Balancing Individuality and Professionalism

Employers want to know the real you, so it’s definitely a good idea to let parts of your personality shine through in your tailored cover letters and in your interviews. Not only that, but evidence of you having a pleasant, team-oriented personality on top of all of your other impressive qualifications makes you a better candidate for almost any position. It can, however, be difficult to draw the line of where and when it’s best to show individuality and what norms should stay professional or standard. It’s a really good idea to think of ways that can show your personality off, even in a heavily standardized hiring process. Here are several categories of the hiring process and exactly how you should balance standing out and blending in.


DRESS CODE: The dress code for networking events or one-on-one interviews is usually business professional or business casual. If there is no dress code mentioned, always dress up or email a recruiter or representative to confirm. If it truly is a casual event, I recommend still slightly dressing up. A lot of information can be conveyed through somebody’s outfit at a professional event or interview, and while I recommend usually sticking to neutral tones and conventional suits, a pop of color or a fun accessory can be good depending on the company’s culture and your own desire to express yourself. If you’re wearing business professional, you could add a decorative scarf to your hair or wear an interesting tie to show off your personality. Additionally, if you decide to wear makeup, a bold lip color may prove to be a good choice to express individuality without going overboard. Wear what you feel comfortable and confident in but make sure it is appropriate. Just make sure to stay on the safe side if you’re not sure that expressing your individuality in your outfit will be beneficial to you getting called back.

COVER LETTER: Cover letters are actually one of the best ways to show your individuality, especially if you continue to tailor them for every company you apply to. A cover letter is usually written in a formal and professional tone but can discuss your achievements and skills in whatever way you decide. For example, if you want to add in a tasteful and funny story about how you found the job or internship you’re applying for, it can be a good way to catch a recruiter or hiring manager’s eye. Again, use caution and your best judgment. After attending several networking events hosted by the companies that you are applying to, you should have a good idea of how an anecdote or joke in a cover letter will be received at the company in question.

INTERVIEWS AND LANGUAGE: Interviews are absolutely the best ways to convey personality. Figure out what kind of adjectives you and other people would use to describe yourself, as that is a question many interviewers ask. Make the interview feel like a conversation by telling stories or relating to the interviewer. If you see any similarities between you and your interviewer, make sure to expand on them in your own ways! However, no matter how comfortable you feel with your employer, make sure to keep your language and tone professional and appropriate. Generally, it’s a bad idea to use slang, even if it’s a big component of how you talk and who you are because it is not yet normalized in professional interview settings. The goal is to stay true to yourself but to also water down and minimize the types of things you would say or do in non-professional social settings. 


Although much of this seems self-explanatory or common-sense, a good idea is to start thinking of small ways in which you can bring your own style or sense of self into the way you dress, talk, and present yourself. You do not have to lose parts of yourself up for a tan or grey suit. I always remember that a very successful woman once told me that she never gave up her pink and sparkles, no matter what professional role came her way.


By Alina Minkova
Alina Minkova Creative Blog Curator