Going to an interview today is like meeting that ‘match’ from the latest trending dating site. You’re already over the excitement of that initial contact, and everything looks good on paper. Now you’ve decided to meet and see whether the proverbial spark is there and not just a figment of our imagination.
You know that first impressions matter, but you don’t want to appear too eager, nor too nonchalant. Finding that middle ground is essential, so here are some tips for figuring out what to wear.
Check out the company’s culture
If you’ve gotten to the interview stage, you’ve been through the first research process and wrote that stellar cover letter. You probably know a lot about the company by now, and have some idea about how you should dress for the interview.
The best way to nail the dress code is to understand the company’s culture. Check out the language they use, and how they communicate. Is it formal or informal? Look at how the people in the pictures are dressed. Are there any employee testimonies in the career section? Check out how they are worded. Look at how the HR department is communicating with you. You are probably already answering them in the same fashion, mirroring their culture.
You can also check out the culture of the country where the company is located in and the industry the company operates in. There are those companies we typically associate with a more formal, suit and tie culture, like banking and consultancy. Other sectors, like media and IT, are perceived to have a more laid back culture.
Still, country culture is a tricky business when it comes to clothing because some companies have their unique style. While at Facebook you may get away with jeans and a t-shirt, at Maersk you would need to suit up. If we would consider only the country of origin Maersk employees would look more like the Facebook employees as the Danish work culture is very laid back, and people wear t-shirts and jeans at work.
Dress well, not up
So, the ultimate question of what to wear is not as straightforward as you might think. Going undercover and staking out near the company building might seem like an exciting thing to do. That should be your last resort.
Investing in nice attire is a must for both men and women. Ideally it should be something that doesn’t go out of style in a couple of months. Think of something classy which can be reused, and then combine it with different shirts and accessories.
Still feeling unsure? If in doubt, overdress a little bit. And a special tipp that comes from painful experience: if you have bought new shoes for the interview, make sure to wear them in before. Feeling comfortable in your clothes is important as you should be able to focus during an interview, and that is insanely difficult when you have an aching blister on your toe.
Listen to your mother
Don’t leave the house without polishing your shoes, and combing your hair away from your face. Did the last sentence sound frighteningly close to what your mother would say? 'Cause it sure reads like something many moms would say! It doesn't mean they are wrong, though...
You’re all set now! The last things to remember is to maintain eye contact, smile, have a firm handshake, and to make sure you’re body language conveys the same message as your words (see Five body language tips for interviews and Body language interview mistakes).
You’ve reached the end and feeling disappointed of the writer’s blatant disregard for fashion and accessories! This article for women, and this GQ article for men comes with pictures of outfit ideas - and apparently all mothers think alike because clean shoes are on their list, too.