As a senior software developer (based in UK), I help my manager arrange and conduct interviews. My boss used to conduct the interviews himself, but realised that he needed someone more tech-savvy along with him, so it is either myself or the other senior dev. assisting. He previously expected all candidates to show up in professional business attire, but I convinced him to think otherwise. On occasions where candidates are arriving straight from work, or during their lunch break (I check with the candidate beforehand), casual dress is now accepted. In previous experience, people in my field showing up to work in a suit, and if you're not in a managerial role, is a dead giveaway that you are sneaking off for an interview!
For one candidate, let's call him 'Jim', he was arriving straight from work and so was dressed in his everyday attire. He was wearing a shirt with a video game character on the front that I recognised, though I had not played their game myself. I at least knew it was one to safely discuss in work. He ticked all the boxes as far as capability, problem solving and technical capabilities were concerned. He was very confident and outgoing with his answers. Towards the end of the interview, we have a more informal chat with the candidates, just to see if we would get along with them as people, not just colleagues. In this case, I mentioned I recognised the character in the hope of chatting about video games (it's usually good to have a common interest with your possible future colleague).
At this point, Jim became a completely different person. He suddenly became extremely hesitant and nervous, as if I had asked him a deeply personal and intrusive question. Even with the concluding questions like notice period or future availability, he quietly stammered his way through them. After he left, my boss did not complain about me asking about the shirt. He suspected that Jim was caught so off-guard by my question that he did not know how to react. From my boss' point of view, this was a mark against Jim though I believe this to be a bit unfair.
As I'm fairly new to being on the employer side of interviews, I would like to know;
- Is it appropriate to assume the candidate is willing to talk about something they are (for example) wearing, if it strongly implies another interest?
- Should a strict dress code be encouraged again, in case this happens again?