What to wear and what NOT to wear to a job interview can cause A LOT of stress! But since there are so many other things to worry about on your way to your dream job, it’s really something you should sort out quickly.
But it’s how you look – we are programmed to stress out about that at the best of times!
Job interview attire is something we’ve been mulling over at Career Protocol because it’s something people just won’t stop asking about. Angela Guido is here to present what we hope is the only video you need to see: why dress matters, how smart you should be, how to find out the dress code for each company and, most importantly, how to own it.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
It's a question that comes up all the time in the comments and in our conversations with clients: What should I wear to my interview? Hello, I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol. I'm a Career Coach, an MBA Coach and an interview goddess? No, an interview guide. I've helped thousands of people prepare for and win interviews to the world's most elite business schools and the world's most elite companies, and today I'm going to answer your question what should you wear in that interview? This is Make Mondays Better, I should say that, right? By the way, if you haven't already, please check out my interview masterclass linked here so that you can dig deep into interviewer psychology and get the skinny on the six core question types that are going to come up in any interview you face.
1. Why Do We Wear What We Wear?
Clothing — it's not that complicated. If you think about what we wear, we get dressed with two motivations in life. The first is to feel good, to feel comfortable, to feel confident, to feel like we look and represent who we are on the inside on the outside. You want to look and feel good. That's about your experience. That's about your experience in the clothing that you're wearing. The flip side of why we dress is to fit in with others. It's to feel like we belong. Just think about wearing a tuxedo to a Starbucks or wearing a bathing suit to a white tie gathering. The problem wouldn't be that you didn't feel good in the garment, it would be that you really stuck out and not in a good way. So when you think about dressing for your interview, that's your goal. First, you want to feel good. Wear something that's comfortable for you, that feels good on your body, and that makes you feel sharp and confident.
And then second, wear something that matches the expectation of the environment you are entering in the interview. How you implement this will be different depending on whether you're having a zoom conversation, a video interview, or if you're going to the office and interviewing in person. It's not always obvious from the outside what corporate dress culture is for a given firm. So if you're showing up for a live interview, I recommend when in doubt, ask. Ask the human resources professional who's coordinating your interview, what is the expected dress code? How will my interviewers be dressed and therefore how should I dress? That’s the best strategy to figure out what you should wear for an in-person interview. But if you want to take your chances or you can't get a good answer to that question, then I recommend that you aim to dress a little bit higher than what you think everyone else is going to be wearing. So, if you're interviewing on Wall Street, go for that suit. Suit and tie are a must in the boardrooms of high finance. If you're interviewing with a tech company on the west coast, chances are wearing a suit is going to be way too overdressed for that environment so there you're going to go with something that's comfortable, business casual, but that still looks sharp. So the idea is to wear something that is not too divergent from what everyone else is wearing and matches the context of clothing in that environment while still making you feel really good and confident.
If you're in a zoom interview, then you have a lot more flexibility. I actually recommend that you pick the thing that feels best to you. So you might wear a brightly colored top if you have a big personality. If you’re a man, you might decide to wear a suit and tie even though the people you’re speaking to might be wearing business casual. Because you're not in the same environment, the dissonance of your overdress won't be awkward. Just make sure that your clothing does match your environment. So if you're interviewing in a dirty kitchen with cats running around behind you, wearing a suit is going to be quite awkward. So that implies that you need to also arrange your environment — by the way, we have an entire video about zoom interviews — you should always make sure your environment looks sharp in a Zoom interview and or use a background or gray it out and make sure that there are no naked people running around behind you during the interview. Totally separate issue. Back to clothing. So!
- When in doubt, ask
- Aim to match the attire of your environment to the best of your ability
- Wear something that feels good and looks sharp to you, you want to feel confident.
2. On Shoes
I often say that shoes are the most important aspect of your interview attire, at least for women, but I hear this also from a lot of men, that how your feet feel, how your shoes fit are the baseline of your confidence in your body. And in an interview, you need to be confident. You need to feel good about yourself. So even if you're in a zoom conversation, rather than sitting there in bunny slippers, put on your fierce working shoes.
3. Final Tips
A couple of last tips. Choose your outfit the day before the interview. Make sure it's clean, make sure it's pressed, make sure it's ready to go, and don't second-guess it the day of the interview. The last thing you want to be doing is fiddling with your garments when you should be preparing for that interview. Second-last tip is whatever you go with, just own it. If you chose a bright red top and it turns out that the culture you're interviewing with is a blue shirt-only understated culture, by the time you get into that interview, it's too late. If you didn't have that information going in, if you weren't able to get that information beforehand, do your best to just own who you are through the expression of how you dress. You don't really want to work in a place that's going to make you be anything other than you are anyway. So, have fun, good luck with your interview, and look sharp!
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