How Much Does Attire Matter for Your Interviews?
October 2, 2018

If you’re one to make snap hiring decisions based on what a candidate is wearing, you’re not alone. As many as 60% of recruiters consider inappropriate dress to be a deal-breaker in an interview. However, there’s more to the issue of interview attire than meets the eye. Let’s take a look at how expectations of dress can shape the hiring process.

To judge, or not to judge?

Chances are you’ve seen your share of slobs at interviews; after all, 75% of recruiters have met with candidates that weren’t dressed up to their standards, according to Jobvite’s 2017 report. Most recruiters will judge based on a candidate’s attire, and not for nothing; outlandish choices in dress can indicate poor judgment or a lack of professionalism.

No one would fault you for saying no to the candidate that showed up in slippers and smeared mascara. However, adhering too strictly to an arbitrary set of standards could mean shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to selecting qualified candidates.

There are a lot of reasons a candidate may not reach your exact expectations when it comes to dress, from financial to situational (after all, everyone has bad days). If specific attire is important, consider communicating your expectations to the candidate prior to the interview. That way you can judge based on their response to your instructions, rather than what may be their own incorrect assumptions about your company’s culture. Also, think about the importance of this candidate conforming to a certain dress code; if the position requires or allows working remotely, will that nose-ring really matter in the long run?

Now, what are you wearing?

When it comes to interviews, what you wear matters, too. The last thing you want to be a decision-making factor for your interviewee is the way you, and by extension, the company, presents itself. You could be scaring off candidates with your own fashion statements, so make sure your style choices reflect that of the company culture so that you can attract a candidate who will be a great fit.

If your company requires casual business attire you may know it’s not the right move to come to work in gym shorts, but the pendulum can swing the other way, as well. If your company has a casual dress code, but you decide to wear a 3-piece suit to interview candidates, those potential hires may not get the right impression about the culture. You could be saying goodbye to the right fit for the wrong reasons; after all, the option of casual dress is not an unimportant one when it comes to attracting candidates – 38% of recruiters say it is a factor in applicants’ decision to accept a job.

When it’s not a fashion statement

It’s important to keep in mind that choices in attire may not necessarily be an expression of a candidate’s individual personality. Religion, gender identity, or even disability may dictate the way a candidate dresses. For instance, a candidate on the autism spectrum may need to avoid certain garments based on a negative reaction to the tactile sensation. Sometimes, a non-traditional dress style may emerge from necessity.

When bringing circumstances like this into consideration you must then face the question, how important is it for you to stick to your guns when it comes to dress code? Keep in mind that many types of dress choices are unlikely to impact the performance of a candidate on the job, but your judgment may have ramifications. In addition to the potential legal issues, you could be dismissing a highly qualified candidate based on superficial reasons that are beyond the candidate’s control.

So, next time you want to make a snap decision based on a candidate’s attire, take time to consider their other attributes – and be mindful of your own presentation as well! Make certain you’re not losing a great hire simply because of something as frivolous as fashion.