The Modern Rules for Dressing for an Interview

November 1st 2021 in Interviewing

The American wardrobe has changed dramatically in the last 18 months.  Many of us who wore suits to the office now find ourselves sporting athleisure wear cutting the same multi-million dollar deals we did in uncomfortable shoes and ties.  Whether your new wardrobe consists of joggers topped with a blazer and cool sneakers, or you’ve only gone as far as taking off your tie, times have changed.

But what about the interview?  Can you get away with joggers in an interview?  Maybe.  Here are our modern rules for dressing for an interview.

Know your audience.

It’s essential to know your audience as you select your interview attire. Select appropriate attire based on who you’re interviewing with and where the interview will occur.

If you’re interviewing for a VP of Operations position that will ultimately oversee the manufacturing floor, you’ll likely take a facility tour.  Wearing your favorite high heels or Gucci loafers will not work.  Nor will clothing that is too loose.

However, if you’re interviewing for an elite law firm or private bank, you’ll want to pick up your power suit from the dry cleaners and opt for more conservative colors and styles.

Interviewing for a progressive ad agency that caters to high-end, young clients?  Fashion is your friend and can convey that you understand their client.

What about everything in the middle?  Don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter or receptionist who schedules the interview about the dress code.  What is their normal dress code?  What is the expectation of the interviewer?  Most will be happy to answer your questions.

Dress for the job you want, not the one you currently have.

Remember, the interview is your opportunity to sell yourself as the right fit for the position you aspire to.  Do your research.  How do those who already hold this title dress?

If you’re interviewing for your first manager’s role, dress like a manager, not a front-line employee.  Remember that your appearance communicates that you respect the interviewers and the time they committed to meeting with you.  Show them you care.

Don’t be afraid to let a little personality show.

Even ten years ago, there were rules about hiding tattoos, hair color not found in nature, and even natural hairstyles.  While some interviewers still abide by those rules (see Rule 1), they are rapidly retiring, making room for a slightly more open approach to interviewing.  Demonstrating your personal style can make you feel confident, and confidence is key to a great interview.

Experience is more important than fashion

While this may seem like a contradiction to Rule 3, it’s important to remember that (with very few exceptions) the goal of the interview is to share your experience and why you’re the best candidate for the position. Be cautious not to let your fashion choice detract from your message.

For more tips and tricks to excellent interviewing, follow Michelle Merritt on LinkedIn.



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