What to wear?
Tips on how to dress for your interview, and the career you want.
At a Glance: How you dress for your upcoming interview is key to making a good first impression; but dressing for the job you want isn't as easy as putting on the old interview uniform anymore.
Your interview is just a few days or hours away and you’re remembering the old adage: “Dress for the job you want.” Well, the days of the interview uniform are over. The workplace has changed and what was once considered to be a surefire way to dress for success now comes with a lot of caveats.
A good place to start is by asking about what’s expected of you when you’re scheduling the job interview with the recruiter or hiring manager. If you wear something significantly different than what’s instructed, you’ll stand a good chance of turning off the interviewers and giving the wrong first impression.
It doesn’t stop there, however. You shouldn’t only just dress to impress, but make it a point to aim for an outfit that speaks to the career you want (not just the job to which you’re applying), while dressing in a way that fits the overall company culture.
Here are some tips to help you dress for success:
Dress for the first impression
First impressions usually formed within the first 30 seconds. There are some fashion faux pas you should avoid to make that first impression stick – in a good way.
First off, don’t wear ill-fitting clothes. Better to wear an outfit that is tailored to suit you, rather than anything that feels or looks too tight or too short. A scuffed shoe, a messy bag, or tear in your shirt can speak volumes. Avoid casual garb like jeans, tennis shoes, shorts, t-shirts, hats, flip-flops, or anything with messages or obvious branding. It’s possible to take casual dress too far – even if you’re interviewing at a laid-back workplace.
Dress to make a statement, while fitting in
Your attire can make a statement about you before you even open your mouth – so you need to find a happy balance between your personality and the career you’re entering. Most hiring managers believe that those who dress appropriately for a job interview are more likely to be successful because they look the part – whether it’s true or not. Dressing inappropriately could give the wrong impression, like you have a casual attitude toward work and authority, or limited understanding of simple business etiquette.
If you can, wear your “power outfit” – maybe it’s a favorite blouse that always makes you look and feel great? Or maybe a pair of shiny dress shoes that fit well and look snazzy? It’s okay to show off your personality through your clothes, as long as you aren’t wearing something that goes against the company dress code. An interviewer is expecting you to dress appropriately for the interview. If you don’t, the statement you could make is that you just don’t care.
Dress for the career, not just the job
Go into the interview dressed as if you’re the one giving it. Ask yourself: “Would I hire me for this position?” Also: “Am I going to fit in at this company by the way I dress?” If you can answer these truthfully, then you’re already on the right track. Dressing for the job is too easy — dress for the future. Success lies in a combination of what’s appropriate and what’s going to help you fit in.
If everyone at the office is wearing jeans and you arrive in a three-piece suit, you’ll be out of place and won’t fit in. Half the battle in interviewing is proving that you belong and can be part of the team. The key is finding balance. For instance, if you're interviewing at a company with a casual dress code, dress as if you were going to a dinner party on a Saturday night. If you’re interviewing at a Manhattan law firm, however, it’s best to leave the tennis shoes at home.
The only way to know what’s best is to ask questions; and, when in doubt, bring a formal jacket.