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Dress to impress they said..

“What should I wear for the interview”, a question I’ve been asked more in the past 4 months than in the last 4 years.

It used to be so easy, smart business dress was always the way to go, “suited & booted” as they say. But with more & more businesses opting for a more relaxed day to day dress code is this old saying still as relevant? I count myself lucky that in my job I get to experience a wide variety of businesses from a combination of different angles, & even with this insight, I honestly don’t know the answer (sorry if that’s what you were reading in the hope of finding!).

It's safe to say that the world of work has changed, perception of what ‘smart’ & ‘professional’ looks like has taken on a plethora of different meanings in recent years. When I started out in recruitment in 2007, I would’ve been shot for turning up to work in anything less than a suit, shirt & tie, and heaven forbid I’d ever suggested meeting with a customer not ‘dressed for the job’. However, I’ve found my customers adapting the changing world of work, implementing more of a ‘dress down’ or ‘business casual’ attire for their employees, & don’t think for a second this is just “Generation Y” or those pesky “Millenials” that we all read so much about, I work with a number of FTSE listed, so called – Corporate, businesses that no longer expect their staff to be dressed like their parents & grandparents before them.

Surely the dress code of an organisation should reflect the culture of the organisation?

On a recent visit to PKF Cooper Parry I heard this phrase which really stuck with me…


So my question is, should employers expect prospective employees to attend a job interview suited & booted, OR in a manner that reflects how they would actually dress day to day in the business? Dress for the job you want… isn’t that another saying…

How would I feel if meeting a potential candidate to join Distinct for the first time they arrived in jeans & a t-shirt? Many of our team dress this way & it in no way affects their ability to deliver an amazing service to our clients & candidates.

We recently took feedback for a candidate that was unsuccessful for a role that they were “too corporate”. Now said candidate went out of his way to don a suit for the interview, because that’s what he thought the business would expect, and was wearing a superhero t-shirt in the office when he received this feedback. I personally found myself staring into my wardrobe the morning of meeting a new customer for the first time pondering, Suit OR No Suit… now perhaps I could be overthinking this, but surely any potential client would want their supplier to 100% authentic when presenting themselves as a credible business partner?

Could NOT wearing a suit be deemed as disrespectful?

Would I rather WIN the new business OR not win it BUT be safe in the knowledge I’ve been authentic to my own & our companies vision & values?

Does it matter?

For me, businesses that are bold enough, brave enough, and passionate enough about their own culture, vision & values will opt to go against the status quo, and that in some cases it could be this that makes the difference where potential talent have more than one job offer on the table.

We have a simple dress code @ Distinct, dress in what you feel comfortable on the basis you may unexpectedly bump into a customer at any point. Now I’m really confident that means different things for different markets, e.g. our digital technology & marketing customers could likely dress differently to our Finance Directors, and that’s ok.

Variety is the spice of life, as they say :)

- Al

PS. If you were wondering… No I didn’t wear the suit, and Yes I did agree to do business with aforementioned new customer.

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Alex Alcock

Alex Alcock


0115 870 0300