You’ve written a killer resume that highlights all your skills and experience. You’ve eliminated all the reasons why your resume isn’t getting you hired. You’ve written a killer covering letter that presents your candidacy in an honest yet flattering fashion. You’ve prepared tirelessly on how to answer the most common behavioral questions you can expect to be asked at a job interview.
And all your hard work is starting to pay off. You’ve been called in for the all-important job interview. Congratulations. Now, what are you going to wear?
We all know the old adage: you only get one chance to make a first impression. That is true for what you say in the interview answers you give. But before you get the chance to even open your mouth, let alone provide an eloquent and well-rehearsed introduction of who you are and why you would be a good fit for their company, the hiring manager will get a good look at you and the clothes you have decided to wear for the interview.
Despite our otherwise good intentions, we can’t help but make a quick assessment, categorization, even a value judgment, based on our initial glimpse of someone. Hiring managers are especially susceptible to this behavior as they are there at the interview precisely to make a value judgment.
What you wear will be your opportunity to make a first impression – your only opportunity to do so. The vestimentary choices you make will go a long way toward setting the tone of the interview and ultimately contributing to its outcome.
In this short article, we’ll look at a few basic principles to adhere to when deciding on what to wear to a job interview.
Do Your Research
There is no adequate substitute for preparation. The chances of your job interview being a success are largely proportionate to the amount of preparation you do beforehand. And preparation isn’t limited to practicing your answers to the interview questions for managers and/or other questions you are anticipating.. It also includes doing research on the company.
The research you do on the company you are interviewing for should help to inform your interview answers. And it should also help to inform what you plan to wear for the interview.
Dress Like You Are a Part of the Team
You’ll want to show the hiring manager that you look the part, that you are a member of the team. You share the same values and make similar choices when it comes to the work as the other members of the team do. This is why you should dress in the work style of the other employees who hold similar positions like the one you are applying for.
The old adage, dress for the job you want not the job you have, may very well be good advice for someone who already has a job and is aspiring for a better one, but it can also apply to someone who doesn’t yet have a job. In fact, we can do away with the last part of that adage. It offers nothing of actionable value. Simply, dress for the job you want. Look the part, right from the get-go.
To get a good idea of how people at the company you are interviewing for dress, you should take a look at their website and social media profiles. It is common for companies to take pictures of their employees in their work environment and post them on social media.
When in Doubt, Err on the Side of Formal
If you peruse the company’s web page and social media profiles and come away with quite a wide spectrum of styles of dress from the employees, it might be best to opt for the more formal styles you see displayed and imitate those.
The choice of what to wear becomes even more important when there is a distinct style difference among the departments of levels of hierarchy within the company. Take, for example, the case of a position in lower management. If you see that men in upper management tend to wear a vest while the men in lower management tend to wear simply a button-down shirt with no vest, wearing a vest to the interview would make you look like you don’t fit in – at least not in regard to the position you are applying for.
However, when no such diction is apparent, or when there is a wide spectrum to choose from, opting for the more formal – vest, tie – is the safest choice.
Companies spend a considerable about of energy and resources on their branding, how they look, the image they project. They are quite proud of their logo, the font they’ve used, and the colors they’ve chosen. The branding is their identity. What better way to show to the hiring manager that you are a part of their team, that you share the same values, that you identify with them and they can identify with you, than by wearing the company colors?
Look like you’ve just stepped off a photo shoot of one of their company brochures and straight into the job interview. They wouldn’t possibly decide not to give the job to someone who’s come to them straight from their own brochure.
Dress for Comfort
At the end of the day, you want to be you. You’re looking to enter into a long-term relationship with this company, and doing so under false pretenses is a sure-fire way to make sure the relationship is doomed to fail right from the start. It’s true, you want to put your best foot forward. But it has to be your foot you put forward and not a contrived one.
Your dress choices are a part of your identity, who you are, and who you project yourself to be. Wear what is comfortable for you, both physically – any unease you may feel in your clothes will be detected by the hiring manager and then possibly misinterpreted – and emotionally – you need to feel like yourself to be yourself.
The Bottom Line
You only get one chance to make a first impression. And the first thing the hiring manager will notice about you is your appearance. You’ll want to look like a perfect fit for the position you are applying for. Use the images the company shares publicly as the basis for your style choices. This includes incorporating the company colors.
But you should avoid having a ‘job interview’ outfit. The clothes to wear to a job interview are clothes that you have already worn and that you will wear again. They have successfully integrated themselves into your identity and you are comfortable in them.