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 [email protected]) 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 [email protected] 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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