What Not to Wear- to an interview

April 27, 2010

The other day I had a conversation with a hiring manager about how people dress for interviews.  He stated that if an applicant didn’t wear a suit they were automatically out. I laughed and said that most companies I have worked with see wearing a suit as a disqualifier.

Many articles on interviewing talk about dressing professionally, right down to wearing a suit- for men and women.  However, this is misleading.  It completely depends on the culture of the company at which you are interviewing.

If you are interviewing with a Fortune 500 company, a law firm, a bank, etc., then yes, suits are required.  If, though, you are interviewing with a 10 person start up made up of mostly engineers, chances are you’ll appear too stuffy or conservative in a suit.  You will differentiate yourself in a negative way.  This is not what you want.

Regardless of where you interview, you want the way you dress to accentuate the fact you are a great fit.  If you are not sure what to wear, call your contact and ask before the interview.   Once you know, veer slightly towards more conservative.  This means, if they say they wear t-shirts and jeans every day, you could wear khakis and a casual button-down.  If they wear khakis and button-down shirts, then wear your nicest button-down.

Here is a sample of  ”what not to wear” items regardless of the company:

  • Wrinkled clothes
  • Clothes with holes (intentional or not)
  • Clothes that show an inappropriate amount of skin, such as shorts, short skirts, tank tops, halter tops, etc.
  • Stained clothes
  • Dirty (smelly) clothes
  • Cologne/perfume (the scent may be too strong, your interviewer may have allergies or may have a negative association with the scent you choose)

Above all, you want to show that you fit the culture- and appearance is a piece of the pie.


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