How much does what candidates wear to interviews tell you? Or do you even care?
When I first moved to DC and began interviewing around, my sister told me I needed to dress more conservatively. Not that I was showing up in a bustier and fishnet stockings… I save those goodies for the weekend. I generally look like I have stepped out of a Banana Republic advertisement for their suiting line… Yet still, she said I needed to keep the suit but wear less makeup, less jewelry, and just be less trendy. People in DC are very conservative, she quipped. And apparently, in the business setting, she seemed to think that I looked a bit out of place. I refused to give in though – I would not compromise my fashion sense just to get a job. Who cares about furthering my career! I’d rather look good…
Sitting on the other side of the table and from a recruiter’s perspective, I don’t know if I’ve ever thought any less of a candidate who was fashionable. I might have looked them over with envy if they had great heels or a banging suit on… but looking good is never to one’s detriment. Showing up sloppy though… that’s another story.
I’ve done most of my recruiting in Seattle and DC, and a little bit in London, too. I’ve recruited for both the public and private sectors and at every level of the organization from file clerk to C-suite. Each city and sector, and the various industries I’ve been in, are very different from one another. Different cultures dictate different norms, so I hear… but I don’t buy it. White collar job? Have a white collar on. I expect candidates to show up for interviews in a suit. [Tech candidates, you’re the only ones I’ll exempt… I still expect a collared shirt at minimum though. Granted, I’ve never done start-up or high-tech… the expectation for interview attire is most definitely different there. I’m still not sure if I agree. ]
If I greet you in the lobby and see anything less, I will absolutely have a difficult time getting past that. I don’t expect you to be dressed to the nines with perfectly shined shoes, sparkly cufflinks or a designer handbag/attaché case – this isn’t a date. But I do expect you to arrive dressed to impress because otherwise, how am I to know that you care? I want to know that you put some thought into your ensemble because making a good impression matters to you and you are the kind of guy/gal who thinks about details.
So, wipe off the crumbs folks. Make sure you haven’t any major spots, check for spinach in your teeth. Sloppy dress = sloppy work. I think there’s something to that.
Jessica Lee is a VP of TA at Marriott International where she leads a team that enables the company to think big, broad and boldly about all things talent acquisition and in effect, keeps them relevant and ahead of the curve in how they attract and acquire top talent. Don’t be fooled by that fancy pants title and description though, she’s still an everyday HR gal in the trenches at the core. SPHR certified, a decade and a half into trench HR life… she can whip up a corrective action plan or source for your purple squirrel in a heartbeat.
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