Your stellar resume and superb LinkedIn recommendations got your foot in the door. You nailed the phone interview with the executive recruiter. Now it’s time to head to the company’s HQ for a grueling day of interviews. No sweat off your back, right? You know your strengths and weaknesses, you’ve done research on the company and the job, and you’ve come up with questions to ask that will have the hiring manager say “Whoa, she knows her stuff!” But, do you know what you’re going to wear?
It takes just 7 seconds to make a first impression. So even before you get a chance to drop your mad skills on the hiring manager he / she has already made up their mind about whether you are competent, confident, likeable, etc. According to US News and World Report 1 of the 7 things that interviewers notice first is (drum roll please…) yup, you guessed it- Attire. The way you dress sends a message about your judgment, how you perceive yourself, and how you project yourself.
With quite a number of my clients asking about interview attire, I figured what better way to launch the “What to Wear When” blog series with, What to Wear on an Interview.
Not to sound 107 years old, but gone are the days when you’d wear a navy suit to an interview and call it a day. Now-a-days there are so many different types of companies (from start-ups to banks) with so many different types of dress codes (casual, business casual, casual professional) it’s hard to keep it all straight… But, have no fear, I’ll break down the “dos” and “don’ts” of proper interview attire.
No matter what type of job or the type of company you are interviewing at, you must always look polished, clean and professional. Do your research on the company’s dress code prior to the interview. The general rule of thumb is to dress a ½ step above the dress code. If you show up over dressed the interviewer may get the impression that you won’t fit into their corporate culture. If you show up under dressed and sloppy well, that’s just not good… However, if you show up looking professional and just a notch above the dress code, then you’ve passed the first mark.
Here are my Top 10 Interview Dressing Tips.
THE COMPANY WITH A CASUAL DRESS CODE
First, step away from the hoodie and flip flops!! I completely get that dressing for an interview at a start-up or a company that has a casual dress code can be tough. It’s hard to find the professional yet casual balance. But hoodies and flip flops are not the answer.
I recently worked with a client that was interviewing at a West Coast e-commerce company that has a very casual dress code. To make things tougher, she was interviewing for a position in the legal department. She needed to portray her command of the legal field, yet dress to the casual culture. We decided on black skinny pants, a ruffle blouse, a cardigan and riding boots. Not the typical “lawyer suit” but we still stayed on the conservative side with the cardigan. The ruffle blouse and riding boots (that were clean and not scuffed) brought out her personality a bit and lent itself to the casual culture, while still staying polished. Finally, you can’t go wrong with black skinny pants. Needless to say, the interview went well and she got the job!!
Here’s another example of how you could dress for an interview at a casual company. Switch out the traditional blazer for a fun moto inspired jacket. Add a printed (but not a distracting print) blouse and black skinny jeans. Slightly accessorize by adding a fun tech watch (just make sure it’s not the competitors…) or a big face watch. A low wedge or flats round out the outfit and give it that clean polished look without being overdressed. Don't forget the clean manicured nails!
Now, some may say that black may not be the best color to wear to an interview because it could be signified as being unapproachable, but it really depends on how you wear it. Personally, I’m all for wearing black because it also signifies leadership traits.
THE COMPANY WITH A BUSINESS CASUAL DRESS CODE
Business Casual means the dress code is business like with a casual spin. For this scenario I would not recommend wearing jeans or any true casual attire. I would also stay away from a full suit. Here I’ve taken the traditional white button down shirt and navy blazer and paired it with a fun stripe pencil skirt. I added a pop of color (nothing too bold) with beige mid heel shoes (you don’t want to wear high heels to an interview) and matching laptop bag. Keep the accessories very simple with stud earrings. A note when wearing a skirt to an interview, as much as it really, really stinks, you should wear hose when you wear a skirt for a more professional look.
THE COMPANY WITH A PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS DRESS CODE
This would obviously be the complete opposite of what you would wear to a casual dress code company. Stick with traditional colors and silhouettes. A grey pant suit with a navy blouse and low heel shoes is perfect. Add small stud earrings, a bracelet watch (not a big face watch) and a structured matching bag for a classic, clean and polished look.
So there you have it- tips and ideas on what to wear to an interview for different types of companies.
Do you have a favorite interview outfit? Or do you have an Interview that went south because of what you were wearing? I’d love to hear your interview outfit stories and what worked / didn’t work for you!