Dress For Success, Which Could Be Flip-Flops and Shorts

flipflops-James Barker-freeWhen I began my recruiting career in 2010, one of my first strategies was setting myself apart from the competition — the thousands of internal/external tech recruiters around the country.

We’re all chasing 95% of the same candidates to fill the role. With zero background in technology/software engineering or recruiting, I had to approach every single single task differently or I would fail fast in this commission-only job.

One seemingly minor, yet intriguing, tactic was attire. As with so many sales jobs, I found it incredible that some recruiters still wear business formal to meet with clients and candidates; I even felt awkward going business casual or nice casual. Within a few months, I was wearing hand-me-down t-shirts and shorts just to emphasize the unnecessary attire standards encouraged for recruiters. (Yeah, so maybe I also have a problem with authority.)

Here are two, somewhat conflicting recommendations:

1. Beginners should consider their audience.

Yes, this is sales 101 and applies to everything, including attire. If you’re new to recruiting and have not yet established a reputation of competence, and your client is a white shoe law firm, OK, then I would actually recommend a suit. But if your client’s culture is business casual or start-up flip-flops and hats, then do what you can not to stick out like a stiff sore thumb.

If you’re feeling confident, go to the company’s online store and expense a $20 t-shirt for your first meeting; that’s how you make an impression.

Speaking of confidence…

2. Recruiting pros should dress however they damn well please; confidence sells.

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If you can reasonably expect you’ll at least make a positive first impression as a recruiter, or ideally fill the position, then you’re at a point in your career where you deserve to dress how you want.

Other recruiters walking into the client’s offices will probably be wearing the typical “salesperson” attire.  This isn’t doing anything for them, since they blend in, and the initial impression likely says, “I dress as I’m told, do not take risks, and my creativity is limited.” Well, how is that person supposed to compete with the masses of other recruiters prospecting the same candidates?

When you show up in your summer dress or baseball hat, you’re communicating “Yeah, I dress how I want because I deliver the goods regardless of what I wear.” It’s as simple as that. But be sure to back it up with performance, integrity, and excellent service, or this will completely backfire!

Within a year, I launched my agency and recruited 100% from home, so attire ceased to be a factor. But for you recruiters who enjoy the social, face-to-face aspect of the job, I highly recommend at least trying these strategies. I still chuckle when I occasionally visit an old client and see a green salesperson wearing the monkey suit in the 21st century.

Happy Recruiting!

Image: James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brad Lazarus began recruiting in late 2010, launched his agency, Tomesei, a year later, and retired in early 2015. He loves this business and still project recruits for his favorite clients on occasion. Brad is now devoting most of his time to non-profit ventures and helping improve the staffing industry by increasing recruiter competence, productivity, and integrity.

One of his labors of love is TelePlayTime.com, a new website that mocks serious TV shows through the creation of mini episode scripts. Feel free to reach out with any questions.

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