Interviewing: To Suit or Not To Suit

Dressing for an interview is one of those tricky things that should have been taught in school, but for some reason was overlooked in the curriculum. Clothing distinguishes serious individuals from those that don’t really know they are out of college yet. Interview uniforms must be put together based on where you want to work and what you want to be doing.

Many organizations are business casual. The problem is in the interpretation of business casual. In some companies business casual for men means blazer, tie, good slacks and for women means a jacket and skirt instead of a suit. In other businesses it might mean dress shirt and slacks for men and women pants/skirt and nice blouse. And finally in the third category it could mean jeans and sneakers. So how are you to tell what you should be wearing to an interview.

First of all over dressed is better than underdressed. If you are unsure of the dress code, make the call. If you know ahead of time that you will be far over dressed for the interview (because you don’t want to tip off your current employers or you have several meetings that day) call ahead and explain the situation. Your interviewer will most likely be okay with it and they will appreciate the heads up. Let him, her, them know that you have several meetings with potential clients, vendors, or some other reasonable kind of meeting. If for some odd reason you reach the interview and realize that you are seriously over dressed for the meeting, quickly apologize and explain that it was short notice and could not be avoided. The same cannot be said for being underdressed. There is no excuse!

If the call didn’t answer your question or they tell you they are a “Business Casual” environment you may want to do a little more research/reconnaissance. Find a time when you can be “near” the entrance or exit (parked across the street or in the lobby if it is a multiple business high rise building). And… if you have used your social media skills, you may know some of the faces to watch for when the come out and make notes as to what they are wearing. Additionally, look for several examples so you can see a happy medium as you don’t want to show up wearing one of the extremes. While it sounds like it could be a little “creepy” taken singularly, it will also help you to NOT make a “fashion” faux pas. Of course you always want to dress one or two steps above the position you are applying for. This shows your respect for the interviewer, the company, and the seriousness you take in the on-boarding process.

If you are in college and have had or will have the opportunity to intern or summer jobs at one of these companies, take note of what people are wearing at the level you want to apply for. Then you can take your time, over the next few months, and put together the right kinds of outfits.

Save a boatload of money by shopping at second hand stores, then have the items tailored (this really isn’t as expensive as you might think). If you plan your purchasing over time, it won’t hit your bank account too hard. Many items of the good items are under $40.00, tailoring often under $20.00. Personally, I found a $1,000, black, wool suit for $40.00 and the tailoring $30.00 for both the coat and slacks. It may have taken a little time, but I saved $930.

A great article on How to Dress for an Interview – 5 Job Search Dress Code Must-Haves. While it begins with an introduction to college students, the “5 Must Haves” are for anyone in the professional workforce.


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