It used to be the case that if you wanted a decent office job, you had to adhere to some sort of dress code on a regular basis. However, most places of employment (and indeed, American society in general) have gotten a lot more casual with their clothing expectations. This is especially true in the tech industry.
There is one major exception to this trend: the job interview. Even in many places where the day-to-day dress code is very casual, you’re still often expected to trot out the power suit for the interview. Although even this is getting somewhat more relaxed, I always have a blazer and a nice pair of pants ready for a job interview unless I’m told otherwise.
So a while back I was at an event for women in the tech industry, and there were a lot of students present. There also happened to be a couple of recruiters, and they were eager to share tips with the students on how we could present ourselves most effectively when looking for tech industry jobs in this area.
One recruiter, who i’ll call Ashley (I don’t remember her actual name), emphasized the importance of a professional-looking LinkedIn profile picture. Ashley suggested that if you didn’t have such a photo, you should keep your eyes peeled for the occasional headshot session on campus. She also suggested that if you didn’t have time to wait for that, another good place to get a professional headshot was at a realtor’s office.
This caught me by surprise. Yes, realtors are generally known for having a polished professional image, but that’s a very…specific look. I’m not criticizing it – I have family members who are realtors and are very good at their jobs. But there are also very good reasons why they do that for a living and I don’t.
With this in mind, I asked Ashley to clarify what her idea of a professional-looking photo was. She said it would probably be easier if I just showed her my LinkedIn profile and she could provide feedback.
I happily pulled up the app on my phone and showed her my profile picture. In the picture, I’m sitting in front of a computer, wearing a cardigan over a tank top. As far as I was concerned, this was fine for the tech industry. I mean, I was wearing the good cardigan.
Ashley did not agree with my assessment. She thought I definitely needed to have nicer attire in my profile photo.
Fine, I thought. I own a blazer – it won’t kill me to be photographed in it.
But then she continued her analysis. “See, I’d look at this picture and I’d think you were a liberal and a free spirit.”
I thanked Ashley for her feedback, but as soon as she came at me with all that other stuff, my immediate thought was, OK, now I’m not changing it. Because honestly, if you have strong negative associations with those terms, you probably don’t want to hire me.
If you want somebody to be a cog in your system who just nods their head and does what they’re told, we aren’t going to be a good fit for each other. I’d rather work for someone who values the unique things I bring to the table, and indeed, I’m fortunate enough that that’s the case with my current job.
To be fair to Ashley, I have no doubt that her advice was solid for the companies she recruited for. But it’s true what they say about job interviews being a 2-way street. It’s just as important for you to assess the company and consider whether you think you’d be happy working there. If you get the feeling you’d have to repress a significant part of who you are, it’s probably best to keep looking.
Have you ever had any interviewing or networking experiences where it was obvious there wasn’t a good fit? Share your stories in the comments!