Smile Politely

Jean Shorts or Dress Pants? You Decide the Fate of Your Interview

When I think about my high school counselor, I can’t really recall him being influential to me. I think he had glasses and I think I was slightly attracted to his daughter, but that’s about it. I’m sure that he would hate to read this article, but if he had done a better job guiding me, then I could have given him more encomiums in this commentary.

I don’t think I’m alone here. Am I? I think that guidance counselors should spend less time fantasizing with students and more time working on the rudiments of finding employment, such as how to dress for an interview.

Since I have primarily recruited young, high school graduates, I am shocked to see how unprepared kids are these days. I guess I was lucky to have had parents who made me wear a tie to my first interview. Ever since then, I have always dressed up for an interview, because first impressions are important.

When I am in my office, preparing for an interview, I get everything ready: my desk is cleaned up, the phone is forwarded, my computer is locked and my interview materials are ready to go. As I walk out to greet my applicant, I take a deep breath and pray that Sasquatch isn’t waiting out in the reception area.

I would say that fifty to sixty percent of my applicants are dressed appropriately; they have on business casual or formal attire, they are well groomed and they aren’t masticating a huge wad of gum. However, the other half of my applicants typically look like they should be working at the county fair. These people are the ones I’m not going to hire, unless, of course, they pay me one thousand dollars.

What have I seen? I have seen tube tops, tennis shoes, cut-off jeans, sweat pants, biker shorts (bulges included), tight black pants (the kind that all of the meretricious sorority girls wear out to bars when they travel in packs), baseball hats, tons of BLING, low-cut tops and short skirts. You name it and I’ve probably seen it.

First off, as a man, showing me skin isn’t going to land you a job. If anything, it’s going to make me very uncomfortable because my co-workers are all going to snicker outside of my office door throughout the interview. Now, it would be different if I recruited for a modeling agency or a strip club, but when we’re talking about professional, customer service positions, you can’t dress like you are going to be swinging from a pole. Oh, the reason why I mentioned those tight, black, semi-whorish bar pants is because I once sent on an applicant who was wearing them to a manager. Two months later, I was sitting in a meeting when a manager blurted out, “Thomas only sends on girls who wear those tight black pants. I know what he’s thinking about in his interviews.” Therefore, if you’ve got on those pants, I’ll ask you to never wear them again, except for a sojourn through KAM’S.

Next, don’t wear something that you would wear to a softball game. I understand that the summer months can be sultry, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear a wool suit. Dress down a bit, but try to keep it business casual at least. If you show up in tennis shoes, shorts and a t-shirt, you might as well go to the gym instead. And even though I do admire people who are brave enough to wear cut-off jean shorts and sleeveless shirts, that attire is best worn to a Kid Rock concert or to a demolition derby.

Finally, let’s talk about piercings. I appreciate body art. I have two rather large tattoos myself, but I don’t show them during an interview. Here is a good rule of thumb: if it can be covered up or removed, then cover it up or remove it. I can’t tell you how distracting it is to have someone click their tongue ring on their front teeth. Also, I’m quite leery of hiring someone who has a cuss word or a naked person tattooed on their forearm. Not only is it distracting, it is misleading and it says something about you, such as I DON’T GIVE A F$%^.

Well, I do care who I hire, because if I didn’t, I would be the interviewee instead of the interviewer. I care about my job and I care about people who are clueless in the interview process. When I have a good candidate who might not have dressed appropriately, I will sometimes give them advice and coach them. This usually surprises them and they oftentimes thank me after the interview.

I think I’m going to work on building better relationships with the local high schools. I might even hold interview workshops or resume building classes. There are a lot of kids out there who deserve good jobs, but there are a lot of kids who have never had any type of good advice when it comes to finding a job. If you are a high school counselor, or if you know one, please encourage them to teach kids interview basics. Or, if you don’t trust the counselors to get this done and you know someone who is struggling to find a job, ask them what they wear to their interviews. If they tell you they wear an ’85 Bears jersey and blue jeans, smack them and take them to the mall to find them something more appropriate to wear. The pain will go away, and when they get that first check, maybe they’ll pay you back.

More Articles