6 tips on how to dress to impress, even on a hot Casual Friday, from Bagg Group experts


Imagine that it’s Casual Friday, and a sweltering 35+ degrees outside.

A female candidate shows up for a second interview in a cropped top, short skirt, and open flat sandals.

A male candidate shows up for an informational interview wearing a t-shirt, faded tight jeans, and birkenstocks.

What’s wrong with this picture?

These two candidates may have just “dressed” themselves out of a possible job.

Whenever you dress inappropriately for work, people figure you can’t be trusted to exercise good judgment — anytime!

The fact is— fair or not – we all make snap impressions about people based simply on how they dress.

And to be precise, we form our opinions in just three seconds.

That’s the finding of a study recently published in Psychology Today.

For the study, 300 people looked at an image of a man in a well-tailored suit and an image of a man in more disheveled suit, both in the same colour.

The man’s face was pixilated in both pictures.  What the participants didn’t know is that both images were of the same man.

The finding:

All 300 men and women instantly judged the man in the well-tailored suit more favourably.  They thought he was more confident, more successful, more flexible, and a higher earner than the man in the other picture.

The researchers conclude:  “Our clothes make a huge difference to what people think about us – and without us knowing or in ways we couldn’t even imagine.”

In another study, people looked at pictures for a few seconds of women they believed to be senior managers (all had their faces pixilated).  All the women in the pictures were dressed quite conservatively, but some wore shorter skirts and had a top button open on their blouse.

The finding:

People rated the women in the shorter skirts, with the open button, as less intelligent, less confident, less trustworthy, less responsible, and thought they had less authority, than the other women.

It may be unfortunate that what we wear influences how we’re perceived. But it’s a fact of life, and the good news is that it’s one you can make work for you.

At The Bagg Group, we urge candidates whom we refer for full-time positions, contract work, or temporary placements with the best companies in the GTA, to dress up for success — not down for comfort.

This gives them a competitive edge from the very first seconds they meet the hiring manger.

An estimated 55% of North American companies have some sort of Casual Friday dress policy.  And the relaxed dress code is hugely popular with employees, according to HR Management stats.  A LinkedIn survey showed 24% of people actually factored a casual dress code into their job choice.

But take heed:  Senior executives admit people who take casual dress too far do hurt their chances of promotion.

Here are proven tips to make the right impression – every workday of the year.

  • It’s never casual dress day for candidates going to an interview.
  • Even on sweltering days, The Bagg Group recruiters advise candidates to wear a jacket to interviews – you can carry it and just slip it one when you enter the building.  Shoes should be office appropriate.  But by all means, slip a pair of sandals in your briefcase to change into when you’ve left the interview.
  • Look at what your boss is wearing. This is typically the best way to figure out the appropriate look for your office culture on Casual Fridays.
    But remember, the owner of the company can get away with choices that employees can’t.
    Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook can wear his trademark hoodie at any meeting and still get respect.  But you’ll never see his COO, Sheryl Sandberg, wearing anything but classic office attire. Sandberg has made a study of what works for ambitious women in her book Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.
  • Friday office casual is not the same as Sunday beach casual.  Avoid anything that shows more skin than you’d show any other day of the week.
  • If you’re unsure if what you’re wearing is appropriate – don’t wear it.  You can’t go wrong by dressing too properly, but you can go wrong by dressing too informally. Again, if it doesn’t fit in with the kind of look your team members and bosses are sporting on Friday, leave it in your closet.
  • Keep in mind clients and other outsiders aren’t on casual time.  You still need to look professional enough to assure them of your professionalism.

We have placed almost 60,000 people successfully in temporary, contract and full-time positions at companies of all sizes in the past 40 years.  Our candidates know that how you dress makes a statement, the key is to make sure it’s the statement you want to make.

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