There is no shortage of “what to wear to an interview” articles online, but some are outdated or don’t cover the various industry trends and types of meetings we see today. So where do you start? While some things never change when it comes to presenting yourself for a job, ideas around fashion and appropriate attire have come a long way. This makes it incredibly difficult to decide on the perfect outfit to impress a potential employer or mentor. We’ve got some suggestions to serve as a guide.
No matter what the trends are, this is the time to impress. It’s hard to overdress for an interview, so it’s better to go with a suit and tie for men, a skirt or pants suit for women, in most cases. For a creative agency or a tech firm, you might assume the dress code is more informal, but you don’t want to be wrong for your interview. If you must dress down, pass on the tie, or wear a sweater instead of a jacket, but please, don’t wear jeans to an interview.
In some cases, the interviewer may give you some guidelines or a heads-up if everyone really is wearing jeans at the office. We still advise you to wear khakis or slacks with a button-down shirt or sweater for the first round of interviews, at least.
Do you have a friend at the company or someone who referred you? Simply ask what the attire is or what he or she wore to their interview. Check Facebook, Twitter or even Snapchat to see what people at the company are wearing on a daily basis. Every industry and every company is different, but the information is out there.
First Day on the Job
By this point you should have a better sense of the company and its expectations of your attire. However, this is your chance to make a positive first impression and show you take your work and the company’s reputation seriously. Whether it is a jeans-friendly environment or everyone is in a suit, take the dress code to heart and obey the rules. Don’t push the limits by wearing sandals or jeans that may be more appropriate for a weekend out on the town or painting your house.
No matter how lax the office is, or how comfortable you get in your role, remember to respect the work environment and the image of your company. While your work and integrity often speak for themselves, how you present yourself on any given day will matter to your colleagues and employer, as well as clients and partners.
Meeting With Clients
If you have a client-facing role, you represent your company. We suggest you find out the proper attire for each client’s office environment. It’s true your company may allow jeans every day, but if your clients will be in suits, step up your game when you visit their office or meet them for lunch. It shows you respect the relationship and their work.
Informal Coffee Meetings
Say you’re meeting your mentor or setting up an informal meeting at a coffee shop or casual lunch place. If it’s during the workweek, the above rules will likely apply since you’re coming from work. However, if you’re meeting after work for drinks or if you’re using the time between jobs to meet with people, you’ll want to put some thought into your outfit. While you don’t need to go the suit-and-tie route for everything, consider the person or people you’re meeting. They might be coming from work and may be more dressed up.
Coffee meetings don’t need to be fancy, but if your goal is to build a professional relationship, dress for the part. Dress comfortably, but nicely. Show your interest in and respect for the person’s time and expertise. Just as you will work hard to be on time and silence your phone during the meeting, show this person you’re serious and grateful for their time by dressing the part as well.
While each industry, company and city has a different standard on workplace attire, it never hurts to go a little above and beyond for important occasions like a job interview. Very rarely, if ever, will a person feel disrespected because you’ve overdressed. However, it’s far more likely that you won’t be taken seriously if you’re underdressed. Ask around; do your research. A good rule of thumb: if you have any doubts about the appropriateness of your outfit, wear something else. Remember, you only have one opportunity to make a strong first impression.