What To Wear To An Interview: a Common Sense Approach.
If you’re entering the workplace for the first time or coming back after the lockdown, there are a few simple rules to follow when dressing for a job interview.
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The important thing to understand is the company’s culture. While no two businesses are identical in this respect, most organizations fall into one of three broad groups:
This is the old-fashioned corporate beast, where the person at the top – usually a man – has huge power and influence and is surrounded by younger clones who dress, speak and behave like the big guy.
Fortunately, there aren’t too many left as the business world now moves much more quickly than it did a few decades ago and most organizations have switched to less formal behavior. After all, innovation is key to business success these days, so structures should be as flat as the can be.
If you’re meeting with a company in this group, an old-established bank, insurance company, legal practice or auditing firm, dress conservatively.
For men, this means a charcoal or navy suit, no pinstripes or dazzling patterns, a white or pale blue shirt and a muted tie. Even some uptight organizations are relaxed about ties these days. Check their people pictures on their website.
Briefcases or computer bags should be similarly restrained. No rucksacks or tote bags with witty graphics. Any tattoos should be out of sight.
A dark suit is good for a woman too, although a skirt and contrasting jacket are fine. Pay attention to skirt length, keep it modest and the same with shoes: avoid the temptation of tottering in wearing your highest killer heels. You’ll be tottering out again at warp speed without a contract in your hand.
These are the firms that were previously quite formal but no longer insist on collar and tie.
Most of the men will arrive for work in a casual suit or jacket and slacks or chinos, even denims. Jackets are usually removed when arriving at the work station. Stripes are okay and shoes don’t have to be black leather lace-ups.
Women will have much more freedom to dress down. A shirt with slacks or skirt is perfect and bright colors and patterns aren’t frowned upon as long as they’re tasteful.
For most people, this is a fairly sensible way to behave. While you won’t be encouraged to wear a skirt split to your thighs or a sweatshirt with your favorite rock band’s image plastered across it, what you wear is largely a matter for you to decide, especially if you’re a woman.
Many Newly Relaxed organizations indulge in a strange ritual at the week’s end called ‘Casual Friday’. It’s a chance for everyone to dress down in their weekend gear, though many of the men feel under-dressed without a jacket of some kind.
When interviewing at one of these companies, remember that wearing casual clothes at work is not engrained in their culture, so dress at the more formal end of the spectrum.
Stripped ‘n Ripped
This is the territory of film companies, web design shops, young fashion stores, hairdressers and most start-ups. Arrive here for an interview wearing a dark suit and a buttoned-up shirt or blouse and they’ll think you’re from the government.
Everyone wears what makes them most comfortable. The dress code is there’s no dress code. If you’re happy in ripped denim shorts and a sequined top, you’re welcome to wear them to work. Tattoos, studs and plugs are all unremarkable and neon tinted hair is considered normal.
Stripped ‘n Ripped organizations are at the edge of the creative revolution that’s sweeping old, stodgy firms aside. They’re innovative, hungry for ideas, have very flat management structures and the last thing they care about is what you wear to work.
For the interview, just make sure you’re wearing something and get there on time. Don’t be surprised if they’ve forgotten you’re coming or have just hired someone else. They work hard, move quickly and are often a little loose with their admin.
Culture types are sometimes mixed
In some advertising, PR, promotions and marketing companies, there are client relationship people who tend to dress stylishly and a little more formally than their colleagues who do the creative work.
So, when meeting them for the first time, choose something well-made and fashionable but not outrageous.