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Placement Stories: Yoonsoo Lee on what it takes to secure a placement with the H&M Group

Yoonsoo Lee standing in front of a building.
  • Written byC. Wilkinson-Ayre
  • Published date 09 November 2022
Yoonsoo Lee standing in front of a building.

What steps can you take to better your chances of success when applying for placements? Yoonsoo Lee, a third year BA (Hons) Fashion Buying and Merchandising student who is on placement at the H&M Group tells us about his experience. Yoonsoo, originally from South Korea, explains how he adapted to the job application and interview process in the UK, to show more creative expression in his CV and cover letter.

Whilst preparing these key documents for placement applications, Yoonsoo was able to use his creative flair to showcase his experience in the retail sector and a range of digital skills. However, applying for placements isn't easy. Yoonsoo said its important for students looking for placements to be reflective about the roles and companies they are applying to.

When chatting with classmates, they always want internships with luxury brands, but some often don’t have sufficient work experience. My advice to them would be to reassess what brands they apply to and be flexible to approaching different companies.

Although the appeal of working in luxury brands by younger generations is still high in South Korea and the UK, Yoonsoo stresses the importance of being open minded to small business and high street brands. Adapting mindsets, being flexible and utilising your creative skillset are all great starting points when researching placements and applying.

Yoonsoo said he “started looking for placements in November, other students looked in March. You need to look early!”.

In preparing for his placement, Yoonsoo did a lot of research in advance ahead of any prompts and deadlines set by London College of Fashion. So the advice is that you keep an eye out for opportunities and don’t underestimate the power of preparation.

Yoonsoo Lee Working in MaxMara offices.

Yoonsoo has gathered an impressive body of work experience doing both internships and paid part time work alongside his studies for brands like MaxMara, COS and Selfridges. Specialising in data analysis, supply chain and production, buying and e-commerce these positions have provided him with a loaded toolkit demanded for a career in fashion buying and merchandising.  For the interview with the H&M Group, Yoonsoo mentioned that his wealth of experience made him stand out as a candidate and that having worked on the shop floor in customer service and in the stockroom at COS, who are part of the H&M Group demonstrated his understanding of their target customers and wider brand ethos.

“There were two elements to the interview for the placement. The first part was a 45-minute formal interview with competency-based questions. The second part was more creative, testing my knowledge of the retail sector with questions on starting my own brand, what product I would sell, my price range etc. I wasn’t nervous as I used past experiences from working in the retail sector to answer the questions, and prepared sufficiently beforehand. I thought the application and interview process was going to be really complicated but it wasn’t and I’m delighted to have been successful.”

Just two months into his placement, Yoonsoo is now working as a Buying and Product Development Intern in the womenswear premium department at H&M’s Head Office, with a current focus on 'sample management and supporting senior product developers'. For the new season, his projects will be concentrating on learning a software programme for product development. Additional responsibilities during his placement with H&M will be supporting the communications between multiple departments, overseas suppliers, merchandisers, and designers - so developing transferable skills is vital.

For students aspiring to a career in fashion buying, Yoonsoo mentions the importance of understanding the retail market and economy, confidence in using Microsoft Excel, analysing data and sales and strong, clear communication skills. Lastly, Yoonsoo shares some top tips for international students on the placement search:

“Check your CV and Cover Letters with the UAL Academic Support Team and access the English Language Development resources, use them as much as you can! Trying to overcome any language barriers is important, I recommend getting a part-time job alongside your studies. You’ll practice English daily with customers and colleagues and meet people from diverse backgrounds. It definitely helped me be successful in my hunt for a placement.”