To help you ace your next interview, we’ve gathered insights from leading HR professionals about what it takes to present yourself as a professional in 2024:
1. Dress to the company culture
You should always aim to match the company’s dress culture when interviewing for a job.
Ubaldo Ciminieri, CMO and Head of Strategic Partnerships at interviewIA, emphasizes the importance of attire, saying that he clarifies dress expectations in job descriptions.
If my team doesn’t need to wear a suit and tie, I wouldn’t expect that from a candidate either.
However, not every employer specifies their dress code. If you can’t find information about how to dress for your interview, it’s safe to lean toward more formal attire.
Tara Furiani, Chief People Officer at Not the HR Lady, recommends always aiming to dress “one notch above the company’s usual dress code.”
She says, “Your outfit isn’t going to land you the job, but it could raise some eyebrows if it’s way off base or out of touch with the style of the business.”
2. Keep your social media profiles on point
Our experts agree that while a candidate’s social media presence isn’t a critical factor when making a hiring decision, it’s still important to maintain a presentable online presence.
Furiani emphasizes the balance between professionalism and personal life online.
She notes, “Everyone’s human, a few pictures from a party won’t rule you out. That said, if your social media showcases hateful rhetoric or anything egregious, that’s a definite red flag.”
Similarly, Trevor Bogan, Regional Director of Top Employers Institute, points out that social media content “isn’t always an immediate dealbreaker,” but there are limits.
If illegal activities or views that are in direct opposition to the organization’s culture and goals are found [on someone’s social media profiles], then the company must have a plan on how to proceed with the applicant.
To ensure your social media profiles reflect your best self, do a quick review before interviews to ensure you have a clean and appropriate online image.
3. Put energy into respectful communication
In interviews, how you communicate is often just as important as what you’re communicating.
This shift means placing greater emphasis on articulating your thoughts clearly and engaging meaningfully in conversation.
Ciminieri highlights that while notions of professionalism evolve, “Respect remains a constant thread.”
Being respectful can mean being adaptable in your communication, taking cues from the interviewer’s style and body language, and responding in a manner that aligns with their professional standards.
Erhard suggests an approach similar to interacting with a respected family member: “You’d be personable, friendly, and true to yourself, but would still act with some reserve.”
Send a thank you note after an interview to show you’re respectful of your interviewer’s time and consideration.
4. Be authentic
For many employers, running a successful workplace means hiring people who have expertise and fit in with the company culture.
Part of the reason for this is that organizations are looking for real people whose personalities and values resonate with their company culture.
“Presenting your true self during an interview is key because if you overemphasize your professionalism and create a facade, it may lead to challenges down the line if you secure the position.” she says.
Such challenges might include struggling with tasks outside your genuine skill set or having difficulty integrating with the team due to misaligned expectations.
Furiani also highlights how younger generations, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, are reshaping professional standards by prioritizing authenticity and social awareness.
For instance, employers increasingly value candidates who aren’t afraid to discuss their passions during an interview, while also showing an ability to understand and respect diverse viewpoints in the workplace.
“Don’t mistake professionalism for stiffness,” Furiani advises.
You can be professional and still let your personality shine. It’s all about context. Share your experiences and thoughts but do it in a way that underscores your understanding of the job, the company, and the industry. Be yourself, but be the most focused, articulate version of yourself.
Join the conversation
We’re eager to hear your perspectives on professionalism in modern job interviews, whether you’re a job seeker or an employer.
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