Girl Talk Career Blog

May 14, 2010

Dress Codes and Job Hunting

Filed under: The Stylish Businesswoman — lisalahey @ 7:33 am
Tags: , , ,

And now that I have your attention. Girlfriend, what’s wrong with this picture?  Well, a lot.  Not everything, but nearly everything from the waistline down (except I’ll give her the shoes). 

You’ve heard it said before that dress code and work is an integral aspect of how you are perceived as a professional. Yet time and again I read career newsletters or egads! visit an office where the women are dressed in a clearly inappropriate manner. Here’s a response to this issue on  Definitely I remember the ones who were too skimpily dressed. Microskirts and too much cleavage, etc., like many of the above replies. Very distracting. When in doubt, cover up and go more conservative, not less!  (

I heard about an HR manager who had to tell a young woman in the office that she was dressing way too sexy. The girl’s response was outrage!  “Everyone is jealous!” was her rather uninformed reply. As if! It’s not likely anyone else in the office had even mentioned her clothes except one of the higher-ups. In that case the woman’s dress code was not only about her it was also about the image she was portraying of the company.

Now here’s a story about the opposite problem with women and attire in the workplace. (I swear it’s true because if memory serves, I was there). I interviewed for a job position with a woman who had a pretty responsible position. To look at her however you would never say that was the case.  She had the messiest hair – a sort of lopsided bun-ponytail thing that threatened to all off her head if she sneezed too hard.  She had no makeup on.  Not a speck.  She wore a large, shapeless cowl neck sweater that was completely unflattering (it was July by the way but I guess she found the air conditioning a little brisk). And the black slacks she was wearing were saggy and not at all flattering to her figure. I estimated her salary to be pretty fine considering she was interviewing me for an EA position that started at $55,000.00. She held rank over that spot so she must easily have been in the $60 – $70000.00 salary range yet there she was dressed like little Orphan Annie on an especially bad day.  Yikes.

Now here’s the funny flip side to this story. I wore a black skirt suit with black pumps and a pale blue blouse. Sadly, my skirt was tight with a slit   (CLICK)   Yes I cringe to admit it but my stockings were (egad) fishnet. Did I get the job?  Hell no.  I looked like I’d taken more time with myself than her but I would have had a lot more success if I was interviewing for a secretarial position at a modelling agency perhaps.  (I’m sure you can think of other venues but please be kind). Hey I was young. I was new to this scene. In fact I went away from the job interview feeling I was a champion and that I’d bagged that position no problem. When Orphan Annie didn’t follow up I was staggered although not especially upset.  I took it on the chin.  After all she did hint about my dress code during our interview “next time I see I want to see you in the most conservative outfit you own“.  There was no next time. Still for all that I’m not sure who committed the worst dress code gaffe, me or her, not that it mattered. She was the one with the job and she was the one with the hiring power. 

Having learned a thing or two over the years let’s have a look at the after picture of how to get hired:

I don’t even need to ask if you notice the difference between Employee Wannabe # 1 and Employee Wannabe # 2.  That’s a great look for interviewing and for every day at work for that matter.  A pant suit in a dark colour with a sensible heel and conservative makeup is a smart move when you want to make a great dress code impression on a recruiter.  Will it get you a job?  Of course not silly!  But it certainly will make the recruiter’s initial assessment of you a good one and that’s a great start to any interview.

Mind you there’s always room for another perspective. Here’s a different way of thinking about dress code and Job Hunting. It’s your call Girlfriend!


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