Interview Fun

I went for a “christmas casual recruitment event” – better known as a group interview – today, with the Post Office. And it was all cool and groovy – I didn’t get observably lost, and I was finished in under an hour.

What struck me, though, was the way that other people seemed to have treated the interview.

Call me old-fashioned, but when I go to an interview, I wear something roughly approximating to a suit. Meaning clean black shoes (not my beloved steel-toed kitchen boots!), black trousers and some kind of shirt. It’s usually not a white shirt because I don’t like wearing clothes with the potential to go see-through in the rain. But it will have a collar, and I will look smart. I even – and this is shocking, for me – change my bag, so that instead of my battered, cord, everyday bag that’s covered in badges, I actually have one that’s neat. Boring, but neat.

Anyway, so that was me today, all dolled up. Most of the rest? Um, not so much.

There were probably 30-odd people. I could count on one hand the number of people wearing suit-like outfits. Which by my reckoning is less than 20%. And the others were actually quite shocking.

Scruffy trainers, ripped jeans, t-shirts… things that I’d wear to sword-fight in, not present myself as a prospective employee! And a couple of poor unfortunates who smelt. Not in an I’ve-covered-myself-in-aftershave smell either, this was an all out I’ve-been-for-a-strenuous-workout-for-three-days-solid-and-haven’t-washed-in-that-time kind of a smell.

Thinking about it, there weren’t very many women in the room. Not to be interviewed, anyway. The post office staff were a fairly even split. I don’t know whether that would have made a difference to the overall smartness of the group, but I can speculate.

The thing is, we don’t live in a vacuum. I honestly couldn’t tell you whether I always wear an almost-suit because I’m a woman, or because I’ve been taught that it’s the “done thing”, or because I have a need to make a good impression, or because I treat every interview seriously, or (more likely) a combination of those things.

Which means that I can’t tell whether the (mainly men) that dressed down did so because they were men, or because they weren’t taught that it’s the “done thing”, or because they don’t feel the need to make a good impression, or because they didn’t treat the interview seriously. Or some other reasons that I haven’t thought of. Most of us, men and women, were students. Perhaps, then, a fair amount of the people there had not seriously looked for work before, and simply weren’t aware of the conventions. Perhaps they’d been at uni and had forgotten, or couldn’t be bothered, to change their outfits.

I don’t even know if it makes a difference, my almost-suit. It could be that the post office interviewers were sitting there wondering why on earth I’d dressed so smartly. It could have been me who was dressing inappropriately.

But I have a feeling that I did the right thing. I also have a feeling that if there had been more women there, it’s likely that they would have also dressed smartly. I might be wrong, of course. But when you live your life being used to people looking at you, and judging you, for your appearance, and when you know it really does make a real difference to your career, I think you’re more likely to err on the side of caution. And I think that this mindset is a disproportionately feminine mindset.


To help the unitiated on their merry way, go and read The Beauty Myth. Either that, or go and read what Kirsten had to say about it, or the quote up now at Hell On Hairy Legs. And watch this, which seems to be the only real clip still left of the video that Kirsten watched:


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