estheticians that I have an issue with.

It seems that the industry expects an esthetician to struggle in the very beginning of her/his career. Struggle to the point of barely being able to eat. Currently, I’m applying for food stamps and receiving government assistance to pay my rent. Spa managers have no problem at all giving you a scheduled set of hours to be onsite, offering you no compensation for that, and also telling you “oh you don’t have any appointments for today, but maybe there will be some walk-ins.” This just doesn’t seem right.

I struggled to get through school as did countless others of my fellow estheticians, paying tuitions ranging from $5000 to close to $10,000. We’ve invested countless hours to study and many of us have chosen this as a second career and so have gone through school while working regular jobs, raising families, and being responsible members of society.

Does it make sense then that after all that effort, one shouldn’t expect to receive at least some form of fair compensation as an employee? Does it seem fair that spas and salons expect new estheticians to work for free until clientele builds. How is that even practical?

The office manager at Ames’s told me “well the other estheticians had no problem”. Well of course they didn’t because that’s all we know. We’re told that’s what we have to be happy with and I’m of the belief that it’s this way because we don’t ask for it to be different.

In the case of Ames’s Health Emporium, I just wanted the opportunity to talk with Dr. Ames about what arrangements could be worked out. I was under the impression that they valued my resume and saw me as a good potential employee. But because I asked for that opportunity, they quickly changed their minds about me. I can only imagine that they didn’t want to speak to me further when they realized I may be curious about how I would be compensated. In truth, they had no idea – it was solely the fact that I came to the interview with questions of my own.

I believe that something should definitely change about the way new estheticians are brought into a business. Spa managers really need to begin considering the real life circumstances of their employees. Managers are used to getting a steady paycheck. Why would they think that anyone else working wouldn’t mind not getting one. There has to be a happy medium between covering the spa’s bottom line, making a profit, and paying your employees/independent contractors enough to eat.

*names have been changed

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