Working out what to wear to a job interview used to be a whole lot easier.
Back in the days when many jobs came with set dress codes, there tended to be a much bigger divide between what people wore to work (typically suits or other, similarly tailored pieces), and what they wore in their free time. Now, however, as more and more people enter creative fields, and workplaces become more relaxed, working out what to wear to a job interview – and even what to wear once you’ve got the job – can be a bit of a minefield.
There are obviously still plenty of jobs which have easy-to-work-our dress codes, or even uniforms. This article isn’t for people in those kind of jobs, though. This article is for people interviewing for the type of positions where they just don’t know what they should be wearing. We can’t tell you EXACTLY what to wear to a job interview, obviously – that’s going to vary from job to job, and what works for one role might be completely inappropriate for another. But here are some basic guidelines that should help you decide what to wear…
Try to find out what people already working for the company wear
The quickest and most reliable way to work out what’s considered appropriate dress for the company you’re interviewing with is to see for yourself. What do the people who work there wear? If you know someone who already works for the company, this will be really easy for. If you don’t, however, just ask. For some reason, a lot of people don’t feel they should ask what to wear to a job interview, but there’s really nothing wrong with doing just that: no one expects you to be a mind readers, or to just automatically know what the company culture is like, so a simple, “Can I ask what your dress code is?”, directed to the person inviting you to the interview, should be enough to give you all the information you need.
And if all else fails, well, what if you just so happened to be walking past the office when people were arriving or leaving for work? It happens, right? We’re obviously not suggesting you cut two holes in a newspaper and behave like a stalker, but there’s no harm in just walking past, is there?
Dress more smartly than you think you need to
Once you have a rough idea of the kind of thing people wear, it’s time to kick it up a notch. Now, you don’t need to go all-out here and wear a three-piece suit (especially not if you’re interviewing with a company that’s super-casual: you’ll just look and feel horribly out of place), but you do want to be just a little smarter than you’d usually dress. So, if you’ve done your research and found out that people at this company tend to wear ripped jeans and sweaters, say, you’re going to want to wear smart jeans (dark wash, no rips or tears, no fading) with a dressier top or blouse. If people wear casual dresses, wear a slightly more formal dress, with maybe a blazer over the top say. Your goal here is to look like you’ve made an effort, while still looking like you’ll fit in with the rest of the team. Speaking of which…
Don’t be too over-the-top
Having a strong sense of personal style is all well and good, and many people place a great deal of importance on their right to wear what they want, and express their personality and creativity through their clothing. That’s awesome, of course, but the thing is, work isn’t the place to do that: and a job interview REALLY isn’t the place to do it. Because the person interviewing you isn’t interested in how creative you can be with clothing (unless you’re interviewing for a job in fashion obviously, in which case you don’t need this post anyway, do you?) All they care about is how well you’ll be able to do the job, and – as much as you might not want to hear it – how well you’ll fit in with everyone else.
A lot of people take immediate exception to the idea that they should try to “fit in” anywhere – workplaces included. If you want to make a success of your chosen career, though – or just not to end up getting fired – you DO have to make certain compromises, and you do have to make the effort to get along with the people you work with. You might not think that what you wear has any bearing on how well you can do your job, or how you’ll get along with your colleagues, and you’re absolutely right : what you wear has absolutely nothing do with either of those things. None of that, however, changes the fact that your interviewer will judge you on what they can see of you at the interview: and if your chosen outfit makes them feel that you might not be a good fit for the rest of the team, you’ll have less of a chance of being invited back.
Don’t overlook the obvious
There are some tips relating to what to wear to a job interview that seem too obvious to even mention them here. You all know not to wear too much makeup, don’t you? (Some makeup is fine, obviously: just try not to look like you fell head-first into the MAC counter on your way to the interview) Or to turn up looking like you’re going clubbing afterwards? You know to comb your hair, and brush your teeth, and give your clothes a quick going-over with a lint roller: of COURSE you do.
While we don’t want to patronise you by implying you need us to tell you about any of these things, though, the fact is that if you speak to anyone who conducts interviews on a regular basis, you’ll quickly discover that so many people DON’T know these things: or choose to overlook them. So don’t be one of those people, is what we’re saying. The most important thing when working out what to wear to a job interview is to demonstrate that you’re taking it seriously, and have respect for the person interviewing you, and the company you work for. So dress with the same amount of care you would for any other important event – and good luck!