What not to wear to an interview

Recruitment and selection has changed dramatically in the last decade or so, demonstrated in the various ways employees find to screen out candidates. I was recently interviewed for a piece in The Toronto Sun that focused on how someones jewellery could be used to screen them from a job.  

Since the recession, it’s been an employer’s market. Job hunters are bending over backwards just to get an interview, and now the rules are changing for even for that process. In some online job-hunter forums, women are being told to leave their diamond engagement rings at home, sparking controversy and discussion.

A woman in the U.S. had her salary cut by $20,000 per year while she was on maternity leave. When she inquired about how she might regain her previous earnings, she was told that she didn’t need it because she had a nice engagement ring.

Meanwhile, a hiring manager posted a controversial piece of advice aturbanbaby.com, urging women to leave diamond engagement rings at home during job interviews, lest they offend or give the wrong impression to would-be employers.

Penny Calhoun, a career counsellor who asked that her name be changed so as to protect the identity of her clients, says rings can mean different things to different employers. An engagement ring can mean absence from the workplace, changing priorities and a future family, notes Calhoun.

“But it can also mean stability, longevity, and dedication to a relationship – the same dedication [employers] hope for in a candidate.”

It’s these small details that matter a lot in a job interview, whether or not the resume is outstanding.

“Your qualifications get you into an interview, your fit gets you the job,” Calhoun says. Fit, she explains, is the sum total of a job applicant’s personality, goals, professionalism, style, and friendliness.

For Surranna Sandy, President of Surcorp Resume Solutions – one of Canada’s largest career management companies – these distinctions is nothing new. And it’s always been worse on women than it has on men.

“Depending on the role, if a woman is perceived as being aggressive, people may use that against her,” says Sandy. “Whereas a male, the aggression could be a value-add for the position.”

The same is true when it comes to displays of wealth or style, like engagement rings.

“If a woman shows up in a $1,000 suit for a job that pays $30,000, the may see her as above that status. If a man were to do the same thing, [interviewers] don’t really draw that as an issue.”

Sandy says the easiest way around the problem is to scout out the company in advance. Look them up on LinkedIn and see who you know who works there. Walk through their workspace, if it’s public, or their lobby, if it’s not. See how people act, how they dress and what kind of decorum is observed.

Just don’t change anything about yourself based on what you learn, she says.

“You do the research not because you can become something new,” Sandy stresses. “You do the research to determine if the values of the organization align with your values. You can’t sustain [changing yourself].”

That’s so unfair

Wearing a diamond ring can cost a job applicant everything. But, fair or not, that’s the reality.

For Surranna Sandy, president of one of Canada’s largest career management firms, job applicants need to decide if the company they’re applying to is likely to judge them on such frivolities, and if that’s something they care about as an applicant.

“We see a big diamond. We do something every human being does every moment of the day. We make judgments. We make judgments all the time.”

Those factors can even extend to sex, weight, language, personality or style. An employer would never say that out loud – that is, in fact, illegal – but when 400 people are applying for one job, employers are free to pick the person who fits the company’s ideals most.

“We have to be more aware. We live in a little bubble sometimes. Make adjustments as necessary, adjustments you can live with that remain true to who you are and your values.”

Nothing but nails

Penny Calhoun, a career counsellor who asked that her name be changed to protect her clients, says even small cues can be enough to turn an employer off.

“I once worked with a woman who had fingernails that were about two inches long and always had sparkly diamonds stuck on them. Part of her job was data entry. You can imagine that the length of her fingernails slowed the process down to the point where I would have to manage half of her work and all of mine to complete projects on time.

“Sometimes, when I’m interviewing someone with long fingernails, I think of that woman, how ill-suited she was to her job based on her personal style, and how that personal style made her at odds with the company and its productivity.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.