Ask LH: How Should I Dress When Applying For Work At A Takeaway Joint?

Ask LH: How Should I Dress When Applying For Work At A Takeaway Joint?
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Hey Lifehacker, Should I wear my formal clothes when applying for a job, even if it’s at a fast food restaurant? Or will that create a negative reaction because I’m “over-dressed”? Thanks, Wannabe Ronald

Dear WR,

Putting effort into your clothing choices is unlikely to hurt your chances of employment in the fast food industry. On the contrary, it demonstrates professionalism and a willingness to take the position seriously — all before you’ve even opened your mouth.

Think about it: if the decision came down to a guy in a suit and a guy in a Megadeth T-shirt, which one would you hire? Obviously, you don’t want to be the guy in the Megadeth T-shirt!

With that said, a suit is probably overkill if you’re applying for an entry-level position in a fast food restaurant. Personally, we’d settle for a dress shirt/blouse which strikes a nice balance between casual and formal.

Naturally, you need to combine your threads with what job listings like to call a “well-groomed” appearance. This is especially important if you’re applying for a front-of-house position where you will be frequently face-to-face with customers.

Often it can be the little things that employers notice — a shabby hair cut and/or unruly facial hair can really hurt your chances. Simply put, you should try to match the company’s employee appearance guidelines before getting hired, not after. Good luck!


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  • The rule I’ve always been taught is to dress one level above the expected dress code at the job. eg for a job where you’re expected to be business casual (dress pants and dress shirt) you wear tie and possibly full suit. For a fast food joint where there would be a uniform, dressing in dress shirt would be suitable as stated by Chris, it presents a clean polished look that a manager would be happy to let talk to their customers.

  • I’ve worked in the Quick Service Restaurant industry for ~8 years now (it isn’t my career choice, I’ve put myself through high school and I’m working my way through an engineering degree).

    The most important thing that will get you through an interview in this industry is availability, punctuality and friendliness.

    As for clothing, a nice *ironed* business shirt, pants and black leather shoes will do the job absolutely fine.

    Just remember to smile and be honest about your availabilities.

    If WR (or anyone else) has any questions, feel free to shoot me a message on linkedin.

  • Smart casual would be the minimum I’d expect for any interview. It’s a sign of respect. Don’t just think you can wear any old thing because “it’s just a shitty minmum wage fast food job” (& yes I worked fast food for 8 years).
    I remember a teenager came in for an interview in a massively oversized t-shirt, board shorts, and either trainers or thongs. That was NOT a good impression. We didn’t hire him, and his mum came in and yelled at the manager. Manager said he was happy to start over, and re-interview him, on the proviso he turned up more presentable.
    Mother went off at that statement, but he did come back in a button down shirt and full length pants and got re-interviewed. It went much better the second time around.

    I don’t really think it’s possible to overdress for an interview. I always shudder at the line in Step Brothers when she says “you’re wearing tuxedos, to an interview where you’ll be required to clean toilets” (quote is from memory, but you get the idea). Did she want them to turn up in sweaty, dirty, casual clothes?!

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