Karen Lomas
April 13, 2015

Do recruiters look at your Shoes?

Red Shoes

Thinking back to my time in business, I do not specifically recall checking out a candidate’s footwear. On the other hand, it is highly possible that I did notice the lack of spit and polish, a worn-down-to-nothing heel, or a chewed up strap that looked like something that had been in the dog’s mouth. Something subliminal can happen in a moment, which may be the difference between being on the shortlist, or otherwise. It can indeed be that recruiters look at your shoes.

Shoes have in fact been the topic of much discussion of late. Qantas recently announced that there was to be a broad tightening up of the dress code for their airport lounges, and one of the new specific rules is a ban on the wearing of thongs (or flip flops to my English readership). This apparently created a big fuss and a social media beat-up. not least because the new rules had not been stipulated on any noticeboards at the entrances to said lounges. Even designer leather thongs are banned, causing much distress to a particular customer, a sex worker, who lamented that: “(as) it was a four-hour flight, it was simply a matter of comfort over class”, and that all of her heels were checked in.

The airline did not however back down to the pressure, and confirmed that leather thongs were indeed on the ban list. Qantas is making a statement that reads; if you want to join our Club, you need to look the part. So, you business travellers, watch out when you’re flying, as the shoe police might evict you from the lounge!

In the Journal of Research in Personality, authors of an article entitled Shoes as a Source of First Impressions, argue that “Shoes can indeed be used to evaluate others, at least in some domains”. The claim was made on the basis that a group of research participants “accurately judged the age, gender, income, and attachment anxiety of shoe owners based solely on the pictures”. EEK! Might this be problematic when deciding what shoes to wear to an interview? I guess, maybe, and certainly if the recruiter has been reading his copy of the Journal of Research in Personality.

It’s a vexed issue to hear that recruiters are being so canny. We already know that they are looking at more than just the printed resume when drawing up a shortlist of candidates. Checking out your Facebook page is the commonly quoted example. Meanwhile some, such as Vend, a point-of-sale software developer, are creating their own online quiz for recruitment purposes, asking such questions as, “What was your last crazy idea?” and getting you to rank social stuff at work in order of preference: “Pool or Ping Pong?”

So back to the notion that recruiters look at your shoes. I hazard to guess that most recruiters are quite time poor and will not wish to spend too long checking out your shoes. He/she is going to come across as pretty dodgy, for one thing, seemingly staring at the floor as you enter the room. There are other things they will pick up on as well as footwear: from your hair to your body language; your fingernails (clean, bitten) to your tie, handbag, briefcase. However, there are a few things I would recommend on the footwear front:

Plan ahead: Make sure you know what you’re going to wear, and find shoes that suit the outfit. If nothing works invest in a new pair

Think about the context: Nothing to wild in a corporate setting, but a statement shoe could work wonders in a creative context (Mind you, I did carry a red briefcase into my interview at Price Waterhouse, and got the job!)

Good Repair: according to the research, this is a sign of conscientiousness and organisation, and most employers like that. A bit of elbow grease and Kiwi polish won’t go amiss on a leather shoe, and check the heels

High heels and Pointy toes: proceed with caution. Apparently negatively correlates with agreeableness

So recruiters look at your shoes to a lesser or greater degree and you don’t want to fall at the first post, or be kicked out of the lounge, before you have had the chance to speak a word. Interviews can be stressful and the outfit needs a bit of forethought so that you can feel confident you have that bit covered.

By the way, on my way back from the CDAA Conference, in Perth, I managed to slip unnoticed into the Qantas lounge wearing leather flip flops. Yes, I’m an inadvertent rebel!


Gillath, O., et al. Shoes as a source of first impressions. Journal of Research in Personality (2012), http:/dx.doi.o/10.1016/j.jrp.2012.04.003

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