What should you wear to an interview?

Having worked in recruitment for a long time, I guess I take this sort of information for granted. I always wondered why people attended interviews super over-dressed (it’s rarely the other way around).

And then I came across this quote.

“Obvious to you. Amazing to others.”

Derek Sivers, Hell Yeah or No.

I guess, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Taking it back a few years. The day I interviewed for my current role, I also had another interview for a company that couldn’t have had a more polar opposite environment.

My current company are a cool, high-growth, tech (ex-) start-up. The dress code is very laid back and people are encouraged to wear whatever they feel comfortable in.

The other company. An ageing corporate business based in the city. The experience I had had up until that point was that anything less than a tailor-fitted two-piece suit would’ve been frowned upon.

I had a decision to make. How do I dress?

Do I get suited and booted for the corporate and look out of place when I arrived at the tech company?

Or do I go for a smart-casual look (which would have been perfect for the latter). And risk being kicked out of the corporate interview upon arrival in reception for clearly not caring enough about the job I was interviewing for?

Too many times I’ve seen candidates unnecessarily turn up to interviews in 3-piece suits. I really get the enthusiasm and top marks for effort. But unless people wear that everyday in that business then I would highly recommend against this.

I should make a disclaimer at this point. How you dress should never influence a hiring managers’ decision. And if they are taking this into account then I think there are bigger issues at play.

This advice is to help you, the interviewee. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times a candidate has turned up and the look on their faces says it all. They see people roaming around the office in t-shirts, trainers and jumpers.

They feel like they stick out like a sore thumb.

Not only have you had to deal with the worry of getting an outfit dry-cleaned, polishing your shoes or ironing the night before – you’re now also dealing with this.

In short, dress the way they dress in the company you’re interviewing at. If they dress smart, then dress smart. If their dress code is more casual, then dress accordingly.

Of course I’d lean on the side of caution though, and dress slightly smarter than the average person in the business. You still want to show you’ve made an effort, you want this job and are taking it seriously. But don’t go over-board.

You’ll really thank yourself.

Oh and by the way. I wore a suit to the corporate interview. Then took the tie and blazer off when I arrived at the 2nd interview. I explained to them I had had another interview and apologised for coming over-dressed.

Of course, they were fine with it.

I hope that helped someone.

Thoughts/feedback/questions welcome.



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