How to Dress For a Job Interview: Decorum or Duckheads?


Job Interview 1As I continue my quest for Full-time Employment, I actually had an interview last week. As I strode up to the office building where my interview was, it hit me:

In this age of “Business Casual”, is it still appropriate to wear a suit or, at least a coat a tie to a job interview?

So, I did some research (Hey, I’m a Marketing Guy, what do you expect?), and I came upon a page on Virginia Tech University’s Website, upon which they advise their graduates on how to dress for a job interview.

According to them,

In an interview your attire plays a supporting role.

• Your conduct, your interpersonal skills and your ability to articulate intelligent and well-thought-out responses to questions are the most important elements.
• Appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed.
• Be aware that in some industries, customer contact and image presented to the customer is critical. In such industries, your attire will be judged more critically.
• Your attire should be noticed as being appropriate and well-fitting, but it should not take center stage.
• If you are primarily remembered for your interview attire, this is probably because you made an error in judgment!
• Dressing nicely and appropriately is a compliment to the person you meet, so if in doubt, err on the side of dressing to a higher standard than you might need to.
• Even if you are aware that employees of an organization dress casually on the job, dress more formally for the interview unless you are specifically told otherwise by the employer. The interview is a professional meeting and thus a more formal occasion than daily work.
• Never confuse an interview or business function with a social event. Don’t dress for a party or a date.
• Not every contact with an employer requires interview attire. For some occasions business casual is appropriate. See business casual for when to wear it and what it is.
• Changes in fashion may change some things, like the width of lapels, the cut of pants, or the colors of blouses, shirts and ties available in the stores. Basic professional attire does not change with the whims of fashion. A good suit should last five to ten years, depending on its quality, how hard you wear it, how well you care for it, and if it continues to fit you well. You can express fashion’s whims in your off-the-job clothes, and to some extent in your accessories.

This advice came as a relief to me, because that is how I dress for interviews, anyway. However, being over 30 tears older than these graduates, it is reassuring that I haven’t lost what remains of my mind and that I am not out of touch…even though I listen to Sirius XM 60s on 6 and 70s on 7.

But, I digress…

The University goes on to list Attire Guidelines for Men and Women…

A two-piece matched suit is always the best and safest choice.
• What if the JOB is in a NON-SUIT-wearing WORK ENVIRONMENT:
Even if you would or could wear jeans on the job, or the work environment is outdoors and a very non-suit environment, wearing a suit to the interview shows you take the interview seriously as a professional meeting. Dressing well is a compliment to the person(s) with whom you meet. If you think the industry in which you’re interviewing would frown on a suit, or the interview will involve going to a work site where a suit would be inappropriate, look for advice through professional organizations, your professors who have been employed in that industry, and/or by asking the employer directly and politely. One alternative is to wear pressed pants (like khakis) and a dark jacket; less formal than a suit, but still business-appropriate for both men and women.
• Conservative colors / fabric:
Navy, dark gray (and black for women) — are safe.
Other color trends may come and go; avoid the extremes.
Solids or very subtle weave patterns or plaids (the type that look solid across a room) are safest.
Wool, wool blends, or other good quality natural and synthetic fibers, are generally the best fabrics in all seasons. Avoid lower quality acetate / rayon blends.
• Cost / quality:
You are not expected to be able to afford the same clothing as a corporate CEO. Do invest in quality that will look appropriate during your first two or three years on the job. One good-quality suit is sufficient for a job search if that is all your budget allows. You can vary your shirt/blouse and tie/accessories.
• Details:
Everything should be clean and well pressed.
Carefully inspect clothes for tags, dangling threads, etc.

…Because, after all, you don’t want to show up looking like Cousin Minnie Pearl of “Hee Haw” Fame

That’s a joke, kids…ask your parents.

So, there you have it.

When it comes to interviewing for a job, class and decorum still rules the day.

Now…I wonder if I should go to the store and grab some “Just For Men”?

Never Give Up. Never Surrender.



One thought on “How to Dress For a Job Interview: Decorum or Duckheads?

  1. darwin

    I’ve had 2 job interviews recently. One was for a city street department job. I wore my one good pair of black dress pants and a black short sleeve button down shirt. For my interview at Walmart, I wore a clean pair of blue jeans and the same shirt.

    I was worried about what to wear if I got a second interview with the city – buy something or wear the same thing!

    All I have are blue jeans, T shirts and flannel shirts!

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