Nicola Thorp, the receptionist who was sent home from PwC in London (by outsourcing firm Portico) because she refused to wear ‘2-4 inch heels’ has caught the attention of the wider corporate world in recent weeks. The incident has raised debate and has forced a number of companies to review their expectation around dress code in the workplace. So with this topic filtering down to ‘watercooler talk’ we’ve found that the ‘heel’ incident has also raised some questions amongst our female candidates around ‘appropriate dress’ for interviews. Are there rules? If so what are they? And how ‘rigid’ are they?
First Impressions Count
We all know that having the technical skills set, an impressive academic record and excellent knowledge of your chosen industry goes a long way to helping you secure the next step in your career – but time and time again we are reminded by our clients that presentation at interview is crucial. Our clients, regardless of industry (financial services, fintech, technology, pharma, professional services etc.) expect that any candidate (male or female) who is arriving for interview make a positive impression upon entering the room.
Well firstly it shows that you’re making an effort to impress the interviewers (a given), but secondly and most importantly, it demonstrates that you’ll make the same effort to impress their clients should you get the job. This is of critical importance if you are interviewing for a client facing role. Companies want to make sure they are hiring people who will represent them appropriately at client meetings, networking events, industry conferences etc. So taking note of how a potential employee presents themselves at interview is high on the check list when assessing potential employees.
What if you’re interviewing for a non-client facing role?
Same applies. At interview, you still need to turn up looking smart and professional.
Does the industry/profession, or level of role make a difference to what you should wear?
In a nutshell, yes. As a rule of thumb, the more traditional professions such as law, accountancy, banking, compliance etc. will expect that all candidates (men and women), regardless of level, arrive at interview very well presented. So we advise that you stick to what you know works: wear a smart, well cut suit.
And while is true that most technology or pharmaceutical companies offer their employees the option of casual dress in the day job (jeans/runners/t-shirts etc), it’s still very much the case that at interview stage they want their potential employees to make an effort with their appearance. Again, stick to the suit unless otherwise stated.
There are always exceptions of course, and with the ever expanding number of technology and creative organisations recruiting across the city these exceptions are on the increase.
If your meeting has been set up by a recruitment firm, ask them what the dress code for the interview is if you are unsure. By way of example, we had Senior Lawyers (male and female) interviewing for a General Counsel position at an international gaming company and we were advised by the client to tell all candidates ‘not to wear a suit’. This was unconventional for such a senior legal role, but the client really wanted the lawyer to reflect the casual, ‘start-up’ culture of the company. They felt a suit was too formal for their environment (even at interview stage).
Key points to consider when deciding what to wear to interview:
- Stick to what’s tried and tested – wear a full suit if you are interviewing for roles in the following areas: accountancy, legal, finance, funds, banking, treasury, compliance etc.
- There are no set rules around wearing heels, but if you think they look better with your outfit, then wear them. Otherwise wear smart flats that reflect your profession and industry.
- Smart trouser/skirt suits work well, as do dresses with a well cut, tailored jacket
- Hair and make-up? Keep it simple, but a well-groomed and neat appearance will leave a stronger professional impression
- As we know, the choice of accessories can really make or break a look. If you’re interviewing for a very senior role, a subtle and understated approach might be best. But if you feel you want to show your creative side, then go for a statement piece of jewellery or an edgy scarf that complements your outfit. Use common sense here, and know your audience!
- Finally avoid overdoing perfume, and if you’re a smoker, try not to have a cigarette just before you go into the interview. Nothing masks the smell of smoke unfortunately.
If you’re currently interviewing for a new role, or hope to be interviewing over the next few months, we hope these pointers will help you. Once you feel comfortable that you’re presenting yourself to your highest potential, it’s what you wear in attitude and confidence that really makes the difference!
Best of luck!
Partner (Legal & HR)
Thank you Rebecca Quigley, Stylist, for sourcing the images. For more information on Rebecca’s blog and stylist services visit her blog.