The more things change, the more things stay the same
Nothing could be truer than in the job search landscape – specifically interviews.
People will judge you based on first impressions
What you wear to an interview may have changed (in some situations) but the need to dress appropriately for the interview has not.
In the “old days”, jobseekers were largely expected to wear “business” attire, particularly if it was for office type roles.
This doesn’t necessarily hold true today. Wearing a power suit might actually work against you, even if it is an office job.
If the employer’s dress code leans more towards jeans and sneakers and you come dressed to the nines, you might look and feel great, but it could give the impression that you don’t understand the company culture.
Knowledge is power
While it’s important to be comfortable, you don’t want to look too comfortable. So, sweatpants and flip-flops are out in 99.9% of time.
The goal is to dress appropriately for the type of role, industry, and company. This will make you look like you pay attention to details and are serious about the position because you did your homework ahead of time.
The best way to figure out how to dress for an interview is to research the industry and the employer – whether it’s doing this online and scouring websites and social media or contacting people you know who work at the company or in the industry.
Dress for success
You’ve heard the old saying, “Dress for success.” Nowhere is that more relevant than in an interview situation.
Don’t give the HR person or hiring manager a reason to rule you out because you were over-dressed, under-dressed, sloppily-dressed, or looked like you were from some other era.
Don’t do what she did
I had an awesome candidate show up to the interview in an outfit that was a throwback to the ‘80’s (this was around 2008). Everything was way too big – her hair, the shoulder pads, jewelry, glasses – everything.
The employer told me they wanted to hire her but were turned off by her outfit. It was a high-level client facing position that required someone who was able to “dress for success”. The way she dressed didn’t convey the image they wanted to portray.
She got the job but only after I coached her on how to improve her image for the second and third interviews.
Be careful of video interviews
Even if your interview is a video call, you should still “dress to impress.”
Don’t make the classic mistake of only dressing your top half and wearing your thong on the bottom half.
There are horror stories of candidates standing up suddenly or changing positions and their business-on-the-top-party-on-bottom look is revealed.
You will feel as good as you look
Dressing appropriately goes beyond just looking good. It can really give your confidence a boost.
When you look good, you feel good which will help you give a better interview. It’s not rocket science.
Once you have a general idea of the dress code, you need to decide what you’re going to wear. This might involve buying an outfit if you don’t have anything suitable.
Kick it up a notch
Once you know what an employee in the position you’re applying for would normally wear to work, elevate it one notch.
The idea here is to look just a tad more polished than the typical employee but not over-dressed. Whatever you do, don’t dress one step lower.
Business casual is an oxymoron
Although the word “casual” is in the description, jeans and khakis are probably too casual. Business casual is appropriate for interviews where a full suit would be overkill.
For men, this would mean a sports coat or blazer with dress slacks or trousers, a collared shirt, and a nice pair of shoes (not runners).
For women, this could be a dress, skirt, or pants with a nice button-up shirt or blouse, pulled together with a blazer, jacket or sweater, and low-heeled, close-toed dress shoes.
How casual is casual?
When interviewing for a job in retail, food service, or customer service, the more suitable interview attire might lean more towards “casual” than “business casual.” In this situation, while you’re not wearing a jacket, blazer, skirt/dress or necktie, the outfit still must look professional.
You might be able to get away with khakis or even dark jeans, provided they are cleaned, pressed, free of tears and not fraying anywhere.
When you need to break out the power suit
If you’re interviewing for a job that requires you to wear a business suit every day, that’s how you’d dress for the job interview.
A full business suit is appropriate for most corporate, senior-level to executive roles as well as positions in law, banking, insurance, and finance.
For men, this would be a jacket and pant that matches (not a sports jacket or blazer in a contrasting colour) with a shirt and tie and dress shoes.
Women can go for a pant suit or a skirt with a matching jacket or a dress with a jacket and of course, closed toed shoes with a modest heel.
Avoid anything too bright or flashy. Don’t let your clothes steal centre stage. You want to be remembered for your compelling interview answers, not your distracting interview attire.
Do’s and Don’ts of job interview attire
Because you’ll be interviewed by more than one person (and not just the hiring manager) it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution. Dress as simply and conservatively as possible while making sure the clothing and accessories are a “fit” (pardon the pun) with the company culture.
Do pay attention to your shoes because people notice! Make sure they are clean, polished, and free of scuffs. They should blend in well with your outfit and accessories. Avoid open-toed shoes or anything with too high a heel.
Do your best to cover any tattoos.
Do focus on fit. Anything that’s too long, too short, too loose, or too tight will not look good and could be distracting for the interviewer. Give the outfit a trial run before you wear it to a job interview. Make sure it’s comfortable and looks good from all angles.
Do launder your clothes and iron them the day before the meeting so they are free of wrinkles and look “fresh”.
Do make sure that your hands and nails are clean and well-manicured. If you use nail polish, go for something neutral.
Do wear the appropriate amount of make-up or bronzer. You don’t want too much or too little. The goal is to look natural and refreshed – not too made-up.
Don’t get heavy-handed with perfume and cologne. Candidates who wore too much scent gave me a headache plus it was the first thing I remembered about them. It was also a huge distraction during the interview. I recommend you skip the scents altogether since many people have sensitivities
Don’t overdo the accessories. Avoid flashy or inappropriate jewelry, large sunglasses, or massive purses/bags. If you have a lot of piercings or earrings, take out all but one of them so they aren’t a distraction.
Don’t get too crazy with colors or patterns. A little bit of an accent colour/pattern is okay.
Don’t wear socks that are too short with your pants. When you sit down, no leg should be showing.
Don’t forget your hair! It should be squeaky clean. The hairstyle should look professional looking and not distract the interviewer. Avoid any crazy hair colours streaks, and large hair jewelry.
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Hi! I’m Diana.
I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.
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