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Job interviews: Do clothes make the man?

March 18, 2024 - In the Spotlight

The (burning) question of whether the clothes make the man undoubtedly fuels lively discussions. One thing is certain: studies show a correlation between success and the way we present ourselves. As we delved into this subject to offer you some sound advice for your next interviews, a very interesting article published in La Presse under the headline “La cravate cède le pas au mou chic” caught our attention.

Unsurprisingly, this article reveals that the three-piece suit and tie are no longer the norm. The “casual” look, widely adopted during the pandemic, continues to climb the list of the most popular office styles. What’s even more surprising is that this trend has infiltrated all sectors of activity, including those renowned for their strict dress code! A telling example comes from an accountancy firm where ties are put aside and jeans are now accepted even in the middle of the week. Casual Friday is now an all-week event. Who could have predicted such a development just five years ago? 

Among those interviewed, etiquette specialist Julie Blais Comeau raises some pertinent questions: “When our client sees us, do we look like what we do for a living? Are we credible? Can we be trusted based on what we wear? Whether we agree or not, we are judged from the outside in. It’s the first glance. With this first impression, people will know if they can trust us!” 

Yes, clothes do (sometimes or even often) make the man! 

It is undeniable that each company has its own dress code and it is essential for candidates to adapt to these standards or opt for a chameleon style that is flexible and adaptable to different professional environments. Jeans and running shoes may be the uniform of choice in an advertising agency, but not in a law firm. 

For Annie Bissonnette, co-president and senior partner at La tête chercheuse, “the dress code is an important aspect of corporate culture! At La tête chercheuse, we have adopted the ‘business casual’ style.”

What is business casual? 

We’re not going to give you an exhaustive list of what you should and shouldn’t wear to a job interview, but in a nutshell, business casual is characterised by clean, classic cuts that show you’ve thought about what you’re wearing. Although this style of dress is described as “casual”, that doesn’t mean that anything goes – far from it! We’re talking about a wardrobe that combines casual elegance with structured minimalism. More concretely, we’re talking about impeccable, well-groomed, and professional clothing, in keeping with the image we want to project as a candidate and/or organisation. And as the saying goes, “the devil is in the detail”, so make sure you leave no stone unturned.  

Did you know that the expression “clothes don’t make the man” dates back to the 13th century? It is said to be the translation of the Latin phrase “barba non facit philosophum”, in other words, “a beard does not constitute a philosopher”.

 Good to know… 

The wearing of work clothes or a uniform must be justified by the nature of the task to be performed and proportionate to the aim pursued.

It is important to read your contract of employment carefully, which should set out in clear terms any restrictions on dress or, more generally, appearance.

Don’t hesitate to visit the website of the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail. You’ll find a guide giving you an overview of the laws and regulations governing working conditions and health and safety in the workplace.

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