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What To Wear To A Job Interview

January 24th, 2008 · 6 Comments

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In my interview post earlier in the week, I mentioned counseling people about what to wear to a job interview. Then I ran across this post on (via this post on Snakes and Ladders) which solicited feedback from readers regarding interview attire. I encourage you to read the both articles in their entirety, but I’m going to use this opportunity do a quick summation of the articles here, and throw in some of my own thoughts and commentary about interviews and best impressions.

Keep Your Car Neat?
I myself had never considered this before (maybe because the inside of my car is a disaster zone) but it does make sense. Someone interviewing for a position requiring organization skills and attention to detail might not want to show up for an interview in car full of 3 years of discarded newspapers and stratified layers of long-forgotten coffee cups and soda cans. You are how you organize yourself… in all aspects of your life, not just your dress.

Women Should Dress According To How They Want To Be Perceived
As the article points out, “…women lack a clear executive uniform — which means they have more rope with which to hang themselves.” Women should take time to carefully consider the image their clothing will project on a first impression. It’s a fine line that can change from situation to situation. What might be “professional attire” in one office, might be consider dowdy (read: old) in another.

Don’t Try To Buck Office Culture… In Either Direction
Here’s an excellent thought:

Dressing to fit in with an office’s individual character shows respect and commitment. At one Des Moines, Iowa, insurance-industry company, the president asks job candidates to interview in business-casual clothes because that’s how the office operates. Regularly, candidates show up in suits. “If he can’t follow the simplest instructions about how to dress, I certainly don’t need him on my staff,” is the executive’s response, according to a staff member who wrote me.

Twenty-Somethings Can Be Problematic
Maybe it’s because their business role-models stay in shorts and sandals (I’m talking to you, Mark Zuckerberg). I’ll never forget the first time I had to talk a recent college grad out of hand-delivering a resume in flip-flops. I thought, “Boy, that’s one for the record books.” Since then, I’ve had to make similar interventions half a dozen times. I think the bare minimum anyone should settle for when interviewing a twenty-something is khaki pants and a collared shirt. Basically, the old Banana Republic uniform.

Any Haircut Can Cut It, As Long As It’s Clean
I think the days of long haired hippie people being unable to apply are long gone. At least I hope they are. The color of hair amongst your average Starbucks barista crew can run the rainbow gamut. I think, depending on the work environment (pink mohawks might not cut it in the funeral home business) any reasonable hairstyle should be tolerated so long as it’s neatly and consistently kept up. There’s a difference between pig-pen hair and the oh-so-carefully gelled and coiffed mussed up hair that looks thrown-together but is actually likely the result of hours of careful primping (now I’m talking to you, Kevin Rose).

Avoid wearing a new suit.
This is actually a well-known old-school tip. You want a suit that looks expensive, but not one that looks right off the rack. You want to give the impression that you wear this suit every day and you’re comfortable in it. If it looks like you borrowed it for the day, then you’re making the wrong impression.

Related posts:

  1. The Secret of a Successful Job Interview
  2. Ask Brian- How Do I Know If I Aced the Interview?
  3. Interview Questions You Need To Know How to Answer
  4. Ask Brian- How To Schedule An Interview When You Already Have A Job
  5. Interviewing Tips From Someone Who Does The Hiring
  6. Ask Brian- How Long Should I Wait Before Following Up After An Interview?

Tags: Interviewing · Job Search January

  • Jon

    Good post. During the last series of interviews I did, a candidate for a sales position showed up with sunglasses and did not take them off. Hungover, on drugs, perhaps extremely sensitive eyes or just an oversight. That must be another one of those Zuckerberg things.

  • Dee

    Great post. This makes me think of my designated “interview suit” that I bought right after graduating. It fit well then, but I’ve since lost some weight (no more midnight pizza runs) and it’s baggy. I suppose I have to either get it tailored or buy a new suit.

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  • Lisa

    I have a question. I’m helping my twenty-something niece w/shopping for an interview. She is interviewing for a tutor/teacher position. This wouldn’t be a prob except she is 5’4″ and very very heavy (top and middle). What can I suggest for her (I’m from the 70’s-80’s navy suit era which would not be appropriate for today’s young people)…help!

  • Jewels

    There are all sorts of dresses, in all sorts of lengths, so regardless of height, there should be a dress for your niece to buy for the interview. Our dress code for work includes absolutely no:
    * shorts
    * shirts, tops or dresses showing cleavage
    * sandals or flip-flops
    * Capris that are not a business matched suit
    * Jewelry that is offensive, gets in the way of normal business (or looks tacky–I added this one).
    * Excessive make-up
    I still believe a professional look says “professional” respect and respect for one’s self.

  • http://none victoria

    Yeah I made a mistake today—had a great interview, but went in flip flops (they were nice but still) , dark colored capris and a shirt that showed one of my tattoos. i didnt have any time in the morning since i had a problem athome (it always happens the day of the interview you know) . i’m only 19 and have difficulty dressing up –i’m a casual young person, you know? Well it was at Starbucks, nothing fancy of course, but still… the manager told me that i did really well on my interview with communicating, remembering, etc BUT that I should pay mind to dressing for interviews, especially in future in case i don’t get this job. he seemed understanding and like he was trying to help but still all day ive been self conscious and paranoid about my looks and about the way i dressed. YIKES i really hope i get the job anyways though. He said i did well otherwise. I very much need ajob…