Time for Recruiters & HR Pros to Make a Wardrobe Change…

Jessica Lee Culture, HR, Jessica Lee, Personal Brand

I swear I’m not vain. Really, I’m not. Except this one time…

A few years back, when I moved to DC, I had the luxury of moving without a job. (Obviously, the market was different then.) New gal in town, I wanted to really explore my options in DC and meet with a lot of different employers to find just the right fit. I probably went on over 30 interviews with more than a dozen companies – and as a part of that process, I had the chance to consider an HR Manager position with the Target Corporation. How cool would that have been? Who doesn’t like Target? (Or Tar-jhhhaaaay as I like to say.) The brand, the reach, the reputation – it seemed like an interesting opportunity to support a great brand.

Retail HR, in that setting at least, would have been a bit of an adjustment. Through the interviews, I learned that if I was embedded at actual stores, I would have to work retail hours at times. Weekends wouldn’t be completely traditional, and 9am to 6pm wouldn’t always be the case. That was doable though. But there was one other factor that I was highly skeptical about and ultimately made me withdraw myself from consideration for a role with them… they told me I’d have to wear the signature Target uniform since I’d be embedded within stores. That’s right – the good ole khaki pants and a red shirt. And ultimately, that was the dealbreaker for me – I simply wasn’t willing to sport the Target ensemble.

Call me superficial, call me shallow, I know. But firstly, I just didn’t and still don’t think that khaki and red is a good color combo. Red top and white pants. Okay by me. I could do that. Red top and black pants, that works too. Red top and khaki pants? I don’t love it. And red in general is not a great color on me. It doesn’t work well with my skin tone. Second, I wasn’t sure how I felt about me ditching the suits, dresses and such… for a uniform. Look the part you want to dress – how many times have we been told that? How many times have you given that advice? So for me, that’s meant suits and a polished look. I don’t want you mistaking me for anything but a rising corporate star. And the khaki and red seemed to scream something else.

Fast forward almost four years later and I thought about this experience just recently when I happened to show up at work the other week wearing an orange dress – and APCO’s primary logo color is orange. We call our basketball team the Orange Crush. Some of our offices sport orange walls. It’s our color. So I’m wearing this orange dress and what ensued were all sorts of comments about how I was so in the APCO spirit. What a great representation of APCO! People joked I should wear orange all the time so candidates could identify me even moreso as all things APCO. All that because of the color of my ensemble.

With Target and their uniform requirements, I’ll admit that my vanity and desire to be quasi-fashionable drove my decision making. But I hadn’t even stopped to think about the why of the requirement for their HR pros to wear uniforms and what a difference a move like that could make for how I would be seen. As part of the broader team – not just HR. In the spirit. A great representation of the company.

So how do people see you? As an interchangable member of their team? Are you in the spirit? Do you always project out as a great representation of your company? Shouldn’t candidates get that from you? Take a good, long, hard look in the mirror, friends. It may be time for a figurative wardrobe change.

Jessica Lee

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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See Jessica’s riffs and rants on Fistful of Talent here