The evolving landscape of today’s workforce has resulted in company culture reaching from corporate environments, to organizations holding fast to the benefits of mid-day naps, and hacky sack tournaments. Knowing what to wear to an interview, based on the traditional rules of thumb may have you over or under dressed. With that said, I don’t believe in the term over dressed, however being too severely dressed may give the impression that you would not be happy in the company culture a laid back office environment. You should always aim to look put together and professional, but different industries give you the opportunity to add some flair to what used to be a systematic pants suit approach. For example, applying for a job at a fashion company, wearing a suit shows that you mean business—but they also know that you don’t think outside of the box and aren’t showing an ounce of creativity. Dress for the environment you are in, but dress like you want to be the boss. A well-tailored outfit, regardless of the industry suggests that you are put together in the other areas of your life.
Research, research, research.
With access to social media, there are countless ways to view photos of the company and most likely, even inside the office. What do the current employees wear? Jeans and a t-shirt? Do not think for a second that is acceptable for your interview, but at least you know they value individuality, so pull out that statement piece of jewelry you’ve been saving. It is just as important to sell your personality, and doing that with fashion is a perfect way. When in doubt, scope out the situation by having coffee or lunch in the area of your potential employer—more than likely, anyone that works in the building will give you an idea of what folks are wearing to work.
I like to tell my clients that the first thing to be concerned with is hygiene. Make sure you have applied a quality deodorant (stress sweat smells worse than regular sweat), your teeth are clean and your breath is fresh. People associate memories with smell so you want to make a lasting impression with your impressive qualifications, not your body odor.
If you’re a woman, although you may be tempted to wear your hair down, it is always a better option to pull it back into a neat bun or a smooth braid. If you are set on wearing it down, pull the front back from your face so the hiring manager isn’t distracted. Never wear perfume, and go easy on your makeup—stick to a neutral palette.
As far as the outfit goes, think TOP-BOTTOM-LAYERING PIECE.
This rule applies to both men and women, the only exception is if you wear a dress which counts as top and bottom—no mini dresses please. As for the layering piece, it is best to stick with a structured blazer. If you are a smaller woman, wearing a cropped version is a better option so you aren’t overwhelmed with fabric.
If you are interviewing for a corporate position, wear a suit. There are many updated versions available, offering a better fit. Wear a pump with a short heel and a closed toe, even in the summer. Try not to wear flats, heels command authority—but if you can’t walk in them don’t-you’re doing yourself a disservice. You want to exude confidence, and when you feel unstable everyone around you can tell. Not much has changed as far as fashion goes in the finance industry so stick to a dark suit and lighten it up with a softer blouse. Men, you should have your shirt buttoned to the top and a long tie-nothing too flashy-and go easy on the pattern. All in all, you want to stick to more classic pieces, i.e. the button down shirt and a tailored trouser, leave the trendier pieces for another time.
The hard industry to decipher would be the tech/startup companies who foster creativity in their approach to doing business. You want to dress up for the interview, but not in a way where it appears that you know nothing about the industry, or didn’t do your research. A suit may communicate that you are looking for a more structured environment and give the impression that they can’t offer you what you want. Make sure to dress a half step up from the people in the company so they know you put the effort into the interview. Take this moment to wear an interesting piece of jewelry but nothing too distracting. You want them engaged in conversation, not staring at your accessories. You can also show you’re serious while keeping your outfit less formal—dark denim and a tucked in blouse, paired with a low heel and a structured bag show that you’re pulled together and polished.
The misconception for the creative industry is that they want you to wear a funky outfit that shows your personal style, paired with everything that is trending at that time-WRONG. You want to adhere to the same rules as to appear polished and use accessories to show your personal flare and knowledge of trends. Instead of a basic pump, wear a more detailed stylish shoe.
When in doubt, focus on looking polished.
Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital researched how long it takes people to assess your competence and trustworthiness, based solely on how you look and well– it takes a quarter of a second. Being prepared for your interview MUST include an emphasis on your appearance. So go ahead and treat yourself to a new outfit-if nothing else, always remember to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
By: Renee Walrath