For job candidates, landing a face-to-face interview is both thrilling and a little frightening. You’ve made it through the online application process and a phone interview, and now it’s time to let your dream employer meet you in person. There’s a lot to do to get ready, including being fully informed about what to wear to the job interview. With fashion conventions shifting all the time and standards varying by industry, it’s a question that merits careful consideration.
“It’s absolutely important to do your research about the company you’re interviewing with,” says Katie Sternberg, founder of the executive and personal coaching firm Momentum in Baton Rouge. “Get online, see what people are wearing and how the company is presenting itself.”
Indeed, websites and social media channels have never been more revealing about company culture. A quick peek can be a great place to view how current employees are expected to dress. And remember, specific sectors often have their own norms when it comes to attire, some of which may surprise you.
While the tech sector seems like it’s overrun with t-shirt-clad millennials, employers usually want to see a more traditional look on prospective employees in an interview, says Scott Albert, talent acquisition specialist with the IT firm Perficient.
“You want to dress ‘ahead’ of the folks you’re meeting,” says Albert, who recruits talent for Perficient’s large Lafayette, Louisiana office. “Dress to impress. It shows how serious you are for the position, and makes sure your first impression is a lasting one.”
Albert says he expects to see men wearing suits or coats and ties, and women wearing business suits.
“You want to make sure you’re wearing conservative colors and styles,” Albert says. “Men should wear white or light blue dress shirts, and women should wear low heels. And if they wear skirts or dresses, they should make sure they’re not too short.”
Albert and other human resources experts say minimizing distracting elements is a big part of dressing for success. Being well groomed is key. Candidates should not wear excessive perfume or cologne, beards should be trimmed, eyeglasses cleaned and women should wear their hair in the neatest possible manner. All these details demonstrate how serious you are about the position.
Attire standards may vary from to company to company, so it’s perfectly fine for a job candidate to ask their prospective employer how to dress for an interview, says Gena Champagne, state director of the Louisiana Society of Human Resource Management.
“It’s absolutely an appropriate question to ask,” says Champagne. “Employers expect candidates to come prepared, and that’s just another example of how to ready yourself.”
Champagne also agrees that even if a company seems to have a relaxed culture, it’s usually better to dress up for an interview.
“You might be interviewing at a place where it’s ultimately okay to wear jeans to work, but you don’t want to do that in your interview,” she says.
Manufacturing can be a different ballgame
Louisiana’s robust manufacturing sector can have different rules when it comes to interview attire since the workplace itself is more casual. In manufacturing and industry, a greater emphasis is put on comfort and safety than on traditional conservative dress, since even salaried employees who work primarily behind a desk have to visit operations sites from time to time.
Therefore, business casual is a good way to go for a manufacturing interview, says Talent Management Director Sarah Sasser of Crest Industries in Pineville, La.
“Our work environment is business casual, so we want to see a candidate come in from that perspective,” Sasser says. “We like to say, ‘khaki pants and a polo or better.’”
Sasser adds that if a candidate is interviewing for an hourly position, such as a welder, he or she might be given a welding test during the interview. Therefore, it would be acceptable to wear comfortable clothing, like jeans and a collared shirt. In these cases, Sasser says, applicants are informed about the interview format and what they should wear.
But even if you suspect it’s acceptable to wear business casual to an interview, it’s still a good idea to double check, says Sasser. And if it is okay to wear khakis and a polo, be sure they’re tidy, she adds.
“There should be no wrinkles or stains, and your shirt should be tucked in,” Sasser says. “When I talk to groups about interviewing, I always tell them ‘to dress like you’re going to see a customer.’”
Suit up for banking, finance and the legal profession
Some professions, like banking, finance and law, are historically conservative in terms of attire, and remain so today.
“In banking, we expect our job candidates to dress conservatively and dress professionally,” says IBERIABANK Talent Acquisition Specialist Suzanne Shirley. “This is true not just in an interview, but on the job, especially in client-facing positions.”
Because so many IBERIABANK personnel come into direct contact with customers, they’re expected to dress their best. Men should wear a suit or coat and tie to an interview, says Shirley, and women, a business suit. Female candidates should wear understated jewelry that doesn’t become a distraction during the interview.
Job candidates in any field might find themselves having to purchase new attire for an interview. If that’s the case, says Sternberg, be sure the clothes are prepped and ready.
“Everything should be pressed and not look like it just came out of box,” she says. “And don’t forget one last really important thing. Cut all tags off. You wouldn’t believe many people forget to do this.”
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