The job search has changed over the past 10 years. So have fashion trends. But one thing that hasn’t changed in the job search process is that people will judge you based on first impressions.
What you wear to an interview may have changed — in some situations — but the need to dress appropriately for the interview has not.
It used to be that a suit (for men) and a dress (for women) was required attire for a job interview. Now, wearing a suit might actually work against you — for example, it might signal to a prospective employer that you don’t understand the company culture. (Particularly if the employee dress code leans more towards jeans and sneakers than ties and loafers.)
While it’s important to feel comfortable in what you wear to an interview, you don’t want to look too comfortable. Little details about your attire will likely be noted by the interviewer and can make the difference between getting a second interview (or job offer) or not.
Dressing appropriately for an interview demonstrates that you’ve done your research and that you pay attention to detail. Just like you would study the company’s website ahead of time to be prepared for a job interview, studying the company culture — especially as it relates to employee attire — demonstrates your interest in working for the company.
You’ve heard the old saying, “Dress for success.” Nowhere is that more relevant than in a job interview.
Don’t give the HR person or hiring manager a reason to rule you out because you were overdressed, underdressed, or sloppily dressed.
The hiring manager can form an impression about you in the first five seconds of meeting you. Dressing appropriately conveys a very different impression than an impression made with poorly hemmed pants and shoes that are falling apart.
It’s very difficult to change a first impression.
Even if your interview is a virtual interview (telephone or video — i.e., Skype), you should still “dress to impress.” Don’t make the mistake of only dressing your top half for a video interview either. There are dozens of horror stories about having to stand up suddenly or change positions and your suit-on-top-shorts-on-the-bottom look is revealed.
Dressing appropriately can also give your confidence a boost. Getting a compliment about your appearance from friends or family before an interview can put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. On the other hand, if you are worried about a loose sole on your shoe, it can distract you.
The right attire can also affect how credible you are perceived to be.
The Lab Coat Effect
You’ve been told “not to judge a book by its cover,” but the reality is that we constantly judge things by their appearances. It’s why “curb appeal” is so important in real estate.
Clothes can make an impression — for better or worse. But more important, the right clothes can convey authority. Clothing not only communicates to others how you want to want to appear, but may also impact the way you think about yourself.
These concepts were reinforced by a research study.
In a study conducted by the Kellogg School of Medicine, researchers found students did better on tests that measured accuracy and attention span when they wore a white lab coat. The lab coat — long associated with scientists and medical doctors — apparently leads students to aspire to live up to it. Students wearing lab coats performed better in concentration tests and were more engaged in the activity.
While no one is suggesting you wear a white lab coat to a job interview (especially if you’re not in the medical or scientific field!), this research validates the need to wear appropriate clothing to both make you feel more confident and reinforce the confidence of the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the position.
Interviewing When You’re Currently Employed
If you are job hunting while you are currently employed, you might find yourself wondering what to do if you have a job interview scheduled for a day you have to work. How do you dress for an interview when the interview attire is significantly different from what you wear to work in your existing job? You don’t want to show up for work in a suit when you normally come to work dressed in khaki pants and a button-up shirt.
Instead, plan to change clothes before your interview — but don’t change at your current workplace or at the company where you are interviewing. Instead, change somewhere in between — preferably some place that you will have access to a full-length mirror so you can double-check every detail of your appearance. If you don’t have time to go home, a mall or clothing store can be options. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to change and still get to the interview a few minutes early.
And don’t forget to change back into your regular work clothes before you go back to the office. For this reason, you may want to schedule your job interview towards the end of the workday so you don’t have to change clothes again. (This is a good idea anyway so you don’t feel rushed in the job interview.)
Next week will be Part 2 of this short series. Thanks for reading!