Deceptive Recruiting Tactics in Mary Kay

This is a short article designed to illustrate the deceptive recruiting techniques used by members of the independent sales force of Mary Kay. How many of these buzz words and catch phrases did you hear when you were being recruited?

We will go through a “typical” recruiting interview and point out the things that are either misleading or outright lies, using documents that are used by MK consultants.

Step 1: The Set-up

How do women get sucked into listening to the Mary Kay opportunity?

Common Techniques:

  1. The Practice Interview
  2. The Challenge from a Director/Recruiter
  3. The Pitch after a facial, skin care class, business debut etc.
  4. The Bribe- offering a gift or service.
  5. The Warm Chatter

Words to watch for:

  1. “As part of my training I need to hold xxxx amount of practice interviews with my director”
  2. “Whether you think you are interested in MK or not”
  3. “My director issued me a challenge, would you please help me?”
  4. “Has anyone ever approached you about teaching skin care?”
  5. “You are such a sharp woman, I would love to share what I do with you, I think you’d be great.”

The Deceptions

  1. The practice interview is not for training purposes. It is designed to pitch the marketing plan to family and friends of new consultants hoping they will sign up. The interviewing process can be taught using the director or recruiters prospects.
  2. When women express an interest in moving up the MK career path they are told how many recruits are needed for the next level. The director challenge is a gimmick designed to push consultants into approaching women they know or are friendly with and asking them to “help” them. We, as women are usually eager to help our friends if we can.
  3. A well trained director/recruiter has been taught to “overcome objections.” They use the line “whether you think you would ever be interested in MK” counting on their ability to overcome the most common objections.

Step 2: The Pitch

How is the marketing plan presented? There are numerous versions of the marketing plan out there. Some MKers will use a full blown presentation with props and audience participation. Some have a slick little notebook with colorful pictures. Others simply use a sheet of paper with the information and questions printed out. However the presentation is made, the information given is about the same.

PART ONE OF THE PITCH: “Tell us about YOU”

In this phase the recruiter will ask questions about you. They are probing for information in order to learn what parts of the MK opportunity will appeal to you most. They want to know “what you need” also known as “finding her hot buttons.” Often recruiters will have a “quiz” with each question having four answers. The responses to these questions will tell the recruiter what type of personality the prospect has. From this point on an experienced recruiter will tailor the rest of the interview towards that personality type. For each personality type there is a list of aspects about the opportunity to be emphasized that will give the appearance of being tailor made for that personality. Other aspects of the opportunity are downplayed. Directors and consultants wanting to recruit are taught how to do this.

Common questions during this phase:

  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • What do you like least?
  • What would you like to change about your current situation?
  • What do you need most in your life right now?
  • What are your priorities?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Doing the same thing?
  • Will doing what you’re doing now get you where you want to be?
  • What is the ideal business environment?

The Deceptions

As a rule, whatever your answers are to these questions will be used later to show you why Mary Kay is the answer to all your problems. We will show more details later in this article. Common answers to the above questions:

  1. helping people, challenge
  2. my boss, the hours, the pay, being away from my kids
  3. more money, stay home with kids, vacation, free time, make friends
  4. Time, money, a break, something for me, time for me, friends
  5. God, faith, church, family, husband, kids, friends
  6. Better job, own my house, less debt


In this phase the recruiter will talk about why MK has been a great life changing experience for her.

Words to watch for:

  • I was at a low point in my career, life
  • I drive free
  • I’ll never work for anyone else again
  • Helping other women be successful
  • My highest monthly commission was $xxxx. Or here is a copy of my last commission check.
  • I’ve made lots of friends through my Mary Kay career.

PART THREE OF THE PITCH: Facts about a Mary Kay career (This part of the interview is also known as “The Marketing Plan”)

Often used is the “Qualities of a Successful MK Consultant: Is Mary Kay for you?”

This goes by various names. It is mainly a way to anticipate most women’s objections to signing up and refuting them in advance. None of the qualities listed will ensure a successful MK experience. In fact, most items on this list are detriments to being a successful consultant. This also serves to demonstrate how a MK career can fill those needs identified in “Tell us about YOU.”

  1. A Busy Person – The idea is that a busy person knows how to get things done efficiently and can find a way to fit Mary Kay into her life. Unfortunately, this is a myth. Working this business takes a great deal of time. If a woman already feels like she has too little free time trying to add MK into her busy life will be a disaster.
  2. Doesn’t know a lot of people – This statement is absurd. Once a woman becomes a consultant the first thing she will be advised to do is “make a list of 30 women you’d like for your first customers.” Another tip is “start with friends.” Other bits of wisdom are the “perfect start” (15 faces in 15 days), “power start” (30 faces in 30 days) and the “new business debut.” How is a woman who “doesn’t know a lot of people” going to accomplish any of those tasks? The answer is “she won’t” and will feel very discouraged right from the beginning.
  3. Not the “sales type” – The logic behind this is “we don’t want a pushy sales person, our job is to teach women how to take care of their skin.” Also heard on this topic is “we teach skin care, once women experience how great our products are they all want to buy them” or a variation of “the products sell themselves.” This is an outright lie. This is a sales job, period. If you do not have a “sales personality” it will be very difficult to succeed in this business. You can be a great teacher, and do a great job at skin care classes. That does not equal sales.
  4. Has more month than money – The need for cash is supposed to be a motivating factor to book classes, hold appointments, and all the other things required to “work the business.” This is in direct opposition to what is taught once the agreement is signed. More on this topic will be forthcoming.
  5. Family Oriented – This is another absurd statement. MKers spend a lot of time talking about how this opportunity has enhanced their family. They use lines like “I don’t use my children as an excuse. I see them as a reason to succeed.” To really work this business and be successful at it requires time, lots of time. No matter how you slice it, that is taking away from your family. Another tidbit not usually disclosed about family during recruitment is that children are not welcome at MK functions. A consultant will be encouraged to “hold an extra class each week” to be able to pay for a babysitter in order to attend the weekly success meetings.
  6. Decision maker – Recruiters love women who hear the spiel and are ready to sign on the spot. They refer to this as someone who is a “decision maker.” Are you going to hem and haw about every little decision? Will you need to consult with your husband about anything? Do you require time to research the opportunity, read the agreement, or weigh the pros and cons? Are you going to ask tough questions with pesky details about how the business works?

Marketing Plan Highlights

Company Philosophy of God/Faith first, Family second, Career third – This lures a lot of women into the business. Unfortunately, this does not reflect what is practiced in reality. Scriptures are often used to manipulate women into making decisions that turn out to have devastating consequences. Phrases like “Have an abundance mentality” and “God wants us to have riches” warp what God of the bible teaches us. Women are discouraged from consulting their husbands regarding the decision to start an MK business with statements like “It’s easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” Women are encouraged to deceive their husbands about inventory purchases and using credit cards. Consultants are encouraged to leave their children with babysitters several times per week in order to work their business, hold classes, and attend meetings and training. The higher up the career path one gets the worse these behaviors become.

Golden Rule – “Do unto others” is a mantra often heard in MK circles.

Flexibility/Be Your Own Boss – This sounds great to potential team members. Who wouldn’t want to set their own work schedule, or determine how to run their business? Once “training” begins new consultants quickly learn they are not their own boss after all. There is a “dress code” for all Mary Kay functions. There are rules for how and where one can advertise their own business. There are rules on how and where one can sell the product that are very limiting once the “tried and true” methods fail.

No Territories and No Quotas – It is true that there are no territories within the country where one is a consultant. There is a down side to this principle called market saturation. There is no regulation or monitoring of communities to determine whether more consultants can realistically expect to build a successful customer base. The subject of quotas is a bit trickier. The marketing plan states that there are no quotas in Mary Kay. In theory this claim is true. Once the agreement is signed and the starter kit paid for there are no further requirements. In reality, there are quotas to meet from that moment on as shown in the list below:

  • Initial order of $200.00 to qualify for 50% discount
  • Order every three months of $200.00 to maintain “active consultant” status and 50% discount
  • There are a minimum number of active recruits needed to move up to and maintain a new career status.
  • In addition to having a number of active recruits, earning the use of a car has monthly production requirements (wholesale orders from team members)
  • Once the car has been earned, there are monthly production requirements in order to keep the car.
  • All levels of directorship have quotas of monthly production and active team members.

90% Buy Back Guarantee – This point is used to portray the opportunity as a “no risk” proposition. Things like “You have nothing to lose” and “The Company wouldn’t make that offer if this were not a legitimate business” will be heard. The deception here is subtle. Texas laws require Mary Kay to offer this option. It’s not because Mary Kay is so wonderful. This information is not usually disclosed by Mary Kay nor is it known to most of the independent sales force.

Advance at Your Own Pace – Again, the deception in this statement is very subtle. A consultant advances only by adding new consultants to her team. In addition, the recruiter’s new status does not take place until the new team member has placed her initial wholesale order (minimum $200.00). Further, if the new team member does not maintain her active status, the recruiter is then “demoted.” In all fairness, however, each consultant makes the choice to recruit or not.

Increase Confidence and Build Self Esteem – Many consultants make the claim that success in Mary Kay has caused an increase in self confidence and boosted self esteem. However, most consultants will have difficulty booking appointments, selling the product and finding new team members and will experience feelings that are quite the opposite.

Recognition and Prizes – Recognition is a very powerful motivator. The company and directors offer recognition and prizes as bait to induce consultants to continue placing wholesale orders and recruiting new team members. However this technique is also used to convince women to sign on the dotted line. Be wary of phrases like “If you sign tonight you will win…”

Training – “Training” in MK usually consists of listening to other women’s success stories. Tips to help consultants book appointments and interviews hold a skin care class, and package products are also shared. Tips for running a successful business are in short supply.

Drive Free – This is perhaps the most blatantly false statement perpetuated by Mary Kay consultants and directors. A “free car” is not given to consultants who earn them. The company makes lease payments for the car on behalf of the consultant. Those payments are reported to the IRS as income at the end of each year and consultants are responsible for any tax liability on that income. In addition, the continued use of the car is dependant on the consultants’ team or unit monthly wholesale production. If the team or unit fails to meet the minimum required production the lease payment will be deducted from the consultants’ monthly commission checks or a bill will be sent. Further failure to meet production will result in the car being taken away from the consultant.

Step 3: The Close “All it takes is $100.00″

During this step the recruiter will tie everything together and describe how easy it is to become a consultant “All it takes to get started is to sign your agreement and $100.00. We accept cash, checks, MasterCard, Visa, or Discover.” There are many different approaches to this step. Remembering the personality type revealed in “Tell me about you” those aspects of the opportunity are again emphasized. Here are some of the tried and true:

  • Have you ever spent $100.00 at Walmart or Target and come home with nothing?
  • Mary Kay offers a 90% buy back guarantee, you have nothing to lose.
  • Wouldn’t you rather say I’m glad I did instead of I wish I had?
  • If I taught you everything you needed to know to succeed in this business, would you be interested in doing what I do?
  • Is there any reason why we can’t get you started right now?
  • 100.00 may not change your standard of living but it may change your life.
  • Wouldn’t it be great to be recognized for your efforts?

Many will offer the opportunity for the prospect to ask questions. “On a scale of 1 to 10, how interested are you? What will it take to get you to a 10?”

A potential recruit needs to be wary of this step. All directors and most consultants trying to team build are taught the most common objections and how to overcome them. They are also taught how to handle an objection not previously memorized by using the magic words “feel, felt, found” As in, “You feel (insert objection here) as if Mars will explode if you agree to do this. I understand, I felt the same way. What I found was Mars continued to stay intact.”

Another universal response to any objection is “Then you really need Mary Kay”For example,

  • I don’t have $100.00. Then you really need Mary Kay.
  • I don’t know many people. Then you really need Mary Kay.

If, at the end of this process a decision still has not been made, the consultant will offer to give the prospect time to think it over. Typically, there are many versions of this technique as well. Some examples are:

  • The Pillow Test – I’ll tell you what, go home and think about what we have talked about tonight. If you can’t stop thinking about Mary Kay, or have pink dreams tonight then you are meant to do this business. I will call you tomorrow at ______ time to answer any more questions you might have.
  • Just in case – Instead of trying to find another time for us to meet why don’t you go ahead and sign your agreement and give me a post-dated check. I’ll call you tomorrow at _____ time to answer your questions. If you decide not to pursue this opportunity I will tear your check in half.

A Final Word

Most Mary Kay events are high-energy, spirited affairs. The women running these events are up-beat, enthusiastic, and exude an air of positivism and success. This is skillfully done so that guests will ride that wave of excitement and sign on the dotted line. They are very experienced at “selling the dream.” Unfortunately for 99% of women who sign the agreement that dream quickly becomes a nightmare.


  1. Iescaped

    Great article Tracy!

    To take it one step further, after you sign up and buy your inventory the scripted lines change ever so slightly.

    In the interview phase, a good Sales Director will elude to how easy it is to book and hold skin care classes. Most of the time the appointments will be referred to as if they are already there. It is very subtle, if not, everyone would pick up on it.

    It is only after beating your head against the wall trying to book (and keep classes from cancelling) are you given any information that Mary Kay (or any MLM) is purely a numbers game.

    One of the weekly meetings in my former Area actually had the topic for the weekly training as “booking appointments that hold and how to love the numbers in Mary Kay”!

    Really? Thanks a lot, that info was left out in the beginning!!!

  2. PurpleH

    I was the perfect mark. New in town, same age & degree as the SD, didn’t need to “ask” my husband for money. I was looking for friends and she had me believing that we were becoming friends. I became a useful voice at meetings, too, as I am a good public speaker and could parrot the right lines. Now that I order only for personal use, and at times of year that suit me (rather than June or her car-qualifying month), my “friend” doesn’t call so much. When I did pop in to her pre-Christmas open house, which turned out to be the Area’s open house, she asked me to please become a SD “when I need you for NIQ”. Guess that shows me right where I stand!

  3. raisinberry

    This article is just perfection. Bravo. Never have I seen a better, more comprehensive defense and exposure of, the fly paper you step onto when you agree to “help out” a Mary Kay lady.

  4. ShimmerAway

    The scale of 1-10 thing always bugged me because they’d always say “you can’t pick 5 because that confuses us because it’s in the middle”. No, it’s not. There are ten numbers. 1-5 are the lower side, 6-10 the higher. Most of the SDs and NSDs I knew were rather dumb. Unfortunately even I parroted a ton of nonsense I knew wasn’t right. But I wanted to be successful so I did what my SD did.

    1. Iescaped

      In my former Area they used the 1-10 scale at guest events all the time. The SD would ask the guests to pick their number and of course none of them were bright enough to figure out what to do with a five. The 10 was always referred to as “sign me up now, where have you been all my life” and the 1 was selling apples on the side of the road. Well one day someone did bring a guest whose family did have a roadside fruit stand!! This guest was so insulted and so pissed off she walked right out the front door. It was beautiful! How moronic that the SDs didn’t even bother to get to know a little more about each guest before they shoved their foot in their own mouth!

  5. Sora Moon

    There’s also the guilt trip about asking your husband/mom/sister/brother about invest. “Oh, so your husband/mom/sister/brother thinks for you? He/she takes the decisions for you? You’re not brave enough to think for yourself?”

    As I remember from The Wolf of Wallstreet, that’s a guilt trip to make the prospect feel helpless and with the obligation to prove that they are “brave enough”, and immediately fall into the trap

  6. MLM Radar

    “Advance at your own pace” is just another lie. While it is true that a consultant makes the decision whether or not to TRY recruiting, she has absolutely no control over whether her recruits decide to stick with Mary Kay. Nor does she have any control over their decisions to buy enough inventory for the would-be director to meet her production quotas.

    All she can really do is cajole, wheedle, beg, pressure, play the guilt card, and lie. If her “team” doesn’t play along, she doesn’t advance… Unless she lies to herself and everyone else and “makes up the difference” from her own savings/ household budget/ credit cards.

    But I wouldn’t call that advancing. Funding it yourself is risky. Funding it yourself more than once is just short-term self-destructive behavior.

  7. The one time I was approached by an MK recruiter at my job, I do seem to recall her using the phrase “whether you think you would be interested in MK or not” quite a bit. She pulled out all the stops to try and get me to sign up, but I wouldn’t do it because I did not have the money and I was not about to sacrifice what few female friends I have in my life (my family lives in another state) for overpriced, crappy makeup and lotion. She also called me a few times to “see if there were any questions I had”. Thank goodness for caller ID and voicemail.

  8. Jcrane

    I have a friend who is with Mary Kay and seems to enjoy it, but I wonder. She used the same lines on me. Of course I declined I live in another state than her so how can I possibly help her with the business. Even after that she still sent me emails wanting to ‘practice’ interviews. I haven’t spoken with her since. The texts and emails stopped because I think she got the idea, but she hasn’t said anything else to me. From what I could get off her Facebook page I think she moved back in with her parents and think Mary Kay had something to do with it. She recently tried holding a jewelry party and the first thing that happened was it got moved to two weeks later and then on the day it was supposed to happen she states now that it will be an online party now. I don’t she got anyone to come. I want to the guest list and like two people responded. I couldn’t go again because again I live in a different state. I don’t think people go to these things anymore especially with the internet now days. Thanks for listening.

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