Thursday, 26 April 2018

Shoes or Skills?

Recently, my friend went to a talk to prepare for a practice interview, and was told by a female member of staff whose job it is to help students with careers that she had to wear high-heeled shoes to the interview. When she arrived (in the heels), she was then told by another careers professional to change her accent, because her Yorkshire dialect would apparently prevent people from taking her seriously. Unsurprisingly, she was shocked by both comments, as was I. But most of all, this got me thinking, what makes us employable?

Is it what we wear? We are always told that when going for a job interview, we should dress smartly to give the best first impression, for instance wearing a suit. Yet, quite a lot of these jobs don't even involve wearing clothes like this day to day, so why is it so important that we wear them at interview? Does getting a job rely on how we look and what we wear on one day? I am not saying that applicants should turn up to an interview in a tracksuit and trainers, as I respect there is a strong element of professionalism needed to get a job, and this can be communicated through the clothes that we wear. Furthermore, a lot of jobs have a smart dress code, which makes it appropriate to prove in an interview that you can present a professional image. However, I would question the justification for not hiring someone because they didn't wear an item of clothing for an interview that they would never have to wear again if they got the job. Why should women be hired based on whether they are wearing a specific piece of footwear?

The obvious answer is that they shouldn't. What should make you employable are your attributes and skills, which are what actually qualify you for a job. As a third year student, I am looking for a job myself, and I find it hard enough to get employers to take my passion and enthusiasm seriously in my chosen field without having to worry about whether an employer will hire me if I don't wear high-heeled shoes to an interview. In addition to this, I think it is important to acknowledge that it is unfair how recruiters have such high expectations of applicants but there is no consideration of how companies should meet certain standards for applicants. There are so many times that I have encountered spelling mistakes, bad syntax and deception in job advertisements, and I think it is astonishing how these employers then expect the best presentation from their applicants when they cannot do this themselves.

Referring back to when my friend was told to change her accent, this instruction to change for one day seems even more ridiculous - if employers were in fact opposed to her accent, and by changing it for the interview she was employed, is she supposed to fake her accent at work every day for the rest of her career? By altering your appearance and way you present yourself, this is not a realistic representation of who you are, and perhaps more of a reason not to recruit you rather than supposedly making you more employable.

An interview should be somewhere where you can be yourself, and you are employable because of who you are, not who you pretend to be. Otherwise, what is the point of doing a degree to gain knowledge and skills if this is not going to be enough purely because of the way you look or sound? If you wear a pair of flats, this does not in any way affect your skills or make you any worse at a job than another person in high-heels, and a good employer will acknowledge this.

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