Does it Really Matter What You Wear to an Interview?

Over the past decade or so, I’ve noticed candidates becoming increasingly more casual in attire when they arrive for interviews. I would say about 50% of candidates dress in a suit, and this spans across all levels, including professional and non-professional roles. Others wear jeans and a t-shirt and still others wear dress pants and a polo or button-down shirt. I’ve been involved in hundreds of interviews over recent years.

I will never forget about five or six years ago when I was job-hunting. I was working with a third-party Recruiter for an HR Manager role at a local company, and we were able to build a friendly relationship. I completed the interview and thought it went well. The Recruiter got back to me and told me they had passed on me. I asked him if he had any insight. He was reluctant to share but after pressing him for a few days, he gave me the feedback from the hiring manager. She said that I did well in the interview but thought my hair was messy and that I looked frumpy.

Aside from being mortified that I was actually passed over for a job because I lived in a humid state and was blessed with having frizzy hair, I was left wondering what my hair had to do with my ability to be successful in the job. However, the feedback was noted and I started to use more products in my hair so as not to offend anyone else with its natural frizziness.

There are hiring managers I’ve worked with who do not concern themselves with how a candidate is dressed and others who have passed on someone for not wearing a suit. I struggle to see why we’d expect a candidate who will never wear a suit in their regular job to wear one to the interview.

I personally hate wearing suits. Whenever I go on an interview, I reluctantly put one on, but I am uncomfortable the whole time and change out of it as soon as I get home. I would never take a job that requires that dress code. It’s just not me.

Can we just focus on the candidate’s skills and experience and not worry so much about their pants or their shirt or their shoes or whether they have frizzy hair? People should be able to show their true selves in an interview and dress in whatever way makes them the most comfortable. The more comfortable a candidate is made during the hiring process, the more open they will be with you. We should welcome diverse employees.

If you are a candidate, it would be a good idea just to be safe to ask the Recruiter what the dress expectation is since they should know the hiring manager and his or her opinions on the matter.

What do you think about a candidate’s appearance? Does it have any bearing on the decision to hire?