Like It Or Not, Your Clothes Make the Interview

Even after agonizing over your resume, how much thought do you give to the idea that clothes help you make a good first impression? Yes, we know you’re a world-class coder, a brilliant engineer, or the most-buttoned-down project manager there ever could be. But the bottom line is when you walk in the door for an interview you’re a stranger who has to convince the manager you’re the solution to their problems – and part of that is showing you know how to look like a professional.

Like It Or Not, Your Clothes Make the InterviewFact is, even before you sit perfectly straight in the company lobby waiting for the hiring manager to round the corner, your attire has already made your first impression. On social media, photos of you should look as good as you do while you’re waiting for the interview. So says Donna Shannon, of Coyote Visions Consulting, who believes it’s critical to perfect that first impression even online.

So What’s Proper Attire in the Casual Age?

"Even if the Dress code is very casual it’s a sign of respect that you dress up," Chris Hildreth of recruiter ESP told me. "For a lower level male technical person, I would at a minimum wear dress slacks, dress shirt and a tie or a sport coat. Shoes should be shined and professional. As for women, they should dress conservatively, properly, and at a corresponding level to the men."

This is a wake-up call for those who’ve developed a habit of under-dressing at work. "People in IT who are working directly with the equipment tend to want to dress down," says Shannon. "Wearing that tie or the nicer blouse puts them in a different category in the interviewer’s mind. Even though it’s someone who may crawl around among the equipment, it’s also someone who shows they understand the rules of the game."

And those rules are changing. Tech departments today are increasingly forward facing, dealing directly with other departments staff and and clients. You might double as a company representative sometimes – and so should look the part. 

What if the Interviewer is Dressed Down? 

It doesn’t matter. "Always go in more formal attire for the first interview," says Shannon. "There’s this rule in Human Resources that you dress for the job above the one that you’re applying for. If you’re going for a senior level position, you’d definitely pull out the tie and jacket. On subsequent interviews you can dress more to match the environment.When it comes to that first meeting the conservative approach is better."

She also suggests a distinctive article to help you be remembered. For example, a bold-print tie for men or a strong piece of jewelry for women. But again, don’t go overboard. Using a bright green jacket may get you remembered, but not hired. 

Also stay away from perfumes and cologne. You never know who’s allergic or flat out hates Vera Wang Princess Perfume. 

Finally, perform a dress rehearsal the day before so you can see how you look. Loose and comfortable clothing will make you feel, well, loose and comfortable. Try to find problems. The clothes that were acceptable at the last job are probably too tired for the new interview. This is especially true for your shoes.

— Dino Londis 

4 Responses to “Like It Or Not, Your Clothes Make the Interview”