Relaxed Does Not Equal Unprofessional

Posted February 21, 2013 by Marcy Twete in Building Your Brand


The women in the above photo, if they were wearing these outfits to an office, would quite obviously be working in a casually dressed work environment. Imagine, for a moment, where these women might work. Google, perhaps? Or Groupon? Maybe a tech startup in Silicon Valley or a small magazine or fashion PR house in New York? It’s easy to imagine these outfits fitting into those kinds of places.

You might ask why I’m talking about these outfits. It’s to illustrate a point I heard this weekend in a story that truly made me laugh. I was happy to spend the day with a phenomenal group of women and girls mentoring at Step Up Women’s Network, talking to high school seniors about resume and cover letter writing. In that room were two recruiters who work for a large tech company. This company is known for its “relaxed” environment. Staff members dress casually, much like the women in the photo above. One of these tech recruiters told us that, more than once, emails applying for positions with this company were addressed “Yo!” or another incredibly casual greeting. Their response? Toss those puppies in the garbage!

In the kind of job application environment we live in,  you must tailor your submissions to the kind of company you’re applying for. But there’s an important point to make here:

Just because a company has a casual or relaxed environment doesn’t mean you can be unprofessional in your approach to that company.

It is possible to be relaxed and professional, to be casual and professional. And when you’re applying for a job, interviewing, and going through the process, you have to be professional – 100%. A few “must’s” in the process:

  • Always address HR staff professionally both in email and on the phone, no matter the company’s culture.
  • Wear a suit to the first interview at least! If, after the first interview, you truly feel you can dress down a bit, you could consider it, but don’t assume it up front. Instead, wear a brightly colored scarf or shoes to spice up your look.
  • Follow up appropriately, not via text or Twitter, no matter how big on social media that company or the individual interviewing you might be.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."