Dressing for an Interview When You Aren’t Familiar with the Work Culture
After all the work you have put in to create the resume, cover letter and application content to land a job interview, the hard truth is: the work is only beginning! When you are selected to the first interview round, you are excited to make your debut appearance, and feel that you are a great fit for the company, but you need to decide what to wear to continue to impress.
It may seem that the outfit you choose for the interview is not as important as your skills and experience, but your wardrobe can make or break their first impression. Spend time determining the best attire to show that you are ready to succeed in the position. Here are things to consider when deciding what to wear to an interview.
Dress for the Target Culture
Because each company has a unique organizational culture, you’ll feel more confident and make the most of your job interview by dressing appropriately. Do the men wear business suits and dress shirts with ties, or collared shirts with sports jackets, or no jackets at all? Are the women in dresses or blouses and skirts, or well-tailored pants? Or is everyone wearing jeans? If you appear too casual, the employer may question your professionalism. Significantly overdress, and it may seem like you don’t fit in the company or its unique culture. You don’t want to walk into a very casual company dressed in your best suit and tie, but you also don’t want to go the business casual route only to find out the interviewer is wearing a suit.
But What if You Don’t Know How Formal or Informal the Work Culture Is?
The best answer is to do some research to find out how people at the company dress. Here are some tips to help you figure out the appropriate attire:
- If you know someone who works at the company, ask about the standard office attire.
- Consider bringing up the dress code policy on the phone when scheduling the in-person meeting.
- Look on social media for pictures of the staff on a regular day.
- Drop in to the lobby or go to the facility and watch the employees come and go.
- Consider the type of organization you’re interviewing with and what is considered standard attire for that profession. For example, the dress code will likely be more formal at a law firm than a creative agency.
If your research and sleuthing fail to reveal the culture, here is a simple checklist for you to feel confident in your interview.
- Think about the role you are after and dress for the part. This will help the hiring manager visualize you in the position. You might dress up a little more if you’re interviewing for a more senior-level position. To be flexible, keep your options open by wearing a jacket. You can remove it if it feels too dressy once you arrive.
- Prepare your outfit ahead of time to remove wrinkles or stains which will give the hiring manager the impression you’re careless or sloppy.
- Wear comfortable clean shoes that are appropriate for the environment – closed-toed flats or low pumps for women, and dress shoes for men.
- Choose your accessories wisely by selecting a simple, conservative tie and belt, and keep jewelry understated and to a minimum. You should also make certain whatever bag or briefcase you bring is clean and in good condition.
- As for grooming, your hair should be neatly styled, nails clipped and clean, and makeup minimal. Also, forgo perfume or aftershave; many people have allergies or get headaches from strong scents.
- Make sure you’re comfortable and play it safe – if you question whether an article of clothing is interview-appropriate, it probably isn’t.
- Always check the mirror right before you go in. Is your hair combed? Buttons buttoned? Tie straight? Do you have any food on your shirt or stuck in your teeth? Pop a mint or use breath freshener before your interview. You’re going to be doing a lot of talking, and you want to be prepared.
A professional and put-together outfit can make a strong impact on a hiring team and solidify that first impression during a job interview. Don’t forget to maintain good posture and a pleasant, expression on your face. No matter what, the probability of losing the second interview is greater if you underdress than if you overdress – so always consider stepping it up a notch. Look sharp, focus on success — and you will get that job!