How to Research a Company’s Dress Code
To prepare for the job interview, research the company. The same is true when deciding what to wear to the job interview. There are three ways to figure out a company’s dress code.
- Ask someone who works there.If you already know someone who works for the company, reach out and ask. If you’re not sure if you’re already connected to a current employee, do a search on LinkedIn or type the company name in the search bar on Facebook. On Facebook, look at who “Likes” the page and click on the profile to see their employer information, if they provided it. On LinkedIn, type in the company name in the search box and it will show you your connections — and shared connections — who are currently or previously affiliated with the company. You can also reach out to the hiring manager and ask about appropriate interview attire.
- Conduct a visual inspection.If you don’t have an inside source — and don’t want to ask the hiring manager directly — go see for yourself! If you arrive at the beginning or end of the workday (or around lunchtime), you should be able to get an idea of dress code by seeing what people are wearing as they enter or exit the building. Be careful, however, if you use this method, as some companies have events like “Casual Fridays” that may throw off your investigation.
- Snoop on social media.If your prospective employer has social media accounts, browse the photo gallery for photos showing people at work. However, make sure you’re viewing an actual photo from the company, and not a stock (purchased) photo. And, as with the “Casual Friday” caution above, make sure the photo is representative of a “day in the life” of the company employee, and not a special event.
Once you have a general idea of dress code, you need to decide how to apply that information to what you’re actually going to wear. One guideline for interview attire is to “Dress One Step Higher.” Once you know what an employee in the position you’re applying for would normally wear to work, elevate it one notch. So, for example, if the typical employee wears khaki pants and a button-up shirt, you might wear dress slacks, a blazer, and a shirt with a tie. Wearing a suit to a company with a less formal dress code would look out of place. This type of attire is usually referred to as “business casual.”
Business casual attire is appropriate for interviews where a full suit would be overkill. For men, choose a dark, single color or lightly patterned sports coat or blazer, solid color dress slacks or trousers, a collared shirt, complementary tie, and dark-colored dress shoes. Socks should closely match the trouser color. Although the word “casual” is in the description, khaki pants are too casual. For women, a pair of black dress slacks can be worn with a nice sweater and/or button-up shirt or blouse, or button-up shirt and blazer or jacket, and dress shoes or low-heeled shoes. A modest dress (knee length or longer in an interesting color or a muted pattern) is also an option.
When interviewing for a job in retail, food service, or customer service, the right interview attire might lean more towards “casual” than “business casual.” In this situation, you’re not wearing a jacket or necktie, but the outfit still has to look professional. A collared shirt (with no tie) or polo shirt and slacks or neat khaki pants are appropriate. Men can wear a jacket or blazer but can take it off if it seems too formal. For women, a dark blazer with a simple blouse or button-up shirt can be worn with khaki pants or even dark-wash jeans if they are well fit, with no rips or tears. Shoes should always be closed-toed — no sandals or flip-flops.
If you’re interviewing for a job that requires you to wear a business suit every day, however, that’s how you’d dress for the job interview. This attire is appropriate for most executive roles as well as positions in law, banking, and finance. In this case, men would wear a conservative suit with a white or solid color shirt, tie, dress socks, and well-shined shoes. Women would wear a suit (either a pantsuit or skirt suit) or a conservative dress with panty hose and dress shoes. You can offset a black or dark suit with a pop of color in the form of a brightly colored shirt or blouse. However, it goes almost without saying that women should avoid short dresses and low-cut, revealing necklines when choosing interview attire.
For both men and women, avoid anything too bright or flashy. Don’t let your clothes be a distraction. You want the focus to be on you, not what you’re wearing. Be remembered for your interview answers, not your interview attire.
Do’s and Don’ts of Job Interview Attire
Dotake it easy on perfume and cologne (or skip it altogether). You never know when someone might be allergic.
Dopay attention to your shoes — because your interviewer will! (Pay special attention to heels and soles.)
Dodial down the accessories — avoid flashy jewelry and large sunglasses. Women, only wear one ring per hand. If you have a lot of piercings or earrings, take out all but one of them so they aren’t a distraction.
Doyour best to cover any tattoos.
Dofocus on fit. Items that are too big or too small or too loose or too tight will have you focusing on what you’re wearing, not what you’re talking about with the interviewer. Try out an outfit before you wear it to a job interview. Make sure it’s comfortable to sit in as well as stand and walk in.
Don’tget too crazy with colors or patterns.
Don’t wear socks that are too short with your pants. Socks should cover at least half the leg so that when you sit down, no leg shows.
Don’tforget your hair! Your hairstyle should be professional and shouldn’t distract the interviewer.
The Six Biggest Mistakes in Dressing for Interviews
- Dirty and wrinkled clothing that doesn’t fit properly
- A shirt that is too tight at the collar or around the waist
- Dirty hands, nails, or hair
- Dirty shoes, or shoes that don’t match the outfit
- Wrong style clothes
- Piercings, noticeable tattoos, inappropriate hair color
- Too much or inappropriate jewelry
- Too much/too little makeup
- Scuffed or inappropriate shoes
- Clothing that is inappropriate for the workplace
- Ill-fitting clothing
- Piercings, noticeable tattoos, inappropriate hair color