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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You’re going to wear WHAT? Carson Kressley hits Orlando…



I’m not the most coordinated person when it comes to dressing myself. In fact, it is a running joke in my office that I ALWAYS wear a dress to work…and not because I’m exceptionally girly. Instead, I am borderline lazy when it comes to clothing and dresses are easy. There is no matching involved (other than your shoes…and I almost wear the same pair everyday so that’s simple enough) and you only have to throw one thing on in the morning and you are ready to go…and look quite cute to boot. Dresses are my thing.

Recently a lot of my posts have been inspired by crazy stuff my candidates do…and this one is no different. I harp a lot on looking presentable for interviews (with a staffing firm and the “real” company), first day at work, etc. and there is a reason for that. When you dress the part, it makes a good first (second, third…seventh) impression. In my three years with Kforce, I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff. (And when I say “crazy”, that means plain freakin’, WTF were you thinking doing that/wearing that NUTS.)

Let me take you back to the beginning of my wild and crazy career with The Force.

It was a dark and stormy night…ok, not really, but a little added suspense never hurts.

I had been working with Kforce for a few months and I had recently recruited a killer candidate and he was going to come in and meet with me for an in-person interview. I was excited…very, very excited. Not only was his resume absolutely freakin’ awesome, he was articulate, and I was positive that he would present wonderfully in person.

WRONG.

I got a call from the front desk and she told me that Nameless Candidate #1 had arrived for his interview. I walked out, anxious to meet my .Net stunner and I was stopped dead in my tracks. For a split second, I thought I was being punked. As I looked at his outfit and tried to make sense of what was before me I couldn’t help but…laugh (terrible, nervous habit). Before me stood a pair of corduroy pants about six inches too short (almost capris, but not quite) riddled with holes, tube socks, (if I hadn’t known better I would have sworn he was sharing socks with my little brother), some rockin’ Velcro shoes…and a Guy Harvey shirt adorned with a big marlin. For the record, I love Guy Harvey and I was still turned off. To top off the look, he was sporting the Prince Charles all-the-way-to-the-ear part and some HUGE glasses. He looked hot. Immediately, my opinion of this candidate changed. Though I was very excited about his background and the way he presented verbally, I was terrified to put him in front of a client. I had been pretty clear that professional dress was required for in-person interviews and if this was his idea of professional dress…Dios Mio, I was in trouble. Against my better judgment, I took a chance on him anyway (after some serious wardrobe counseling)…and he showed up wearing the same freakin’ pants to his client interview. My client actually called me after and asked me if I had found him on the street. (For the record, no, I found him on Monster.com…the other street). My client did recognize that he had the skills to do the job but couldn’t get over his appearance. As a result, Nameless Candidate #1 remained unemployed.

About a year later, I met Nameless Candidate #2 and unlike Nameless Candidate #1, he looked awesome when he came in for his in-person interview with me. This guy was sharp and to top it off, was a technical wizard. I was extremely excited to get him presented to some of my clients. I presented him to a few things that didn’t pan out and finally to a job that he eventually got. The only crappy part was this job wasn’t slated to start for over a month from the time of the interview. Fortunately, it was a big love fest between Nameless Candidate #2 and my client so my candidate agreed to wait and start the job in about five weeks when it opened up. Everything was perfect.

Or so I thought.

The five weeks passed pretty quickly and I went to walk Nameless Candidate #2 on for his first day (and give him his brown bag lunch…or not). As soon as I walked up, I noticed something was off but I couldn’t quite place it. He looked different.

And then it hit me.

Nameless Candidate #2 thought it was a stellar idea to put gauges in his ears.

Awesome.

So Awesome, in fact, his manager called me about an hour or so later and told me that HR had big issues with the gauges (shocker!) and I needed to counsel my candidate. Again with the damn counseling! Perhaps he could wear Band-Aids over the large holes in his ears? In any event, I gave him a ring, informed him that gauges didn’t scream “Hello, I’m a professional” and told him that he would have to wear Band-Aids over his ears during the workday. Very awkward situation...

…but certainly not the most awkward one I’ve been in. No, no…that honor is reserved for Nameless Candidate #3 that decided to dye her hair bright red (Lucille Ball has nothing on this lady) after I advised her to groom herself a little.

I met Nameless Candidate #3 much like the others and while she didn’t come dressed like a frump to her interview with me, she wasn’t overly put together. She was average and a little bit of a hippie…and that was f-i-n-e with me. I love hippies…I am moving to San Francisco, after all. She interviewed telephonically with a client of mine and he liked her enough to bring her in. She went in for her first in-person with the client and did reasonably well. His only criticism was that she was a bit of a “naturalist” and she might need to clean up a little before the final round of interviews (panel). Though I was not thrilled about advising someone to brush their hair etc. (should be common sense, but who am I to judge?), I told her to spruce it up a little and she should be good to go.

And thus began the breakdown in communication. Apparently, when I said, “Spruce it up and brush your hair.” she took that as, “Dye your hair the most obnoxious and unnatural color you can find…oh, and don’t use gloves…and pay no attention to your hairline.”

You see where I’m going with this, right? Yeah….

The day of the final interview rolls around and I meet Nameless Candidate #3 onsite at my client’s. She is dressed appropriately (kind of)…but wait a second…what is all of that red stuff all over her???? Has she been sacrificing animals in her spare time? (She is a proud PETA advocate so I quickly ruled that out…and noticed her flaming red hair.)

Instead, it seemed that she thought it was a wise idea to sex it up a little and color her hair and take no care to wash her hands…face…neck, forearms…etc. It was awful. No, it was beyond awful it was a train wreck…and a half.

I was inclined to spit on my finger (mommy style) and start rubbing the stuff off of her but I had no time. Mr. Client came out and escorted my little hair dye warrior into the interview room. To her credit, she held her own in the interview…but did not get the job. Before I received any technical feedback I was asked, “Was she in an accident?”

“Define accident”, I thought. If you mean she covered herself head to toe in dye because she wanted to spice it up, then yes, she was in a terrible, terrible accident.

Sadly, this stuff seems to happen all of the time and I guess channeling my inner “Queer Eye” is part of my job description. While I think it is common sense to dress appropriately (translation: wear a freakin’ suit) and not make any drastic alterations to your appearance before interviewing or starting a job, it isn’t as obvious to a lot of the people on the job market. I sincerely wish that candidates could get a job solely based on their technical prowess but there are so many other factors that are considered, namely team fit, environment fit, and appearance (and when I say appearance, I just mean look normal). So, for what it is worth (and I know I sound like a broken record), always remember to dress appropriately and maintain a “normal” and professional appearance.

Corduroy, red hair dye, gauges, and Guy Harvey (especially Guy Harvey) are hot…but save it for your house…on the weekend…when you are all alone…in the dark.