By Carrie S Ahmad, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
You’ve landed the on-site interview, now the big question…what to wear? In today’s casual work environments, it can be tough to know how you should dress for the interview. Too often I hear from clients that candidates show up for an interview in the proverbial “what not to wear” attire; and from the start the candidate has made a bad impression from which it is tough to recover. You can be the ideal candidate, but if you miss the target in how you dress and groom for the interview, the role that was yours for the taking has quickly slipped away.
Common Sense and Culture
About 6 months ago I had a candidate show up for an interview in jeans and a sweatshirt. He read the company culture accurately – most of the staff wore very casual clothes to work; however, he misread the message he would be sending about himself by showing up for the interview this way. He interviewed with six people (managers and peers), and all six were astounded by how he dressed. They felt he showed a lack of confidence and a lack of interest in the company. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job. Even if a company’s culture is laid back (jeans and t-shirts), employers will be impressed when you make an effort to show respect for the interview process by dressing nicely for the interview.
What Should You Wear?
So, how do you avoid this interview faux pas? Research, ask, and when in doubt dress “up.”
- Research: Check out the company’s website. If there are employee photos, consider how the employees are dressed. Look company employees up on LinkedIn. How are they dressed in their profile photo?
- Ask: When the recruiter, HR Manager or Hiring Manager calls you to schedule the interview, ask the person: “What is your company’s culture as it relates to attire? Do you have recommendations for what I should wear?”
- Dress “Up”: When you just aren’t sure, always dress up more than you think you should.
Simple Tips for Looking Great at Your Interview
Here are my suggestions for preparing for the interview as it relates to dress & grooming:
- Dress one step up:
a. If the culture is very casual: men should wear slacks and a nice polo or button down shirt; women should wear slacks/skirt with a nice sweater or top.
b. If the culture is business casual: dress professionally – dress slacks with button down shirt & tie for men; dress, skirt or dress slacks and a nice blouse/sweater for women.
c. If the culture is business professional: wear a suit.
- Shower the morning of the interview and take time to ensure your hair looks groomed.
- Go easy (or not at all) on colognes and perfumes.
Remember, in an interview you should dress to impress!