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Recruitment: No Suits Required

By August 1, 20133 Comments

Today’s blog is being delivered to you with sneaker-clad feet on desk, roll-up jeans crossed, ironic T-shirt displayed and topped off with trendy beanie hat supporting the weight of industrial size headphone cans.

Well not quite, but I’m not exactly in a suit, and this is Britomart, so you could almost believe me, right?

For a couple of years now I’ve been meaning to write a post about the growing trend of “Casual Fridays” pervasively insinuating it’s way into the previously austere and formal world of recruitment.  But thinking about it now, it wouldn’t make much of a debate nowadays would it?  If you’re working for a company that doesn’t allow at least “business casual” on Fridays then you’d be in the minority, certainly in New Zealand anyway.  It was a little over two years ago that I wrote an obituary to the knotted tie in recruitment – and even that provoked a number of comments suggesting I was wrong… But hey, today is Friday, we’re working in recruitment, and how many of you are wearing a tie to work today…?


And then earlier on this week I learned that a large ICT recruiting specialist have introduced a “no suit required” policy into their New Zealand operation.  Now that is taking things a significant step further.  But it was pretty hard to argue with the logic.  Most of their client and candidate base don’t wear suits anymore either.  It could in many ways detract from the impact of your pitch or sale if you are regarded by the client as being overtly formal, particularly in the tech sector I would wager.  But recruitment was reared up out of servicing the Chartered Accounting sector of the 1980’s and mirroring the sharp, dark suits of that big end of town made plenty of sense.  Back then it did, anyway.

I get the sense that this loosening of formalities in recruitment is a movement still in its infancy though.  No doubt many will be aghast at this firm’s sartorial flippancy when it comes to dealing with people’s careers and very livelihoods.  But not me.

There is a groundswell of popular opinion that recruitment as a practice, as an art, is moving further and further away from the school-matronly confines of the wider HR function and is forging its’ own identity and independence in a blazing trail towards the marketing department.  Running a recruitment process for jobs that are easy to fill and attract large volumes of applicants isn’t really recruitment anymore.  It’s administration and any myopic old HR function can run it.

Contemporary recruitment is the art of attracting, engaging, persuading, coaxing, assessing, negotiating, on-boarding and retaining.  Now that is where the future of recruitment is heading, and that is what advertising and marketing is all about.  And we all know what those hipsters like to look like at work.

So it shouldn’t come as much surprise that along with shifts in recruitment thinking and reporting lines, our battle attire is shifting in the same direction.  But be honest with yourself.  Are you donning a suit every day out of some obscure nod towards “respecting” your candidate’s precarious employment position?  Or is it more a suit of armour to hide the fact your level of industry expertise doesn’t justify the fee you’re charging?

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Mike says:

    There has definitely been a change out here in the wild west of WA… between Monday and Thursday the CBD is an army of white and blue shirted foot soldiers, not many ties (or suit jackets) to be seen really. On Friday the battle attire changes to ‘casual Friday’, jeans as far as you can see, very few suits, and not a tie in sight!
    Very different from when I started with a large global corporate the ties a must, I believe they still have this policy in this day. My view is that you dress as your clients dress – you can sport the young corporate recruiter a mile off with their suit, shirt, tie and black folder on the way to see their client.

  • Patrick says:

    I for one love the ease of decision making that goes with wearing a suit. I struggle to find halfway decent mufti for casual friday let alone having to do it 5 days a week. A couple of years ago, having embraced the no-tie movement went back to wearing a tie for the majority of the time. It as a perosnal, not corporate choice and one very much about personal brand. Having said that as a more callow youth I did enjoy three-peice suits because you get get away with ironing just the collar and sleeves of your business suit.

  • Adrian says:

    The only time I have to put a tie on is when my son needs it done for school, normally as a result of one of his friends pulling on it and ruining his noose.

    I also work a lot from home, so clothes are irrelevant (yes, I do wear some). Generally in deciding on what to wear on other days, I consider whom I am going to meet, and wear something appropriate for that. As I largely work with Accountants who still wear a suit, then so would I, but sans tie.

    The old saying that you only get one chance of creating a first impression still rings true, so this is probably the best way to make your decision on what to wear for that important meeting.