Pink hair, tattoos, strong dialect and an unconventional personality are a few examples of attributes that were considered unprofessional not so long ago. Thankfully, society’s outdated definition of a ‘professional’ look is being overhauled.

The stereotypical view of a ‘professional’ job candidate has moved on, accelerated in part by the informal online meetings we found ourselves attending during CV19 and the hybrid working many businesses subsequently adopted. Also, organisations are redefining their skills needs and levelling up their diversity and inclusion strategies. In this market, where candidates have greater choice around where they work and how they work, employers have had to work harder on their talent attraction strategies and that’s extending to more inclusive recruitment processes.

For us at TMM Recruitment, it’s always been about attracting the candidate with the right skills for the job. Having just celebrated our 25th anniversary, I’ve worked in recruitment for many years and throughout much of that time employers focused on the importance of culture fit, how well someone will fit in with the culture of their business. The “likeability” factor would contribute to who was hired.

There’s now a shift in thinking, to the importance of “culture add” rather than “culture fit” because employers want to harness and maximise the talents of people who think differently and who can bring their diverse abilities, backgrounds and perspectives to work.

Increasingly, employers understand the importance of soft skills in the workplace and we believe these are just as important as hard technical skills and knowledge. The mindset and behaviours that make a strong team leader or a valued colleague are widely recognised and actively sought out. Resilience, adaptability and flexibility are strengths valued for coping with uncertainty. Collaboration, motivating others and emotional intelligence are recognised as essential for productivity, team working and engaging communication, while critical thinking and curiosity can lead to innovative problem solving.

We can recognise these attributes and minimise the unconscious bias that shapes our personal perspective on what professional looks like.

Tools such as our psychometric assessment (PPA) look beyond an applicant’s hard skills, the experience detailed on their CV, and the snapshot of their personality that a standard interview provides.

PPA explores attitudes and behaviour and is appreciated by hiring managers because it can reduce time to hire as well as the overall cost per hire by evaluating more deeply if a person is suitable for the job role, how they will work with others and react under pressure. The anonymity of the tool and accurate assessment data reduces unconscious bias and improves diversity.

Psychometric testing tells us more about someone's ability to perform a job and contribute within an organisation, with no bearing on appearance, hair colour, religion or age. There are also significant benefits to incorporating assessments in career development and succession planning, using scientific data about behaviours to identify high potential future leaders.

‘Authentic professionalism’ creates community and connection – just take a look on Linkedin and you’ll find people who felt professionally marginalised or overlooked before the pandemic now thriving because the quality of their work, how they communicate and what they have to say is resonating loudly.

If you are seeking professional development, look further than the next set of hard technical skills and consider your soft skill strengths and areas for improvement instead.

If you are actively job seeking remember to clearly outline in your application how you’ve used your soft skills to create business benefit and if you are hiring, consider carefully where unconscious bias may be damaging your business because you are turning off or rejecting talented people who don’t conform to the notional stereotype of professionalism, and imagine the positive results you can yield by enabling colleagues to bring their ‘true self’ to work every day.

  • TMM Recruitment was established in 1997 and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The team of recruitment experts specialise in a personalised approach to finding the best people for vacancies in sectors including accountancy and finance, engineering, HR, IT, legal, office support, QHSE, supply chain and contracts, trades and executive search. To find out more about TMM Recruitment’s PPA tool, visit