Man wearing dark suit with grey shirt and tie

Breaking Down the Interview Dress Code Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

We all know that, when it comes to interviews, first impressions are crucial. In the first 30 seconds of meeting someone, your brain is already making decisions and assumptions about another’s character based on a variety of cues, and one of those crucial cues is appearance. LinkedIn career expert Nicole Williams says that “on a job interview, your attire makes a statement about yourself before you even open your mouth. You need to wear a ‘power outfit.’” Over the years, our culture has evolved and developed dress codes such as “business casual” and “casual Fridays” that had, up until recently, been unheard of. It is now more challenging to tell if any one company still abides by a classic business formal dress code or has opted instead for a more laid back, creative vibe. That being said, you shouldn’t go in to an interview looking overly casual either. So, what exactly is today’s interview dress code?

The fact of the matter here is that an all-encompassing interview dress code simply no longer exists. Each company has its own rules, expectations, and corporate culture, and it is your responsibility to do some research to discover what they are. The main goal here is to try to look like you seamlessly belong with the company–like you are its long lost staff member. Every company is different. One of the easiest ways to figure out a company’s corporate and dress code culture is to pay the company a visit, and observe what everyone is wearing. If employees are wearing jeans and t-shirts, I’d say it’s a safe bet that you don’t need the 3-piece charcoal suit and silk tie in your closet. However, don’t emulate their style just yet by thinking you can throw on that t-shirt and jeans. They already have the job. You don’t. Always err on the side of professionalism, even if the company is laid back.

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Business Formal Companies: Sales, Finance, Managerial Positions


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For these kinds of interviews, your best bet is to dress as professionally as possible. You need to look like you’ve already achieved greatness and you possess all the confidence in the world–even if you don’t. The two- and three-piece charcoal suit and tie is definitely a go-to interview choice for a business formal interview. Stick to darker, solid suit colors and a simple tie. Customize your look with a bold shirt color and add a little unexpected touch so as not to come off as too stiff if you like. Keep accessories to a minimum–a great (but not too flashy) watch is always welcome.


Business Casual Companies: Start-Ups, Tech, and Small Companies


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Business casual companies are a little trickier. Do you go for the full suit ensemble, or forgo the suit altogether? It really depends on the company. Do your research, and dress to fit in with the corporate culture. A sport coat and trouser pants can be appropriate for this type of interview. Unlike business formal, you have a bit more free reign to experiment with and personalize your look. Mix and match suit separates, go for that statement tie, wear bold socks, just make sure that the choices you do make go seamlessly together and are not overdone. The last thing you want to do is make your outfit too busy when it comes to colors. Have fun, but err on the side of caution when it comes to interview dressing, because you don’t want to distract from your skills and qualifications. Instead, you want to exude confidence and show that you are a perfect fit for the company because of your personality and merits.


Creative Companies: Ad Agencies, Design, Arts, and Entertainment Industries


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In the creative industry, hopefuls have a lot to prove, and tons of competition to boot. One of the things you have to prove, beyond being competent, is that you have unique creative edge and vision–and that you aren’t afraid to show it. This is by far the hardest interview attire to gauge because it widely varies based on the position in question as well as the company that you’re interviewing with. Definitely do your research to make sure that you dress appropriately. Sometimes a shirt and tie will suffice, other times a full suit is necessary. You’ll have to be the judge when it comes to the impression you’d like to make. When wearing a suit, add in an unexpected piece like funky trousers or a patterned shirt to show off your creativity, but make sure whatever it is you wear, it is clean, fitted, and indicative of your “you-ness.”

No matter where you interview, make sure you dress to impress. Along with attire, make sure you are well-groomed, clean shaven, and well (but not overly) accessorized. Keep cologne to a bare minimum, if at all. Ascertain that you are knowledgeable of the company you are interviewing for, and that you are prepared to show how well-researched you are. If you keep all of these tips in mind, you should be suited up for success. Good luck, gents!

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