A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a client about his upcoming job interview.
We had the interview technique down to a fine art and he’d brushed up on his responses to the questions we thought he’d get asked. He was feeling really confident about his approach.
But then he asked me “What should I wear to the job interview?”
It might sound like a silly question for someone who would usually wear a suit to work, but it reminded me of an article written recently on LinkedIn by my friend Jack Mulcahy, who recounted the story of a job candidate he’d heard of, who asked the very same thing, only to be told, ‘Just wear your best clothes’. For that particular job candidate, her ‘best’ was her wedding dress.
There are at least a couple of other take-aways from Jack’s story alone, but it reminded me that we should never assume how a potential employer expects you to be dressed for an interview, and that what you wear can influence the outcome.
In the case of my client, we decided to do some online research, and we asked the interviewer, which coincidently follows the sound advice of Liz Ryan, in her article in Forbes magazine (below).
As for my client … well, we spent a bit of time surfing the ‘net and as he was due for some new threads anyway, he splashed out on a rather smart ensemble, which he finished off with some snappy looking socks.
As it turns out, the socks were a winner.
A little bit of social media research we did before the interview revealed that the staff at what appeared to be straight-laced suit-wearing City-based company liked to have a bit of fun at work by wearing outlandish socks to work once a month.
So that’s what my client did, which not only gave him an ice-breaker at the beginning of the interview when the recruiter noticed his socks, but it also sent a very strong message to the recruiter that not only did he do his research, but that he would easily fit into the team and the culture of the organisation.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that the socks got him the job, but I’m pretty sure it helped – he got the job offer today.
What to wear to a job interview
For years the standard advice to job-seekers about job interview attire was “Dress as though you have the job.” You can’t do that now! There are companies where everybody wears shorts and flip-flops to work. There are other places where women still have to wear skirts — and I’m talking about employers in the U.S.!
There are organizations where men and women must wear suits to work every day. A jacket, tie and dress trousers are not sufficient in those places. It has to be a suit. You might not know about an organisation’s dress code policy, arrive for an interview in a natty blazer and not get the job — and never know why!
Then again, you might not want the job, if you think the dress code is too formal.
There are companies where people can wear slacks or skirts with or without blazers, but women must wear hose on their legs. Bare legs are not allowed, even for long skirts that practically touch the floor.
Every organization is different. How would you know what to wear to a job interview before you get there and see how people are dressed?
You have to ask!
You’re going to get an email message or a phone call from a recruiter or a company HR person, or perhaps from one of its managers, inviting you to a job interview. Here’s how that correspondence will look:
Thanks for chatting with me on the phone the other night about our Financial Analyst position. Our Controller, Harry Jones, would like to meet with you to talk further about the position. Can you join us here at our facility on Thursday, November 7th at 4:00 p.m.? You’ll be here for about two hours. Please let me know if that schedule works for you and have a great day.
Acme Explosives Recruiter
Here’s your reply:
Thanks very much for your message. I’d be happy to meet Harry Jones on Thursday, November 7th at 4:00 p.m. at your office. Can you please advise me on the appropriate dress for an interview with your firm? Thanks very much in advance.