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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Wear success on your sleeve

By Susan Poizner
Special to The Toronto Sun

He may have a warm personality and an engaging voice, but Jeff Goodes is the first to admit that he isn't the snappiest dresser in town. Goodes is the host of CBC Radio One's weekend morning program Fresh Air, and he calls his style "casual bordering on slobby."
Actress and freelance bookkeeper Tanya Matthews says it's always safer to dress up for a job interview.

"When I get on the Go train in the morning, I'm always the worst-dressed person in the car. Other people go for upscale casual, wearing golf shirts and that kind of thing. There are lots of chinos going on. And there's still a lot of suits," he says.

But Goodes says he fits perfectly into the CBC environment, where creative staff can show up in shorts and scruffy T-shirts. They wear beaten up old jeans and crumpled shirts. And parkas and cardigans in the winter are also perfectly acceptable CBC attire.

"I'm sure if you arrived in bikini briefs there would be trouble. Not because people would be offended but because they would be disgusted. Bare midriffs are out and dressing trashily is frowned upon. We're slobby here -- but we're conservative," Goodes notes.

These days, it's a challenge to know what to wear to work. Once, suits were standard. Then, during the dot-com 90s, dressing down was the way to go, according to Lucille Conlon of Workplace Solutions. She has been an employment recruiter for 20 years.
Jeff Goodes, host of CBC Radio One's Fresh Air, says casual but conservative is acceptable at his office.

"Companies relaxed their dress codes and then they were faced with inappropriate situations. If clients are coming in all the time, you have to be careful not to go to the midriff-showing tops. Companies are becoming slightly more conservative," she says.

"I was just speaking with a friend over the weekend who works for a bank, and (she says) they're not supposed to wear open-toed shoes. I think the pendulum has swung to the other side of the spectrum and it looks like things are going back (to conservative styles) again."

Rob McCloud, spokesman for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), says his bank doesn't have an official dress code -- but staff members are expected to dress "appropriately," wearing suits to client meetings and casual wear for internal office work.

But there are some general guidelines at the CIBC. Athletic shoes, sneakers and flip-flops are out. Non-beach type sandals are okay. Denim and spandex clothing are out. And sleeveless shirts, shorts and clothing with rips aren't acceptable.

A flexible dress code, however, doesn't mean that people are packing their suits away in mothball-filled cupboards. According to Jeff Goodes, the CBC management often dresses more formally to differentiate themselves from the creative types.
  • First impressions matter so make sure you're clean and well-dressed for any interview.
  • If you don't know the dress code, play it safe and wear smart clothes.
  • Once you're at the office, take note of what other people are wearing.
  • Keep an eye on detail: If you're wearing a blouse, make sure it's well ironed. Make sure your nails are clean and your shoes are well polished. Employers notice everything.

  • "Some CBC radio reporters Like Derek Stoffel and David Michael Lam also wear suits all the time. We keep thinking they're going to job interviews. It's almost a rebellious thing to wear a suit here. They're really making a statement," he says.

    So, what do you do when you're going to a job interview? Tanya Matthews is a freelance bookkeeper and actress who has worked in a number of different offices, and she says you can never know what the dress code is going to be at any given job.

    "When I go for an interview with a new client I always wear a suit. If I show up to the interview and my future employer is wearing jeans, I'd say 'Fantastic. I see you're wearing jeans. Does this mean staff dress casually at your office?'

    "For me, it's respectful to come to an interview in a suit and to look clean and smart. Ultimately, I'd much rather wear a suit and it be a joke at the interview than find myself in an situation where my future employer shows up in a suit while I'm wearing jeans."

    (Susan Poizner ( is a Toronto-based freelance writer.)

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