Job hunters: What not to wear in a heat wave to a job interview


In the summer, recruiters at The Bagg Group sometimes have to walk a fine line.

For 47 years, we’ve been matchmaking between people and companies. And why do we win awards for creating so many happy relationships?  Because we listen deeply to clients and candidates about their experience, skills, interests, hopes, likes, dislikes, and values.

But when temperatures soar, we often find we have to talk  about something that’s sort of out of left field for us — fashion.

We have to talk clothes.

  • Everyone wears spaghetti straps –can I wear them to an interview? Not a good idea.
  • You don’t seriously expect me to wear a jacket to an interview in this heat? Never, just put it on in the elevator.
  • Flimsy sundresses are really in – I’m just being fashionable?  Nope, not for the interviewers.
  • It’s summer, who cares what I wear?  Hiring managers.

But before you despair, check out some really fascinating facts that will give you a new source of power.

What you wear affects the way you interact:  The lab coat experiment

A major study shows when people were told to wear what they thought were doctors’ white lab coats, they concentrated on tasks longer, and found it easier to keep focus.

They focused less, and were more easily distracted, when they were told they were wearing a painters’ white coat.

  • The research finds what you wear can make you feel more –or less — alert and present.

You’ve heard of power poses, clothing choices empowers too

We’ve written how the pose you strike affects your sense of your own power.  The same applies to the clothing you chose to wear.

A large study from North Illinois University found when people wore professional clothes they felt more sure of their own competence, reliability, and trustworthiness than when they wore sweats or super casual clothing.

  • You’ll feel more competent when you wear that jacket than when you don’t. And we project out what we feel inside.

What we see is what we judge – in 3 seconds:

First impressions saved our ancestors – as in, hold up, I’m not going near that sabre-tooth cat. And that primal instinct still informs our decision-making today. Studies show people make snap impressions of us in three seconds, or less.

In one major research project, hundreds of people looked at pictures of women who were said to be in management. Their findings?

Women pictured in shorter skirts and with more open-buttoned shirts were instantly rated as less confident, less trustworthy, less responsible, and thought to have less authority.

Same for men.  People looked unknowingly at pictures of the same men (faces were blurred) dressed in disheveled suits and crisp suits. Those in the pressed suits scored way higher on confidence, flexibility, success and earnings.

Why risk having flip-flops close the door on you?!:

More than half of all hiring managers feel the way a person dresses has a big impact on their employability, according to North American and British surveys.  Respondents said they figure a person’s choice of wardrobe says a lot about their professional judgment.

So take this test:  Should you wear any of the following to an interview?  (1 point for yes, 2 points for no. If you don’t score 14, you’re in the what not to wear zone)

  • Hawaiin or other super loud shirt
  • Shorts
  • Spaghetti straps, backless tops, or anything with cut-outs
  • T-shirts with sayings  (funny or not)
  • T-shirts –without a jacket of some sortsocks and sandals
  • Yoga pants or anything you’d wear to a gym, dance class or club
  • Socks with sandals (and any open-toe sandals are iffy, exercise caution.)

Bonus tips:

Look up how the people you’re interviewing dress. Check out pictures of people at the company you’re interviewing with on social media, including Linkedin and company website.

Don’t dress down if you’re interviewing on a casual Friday. . You’ll find those who have to see clients that day won’t either. And a great workplace tip for casual Friday – see what the bosses are wearing, and follow their cues. Things like dressing in a way that would be considered inappropriate, consciously or not, affects your reputation.

You’re not alone! At The Bagg Pro, Bagg Technology Resources, Bagg @ Your Service, Bagg Managed Resources and Turn Key Staffing we can offer this small consolation for having to sweat it out in professional clothes. We have to walk the talk too.

We work with the best companies in the GTA to place talented people in full-time, contract and temporary positions. We have to represent our candidates well.  Even on casual Fridays at the office, we go informal, but we don’t dress as if it’s a day at the beach.

Our final word of encouragement: You were probably  so much more uncomfortable on the way to the interview than the candidate sitting next to you in shorts and Birkenstocks — but we can assure you that for hiring managers, you’re the cool one in the room.

Gene Hayden, author of The Follow-Through Factor: Getting from Doubt to Done (Random House), is a career coach who has helped hundreds successfully put their best foot forward at interviews and in the workplace. She is also writer-in-residence for The Bagg Group.




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