Ask the Experts: Inappropriate Dress in an Interview

Question: We had a job candidate who we think would be a good fit for one of our open positions, but she was dressed inappropriately for our office during her interview. Can we say anything to her about her attire during the offer process?

 

Answer: You can, as long as you frame it as a discussion about your company’s appearance and dress policy. As an employer, you can make rules for the standard of dress and grooming you want in your workplace. Should you determine that you would like to make an employment offer to this job candidate, discuss with her the standard you expect to see in your workplace. If you don’t already have a written dress and appearance policy, now is the time to create one. The policy should include examples of what is considered acceptable dress and grooming in your workplace and the consequences for employees who report to work and do not meet your standards.

There are caveats to this discussion: do not create dress or appearance policies that interfere with an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. Be sure your policy includes language stating that you are willing to make an accommodation for religious practices (unless it creates a safety or workplace hazard). Similarly, employees whose clothing represents their country of origin or that stem from a disability may require an accommodation. Consider applicable federal, state, and local laws in developing your policy. Finally, once you have created your policy, be sure to obtain a legal review and apply it evenly to avoid claims of unfair treatment.