The Recruitment Dress Code

The argument over what a Recruitment Consultant should wear in an office is one that gets people pretty heated. Historically, the industry dress code has been seen as relatively formal. A level of uniformity that carried from agency to agency.

There was a time when every job in the world had some level of uniformed dress code. And there’s a good argument for it.

Probably not in any kind of restrictive sense, but creating a level playing field amongst staff is the easy option. In the business world, maintaining a standard of attire makes sense.

It sets a standard across the business and will mean everyone’s expected to take the same care in appearance. From the CEO to the Office Manager.

Gender Specific

There’ve been many articles recently which try to address the issue of clothing on a gender basis. This article from the BBC suggests a fine for businesses who deliver dress codes based on gender. Asking someone to dress in a certain way because they’re male or female is now seen as unfair. And rightly so. But in the past this wouldn’t have been the case.

High heels are an example of ‘unfair standards’ seeing as men aren’t expected to do the same.

However if high heels offer no other purpose than fashion, I’ll quietly offer ties as the male equivalent. I understand, based on your market, why ties are necessary for some Consultants. Legal or Banking recruiters for example would be expected to represent the market they recruit for, and therefore wear a tie.

But we’re yet to see a lawsuit, if you’ll pardon the pun, for gender disparity on this basis.

Richard Branson is famed for his thoughts on this subject, apparently carrying a pair of scissors with him constantly in order to snip wherever he finds one. 

Branson Tie

Being clean shaven’s another policy synonymous with tie wearing Recruiters. A policy the hirsute Virgin head honcho would disagree with too I imagine.

I’ve heard companies offer the disclaimer of a ‘well trimmed’ beard in place of being cleanly shaven. But not stubble. Which makes me think if you’re able to magically go from cleanly shaven to a well trimmed beard, you’re wasted in recruitment. Bottle that formula and start planning your retirement.

In more recent times ‘dress down’ policies have come into the industry. Some companies, opting for a day of the week in which a suit isn’t required. Others offer this once a month. Some offer it for performance.

I’d question whether the latter is a touch draconian?

“If you’ve made me money this month, you can be more comfortable for one day. But back to normal on Monday alright?”

It also poses the question as to whether these people assume dress down days are more relaxed or laissez fair in attitude? Because if work carries on as normal, why have the code in the first place?

Dress for the desk

The most important element of a dress code in my opinion is to accentuate your personal brand. And matching everything in your personal brand to your desk is incredibly important. If you work in Finance Recruitment, your personal brand will suffer if you look casual.

Tailoring your image and brand is something that requires thought.

In my younger recruiting days I haplessly shuffled into a meeting at a media company with a tie on. The receptionist quietly advised I remove it, less I draw sniggers from my audience. It was pretty good advice, as the owner of the business bowled through in shorts and flip flops.

It felt quite perverse to then put my tie on, to return to sit at my own desk.

One of the critical success factors in recruitment is trust. And your network will be more likely to trust you, if you emulate them. Having matched interests, knowledge, personality traits and even dress code reaffirms similarity. Meaning trust will be more forthcoming. And as a result… business. Which is surely the point of recruitment.

Clothes Shop


Whether you’re going for an interview, meeting a client or are sat at your desk, I think most people in any industry are after ‘grooming standards’. Matching the market you work in is important, but being presentable is just as much so. Which is where company-wide guidelines might fit in.

It’s important to remember that being the most formally dressed person in the room is never as awkward as being the least. Therefore adaptability is key also. Keeping a tie in your top drawer is never a bad idea. Right next to that nearly full pack of business cards.

Many people won’t care what you wear to a meeting. It won’t affect their judgement on personality or ability. Whether that transpires to be face tattoos or a straight-jacket. OK, maybe not a straight-jacket.

But there are some people who don’t think like this. And, when it comes down to it, you need to consider that in recruitment. Safeguarding the possibility of someone refusing a meeting or even long-term business because of what you’re wearing, is perhaps the catalyst for ‘old-fashioned guidelines’ by your management.

It’s likely most recruitment companies are now in a modern frame of mind. But your tie will still be needed for years to come if you don’t want to raise an eyebrow or two in the bank you’ve finally got on the PSL of.

The key is to work for a brand that matches your personal brand.