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How candidate behaviour and interview etiquette has changed over recent years

Posted in Candidates, Employers, Recruitment on Feb 01, 2024 by Keeley Edge

I began my career in the world of recruitment more than 25 years ago and I've witnessed different trends, the introduction of new technologies, and cultural shifts in behaviour.

More recently, the experience I’ve had with candidates through the recruitment process has had me reflecting on the change in interview etiquette.

I won’t go into no shows, no responses, and unrealistic expectations – that’s a topic for another day!

I've conducted numerous video interviews where candidates appeared in hoodies or very casual attire. 

This trend has prompted me to question: Is this now acceptable and the norm? Am I perhaps a bit outdated in my views that candidates should make an effort with their appearance for an interview?

The Rise of Casual Attire

The pandemic has undoubtedly reshaped our perceptions of professional attire, blurring the lines between formal and casual. As remote work became the norm, the traditional expectations of interview attire underwent a transformation. I even write this now, working remotely in my gym gear as I will be going at lunchtime.

In light of this shift, I find myself questioning the relevance of traditional norms regarding interview attire. Is insisting on formal attire or even smart-casual an outdated expectation? I personally wouldn’t attend or conduct an interview in my current gym clothes, and I wouldn’t expect that from a candidate either however it seems to be an increasing trend of candidates being on video interviews in hoodies, t-shirts etc.

The question is, should candidates be judged solely based on their attire, or should the focus always shift towards their qualifications, skills, and values?

Professionalism and Authenticity

I personally think that interview attire and work attire is about striking a balance between dressing for the occasion while still staying true to your authentic self. While formal attire may not always be necessary, I do think that candidates who demonstrate effort in their appearance convey a sense of professionalism and preparedness, and this can be key to leaving a positive impression in interviews. 

Personally for me, professionalism is how you show up and present yourself, not style and specific attire. When embarking on this thought around interview attire, it was driven by a couple of interviews where candidates didn't seemed to have made an effort or prepared for the video interview. So maybe it wasn't the hoodies they were wearing but how they were wearing them.

As a recruiter or hiring manager in an organisation, I think we can adapt our views when assessing potential candidates. I think attire can play a role in shaping first impressions in some situations, however it should not overshadow the candidate's qualifications and potential. The role and industry may also play a part in how a candidate is viewed. If they are applying for a client facing role in a professional services organisation, you may expect them to be more formally dressed than an applicant for a labourer role with a construction company.

The way the candidate comes across overall - enthusiasm, knowledge, skills and a genuine interest in the role is what should be assessed, as well as fit with company culture. If a candidate is perfect for the role but perhaps there was concern around their presentation, perhaps it’s worth a conversation around company dress code before making a decision.

In Summary:

The landscape of interview and work attire is evolving, reflecting broader shifts in work culture and societal norms. While traditional expectations may persist, it's crucial to remain open to new perspectives and assess whether certain dress codes are essential for certain roles. As recruiters and hiring organisations, let us prioritise the candidate's qualifications, skills, potential and values; and let candidates be authentic in what they wear and how they present themselves.

For my most recent cases of questioning candidates attire, it was probably less about what they were wearing and more about their whole presentation and how they had prepared for the interview. 

For those applying for a new role, bear in mind that how you present yourself will play a part in the decision making of a recruiter or organisation. If you are looking for an opportunity that could elevate your earnings or get you a step up in your career goals, be prepared, make an effort and create a great first impression when dealing with recruiters and organisations directly, you never know where that call or that interview may take you.


Hi I’m Keeley, MD of Key Appointments. 

We offer Fixed Fee, Contingent, Retained and Recruitment Outsourcing services - providing support wherever it’s needed, allowing you to manage your budget effectively.

Talk to me if you’re an SME or Non-Profit with limited time and budget for your recruitment.

Get in touch if you’re a Manufacturing or Engineering business looking for talented Engineers, Supply Chain or Commercial employees.

The Key Appointments team can help you: Attract, Search, Screen, Assess and Onboard potential future employees.

Call me on 07943 116559 or email me 

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