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The Interview – What to Wear when Interviewing at a Casually Dressed Employer

Nailed the resume.  Aced the phone screen.  Today is the face to face.  Suit is fresh from the cleaners, white button down is pressed, new tie, shoes polished.  You are ready!  But wait, what if the team you are interviewing with is wearing flip flops, jeans, and their favorite NFL jersey?

This is reality for me.  I have several clients that are SUPER casual – like flip flops and cargo shorts.  That’s the way of the workforce – a Gallup poll found that 43% of workers said they wear business casual clothing to work most days, while 28% wear casual street clothes.  Only 9% wear formal business clothing.  So, this is a real predicament.  Actually, not really.  My advice is this:

Always plan on wearing a suit, unless the client or recruiter advises you not to.  There is still something to be said for that first impression and showing you will do anything for the job, including pulling out that suit you know you will go right back into the back of the closet.  Don’t just take it from me, 90% of employers interviewed in another poll recommended the traditional interview uniform.

There are exceptions.  I have a few clients that are casual and literally tell me, “do NOT have him show up in a stuffy suit, that will put my team on the defensive and make him look fake.”  This Client is a smaller technology firm that wants to see people in their “real life” wear.  Another firm, a larger insurance firm that is very casual, also advises candidates to be “comfortable – no suits.”  Again, get insight from your Recruiter – they know their client better than anyone and are your coach in these situations.  If you don’t have a recruiter, simply ask your HR contact.  Say, “unless I hear otherwise, I am planning on wearing a suit. Is this OK?”

sloppy

Unless specifically told, absolutely weigh on the side of formality.  I have had clients make comments about dingy clothed candidates, or just an overall unprofessional look (messy hair, stains on shirt, etc.)  Comments like, “it’s a shame, he was sharp and qualified, but just not the image of what is successful at our company.”  Managers want to know that you will go the extra mile, and that starts with the interview.  Also, they may think, “If he dresses like this in the interview, what will he wear if he gets the job?”  Take pride in your professionalism and appearance.  Failure to do so will give the impression that you don’t care in general.

Lastly, if you are currently working and looking for new work, prepare to be “Superman”.  That means doing whatever it takes to dress up, no matter what you wear at your current employer.  If you wear jeans and Chuck Taylor’s daily, and have an interview at 3pm, you need to have a game plan for making the change and becoming “Superman”.  If you have time to go home, that is a no- brainer, but I’ve had candidates change in hotels, restaurants, their cars, and even my office.  Find a way to make it happen, no excuses.

In closing, just remember that it’s all about putting your best foot forward and standing out.  Wearing a more formal suit let’s employers know you are serious about the opportunity, are a true professional, and it just might set you apart from the pack!

Good luck out there.  As always, if I can help you prep for an interview, or offer any advice in your career, please let me know.  I’m happy to help.

Logan Bragg @loganbragg

Partner, Triumph Services

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By Logan Bragg:

Partner, Triumph Services. As head of the Recruiting Division of Triumph, he has helped thousands of candidates find rewarding positions.