When Not to Wear Shorts

I live in Florida. I have lived in Florida almost all my life, with the exception of living out of state for a couple of years for employment reasons. I know it’s hot in my home state of Florida. I live here and if you’re hot when we are together, I am probably hot too. My usual attire, to beat the heat and for other reasons of comfort, is shorts and a t-shirt, with flip flops or other sandals as footwear. But, there are plenty of times when, despite my love of casual attire, I refrain from wearing shorts. Unfortunately, Magnus has had quite a few job candidates who showed up for their interview wearing shorts. This includes a woman for whom we paid travel expenses from Texas and whose resume` projected excellent skills for the job for which she was interviewing. She came to the office part of the interview hot, sweaty, and disheveled after her flight, informing us that she left her suit jacket in the rental car because, you guessed it, she was hot. Worse still, when David and I arrived at her hotel to pick her up for dinner at an upscale restaurant, she was wearing my usual attire: shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops. Maybe other potential employers would have been impressed with her credentials to the point of being able to overlook her poor choice of attire, but David and I decided not to offer her a job because of our fear of the negative impression she would make on our clients, all of whom wear suits when we are working with them. We recently declined to spend any time interviewing another job candidate because he came to the interview wearing shorts, while David and I were dressed in professional attire out of respect for him and the seriousness of our work. There is a time and place for everything, including shorts. And there is also a time and place for wearing appropriate attire, even when it’s hot in Florida.

In my mind, there are many “costumes” which are appropriate in different situations.  As a photographer, I dressed to blend into the environment where I would be shooting.  If it was a business event, I would wear a shirt/tie or sometimes, a tuxedo, to seem to be a part of the event.  Casual events, like golf or fishing, tournaments had their own costume.  Professional work environments have a dress norm also, even when those are sometimes relaxed in a business casual workplace.  But, for interviews, it is hard to overdress.  Thus, Melissa and I shook our heads, again, recently when the young man showed up for the job interview wearing shorts.  He said “it is hot.”  Well, yes, it is, outside.  Our office is air conditioned.  The places we conduct research are air conditioned.  We don’t wear shorts when meeting with clients.  Prior to the in person interview, the young man and I spoke on via a video conference.  We discussed the nature of our work and he had the opportunity to research us on our website.  The fact that, despite the available information, he decided to under dress for the interview, told us things well beyond his poor choice of attire.  His in person interview was brief and the whole experience left us frustrated.  The young woman from Texas shocked us years ago – isn’t Texas hot also?  We’ve had other candidates whose attire or appearance torpedoed their employment possibility.  I’m thinking now of a young man who showed up in a partially untucked shirt with his tie askew.  I don’t know why his shirt was untucked.  He was heavy and showed up sweaty and looked unkempt with the shirt rumpled and untucked (in the front).  First appearances matter in the world.  If they do not to the job candidates at the most important meeting they have with us, we have no reason to believe this will improve.  I have quite a collection of shorts.  It’s hot in Florida, but the “costume” required in a professional job interview does not include shorts.  Jobs require certain “costumes.”  Our attorney clients wear suits, coats, ties, etc., to court.  They wear this to mock jury research (with the exception of certain methodologies that involve business casual attire).  Wearing shorts, or being otherwise unkempt, ultimately reflects on Melissa and me as the owners of Magnus.  As such, these cues tell us all we need to know, perhaps saving us down the line, by leading to the exclusion of unfit candidates.  

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