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Dressing For A Funeral – What Not To Wear To Your Next Medical Job Interview

Job interview with scrubs

I am sitting across from Michael in the interview room. He has applied for a medical job at the hospital I am recruiting for. He has performed well in the past year, and there is no reason he shouldn’t get the job.

As we start the preliminary parts of the interview, I notice a few specks of red on his blue scrubs. The more I look, the more I see. Some are small dots of red, some are big blotches. It’s at this point I realise that, of course, it’s blood on his scrubs, and probably not his.

We’ll come back to Michael later.

I will preface the following content by saying I am not a fashion expert. And, where I refer to clothing that is gender specific, you’ll just have to use your imagination to decide how it applies to you.

A common anxiety among medical professionals is what to wear to a job interview. What you wear, and how you appear can have a huge influence on the final decision. Studies like this one have demonstrated that people clearly form judgements about personality traits and qualities, based purely on appearance.

What to actually wear is a hard question to answer, because “it depends”.

What it depends on is the job (is it a surgeon job, a nurse position, a locum position?), the context (formal, informal?), and the audience (young, old, stuffy, cool, mixed, religious?). However for the sake of simplicity, I am going to say this:

 

Dress as though you’re going to a funeral.

 

Why do I say this? Because most people relate to the gravity and solemness of a funeral, and it’s a good benchmark for choosing something to wear to an interview. Practically speaking, that means a suit or dress.

Naturally, you need to tailor what you’re wearing for the situation. For example, if you’re applying for a GP position in a rural or regional area, you might bring the jacket and tie but leave it in the car, and opt for something still business-like, but less formal.

Conversely, when you have your interview with an esteemed medical college that has been around longer than your grandpa, or for a job where image matters, you best wear that jacket.

In short, it is important to consider who you are meeting with, and ensure there is congruence between your attire and the culture of the organisation. If you’re not sure what to wear to the interview, visit the employer on the quiet (if possible), and observe what the staff are wearing.

In some organisations, the interview process is far less formal. You might be invited for a coffee, or for lunch at a restaurant; and that can make things tricky. You will have to make a judgement call on that one, but wear at least business casual (i.e. a collared shirt and pants/skirt).

Even if the position is with your existing employer, still put some effort into your appearance. In situations where you are pressed for time, or have just finished a long case and you don’t have time to get changed, or fix your appearance, it could be better to postpone the interview, rather than appearing disheveled. People will understand if you are caught up doing your job.

 

Are there some hard and fast rules about what not to wear to a medical job interview? Yes!

Absolutely never wear:

  • Shorts, jeans, t-shirts or anything that would be considered casual
  • Crocs or thongs (flip flops)
  • Clinical attire (i.e. scrubs, gowns, etc)
  • Work uniform of another organisation
  • Anything that could be considered offensive
  • Revealing or torn clothing
  • Clothing that has blood or other body fluids on it

 

If you have had a busy day, make sure you do a quick visual check in the mirror, and assess the body odour situation before you walk into the interview. Also ensure your hands and fingernails are very clean.

These may sound like obvious tips to some, but as someone who has interviewed almost countless doctors and other health professionals over the years, I have seen every single example above appear in a job interview, some on a number of occasions.

So, what happened to Michael?

I stopped the interview, and asked him what he was doing before he came to the interview. It turns out he’d just finished a particularly busy ED shift, and he had been part of a team dealing with a multiple casualty MVA. This is why he was in scrubs, and why he hadn’t had the time to look in the mirror before the interview.

I won’t tell you whether Michael got the job or not, but keep these tips in mind and it will be a great start to putting your best foot forward for your next job interview.

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