When you are hiring perhaps you should look not only at the psychometric tests but also the way your interviewees are dressed – it may give you more clues as to who they really are, writes Jackie O’Fee.
Over the 16 years I have been in the business of dressing people I have had more than a few occasions where employers have asked me to help individuals with one-on-one consultations.
There was the young woman in a sales role whose employer was beginning to feel uncomfortable with her talking to clients, as they felt she wasn’t representing the company well.
Another whose colleagues were refusing to work with her due to both her poor personal presentation and accompanying lack of personal hygiene.
There was the woman who apparently interviewed brilliantly, but even at that point the employer had identified “someone is going to have to talk to her about the way she dresses”. There’s been the young man tipped for greater things but needing to step up the game sartorially, and the middle-aged GM whose 360-degree review told him it was time to “sort out how he looked”. And these are the few I can remember off the top of my head.
With each of these people and several others, I have learned an inescapable truth: the way you feel about yourself on the inside is often reflected on the outside.
I’ve long believed that when it comes to your personal brand, the way you dress is your logo. You cannot hold yourself out there to be organised and detail-focused in your role but turn up each day to work in an un-ironed shirt. Neither can you say you are efficient and clever if you arrive late and dishevelled to meetings.
I once talked to a psychotherapist client of mine about how strange it was that some people will invest large sums of money both with me and their new clothes, wanting to look completely different. Yet, three months later I’ll bump into them looking almost the same as they did before we started the process. I couldn’t understand why this would happen. She explained, “Jackie – you work with people at a behavioural level. As in, the way you dress is a behaviour, behaviours are shaped by attitudes, and attitudes are in turn shaped by beliefs and core values. You will make no long term, sustainable change at a behavioural level, unless you make a change in their beliefs and values also.”
It makes sense then to take note of how you or your people are dressing for work. What messages are you sending about who you really are?
The gal in the too tight, too short, too sheer ensemble is not just showing off her hard yards in the gym. She may in fact be subconsciously dressing to ensure she keeps getting approving comments like those she’s probably had since she was called a “pretty girl” as a toddler.
The total wreck who arrives each day in his already slightly grubby shirt and crumpled pants? He’s perhaps sending messages of “I don’t fit in, so take me as you find me,” which is insecurity masquerading as arrogance.
The trick to being authentic at work is to first find a workplace that fits who you truly are, or to find a place that tests your beliefs in a positive way.
The challenge as an employer is that we all have different core values and what you hold dear, may not be shared by your employees. When you are hiring, perhaps you should look not only at the psychometric tests but also the way your interviewees are dressed – it may give you more clues as to who they really are than you realise. M
Jackie O’Fee is the owner of personal style consultancy Signature Style. She works with both individuals and organisations, is a popular speaker and television presenter.