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Behind closed doors

Q: I interviewed with a company in early January. After I left the HR Rep’s office, I could overhear a conversation that she was having with the hiring manager. I took my time putting my coat on. I heard them talking about my candidacy. Specifically, they mentioned my email address (which is and the manner in which I was dressed. They were extremely critical. These are not qualifications for the job. I don’t get it. Do they want me to dress like a librarian?

A: Your question raises several different issues, all worth further discussion and comment. First, it sounds like the HR professional needs a more private space to discuss candidates. Second, these comments were not intended to be heard by you but it sounds like you lingered hoping to hear more.

I don’t know any of the specifics about your skills, the company, the role of interest or the work environment or industry. However, I will assume it is a professional work environment where there is an expected “dress code” at least for candidates.

Candidates should ALWAYS look professional. In most cases, what you wear out to a club on a Saturday night is not the same attire you would wear to an interview. It is better to err on the side of conservatism rather than dress flamboyantly. I don’t know how you were dressed but obviously it caught their attention, and not in the most positive way.

Your email address also sends a message about you as a candidate. Recently, I was a panelist with some of the best recruitment brains in Boston. “New Year, New Job” was a panel hosted by Ed Nathanson, Director of Talent Acquisition at Rapid7. Rapid7 is growing by leaps and bounds. One of the topics the panel discussed was a candidate’s choice of email. When you use an email that is racy, inappropriate or salacious, you are sending a message about your professionalism. Some job coaches recommend that you use one email address that is exclusively reserved for your job search. It should be simple and professional, like It should never give the HR person a moment of pause or distraction.

It sounds like you received some difficult feedback while you were leaving that interview. I know it is hard to digest. However, it might be an opportunity to learn and improve your candidacy for the next role.

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