Originally Published: Sunday, 14 May 2000 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_djn/Dream Jobs Now! Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

I Haven't a Thing to Wear, or Interview Apparel Myths

There are really two main myths about what to wear to an interview, both of which can get you into trouble. Today, we'll talk about why the conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong.

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The conventional wisdom on job interview behavior and apparel hasn't changed much in the last 50 years or so. Unfortunately, the job market, particularly in many IT shops, has changed significantly. This affects not only the day to day work environment, but also what may be expected for a job interview. There are really two main myths about what to wear to an interview, both of which can get you into trouble. Today, we'll talk about why the conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong.

Myth #1: When you go to a job interview, make sure you wear an executive-type suit or dress. Preferably, you should wear the most expensive and prestigious looking outfit you own, and attempt to look like a Wall Street Vice President.

Okay, we've all heard this one quite a bit. Sometimes, it's even a good strategy. Fortune 500 companies, even ones who let their techies dress down, will take a look at you "starting at your shoes and working up" according to many marketing consultants. But let's think about this from a marketing perspective again, and consider how you dress as your "packaging." The fact is that first impressions often do make a difference, and how you dress for the interview can affect whether or not you get the job.

In any company, there is a distinct culture including standards of what an interviewee is supposed to look like. In startup or other technology companies, often the traditional distrust of technical staff for the "suits" (or sales, marketing, and executive folks) may make it a good idea to dress down somewhat for the interview. Of course, you'll probably want to wear clothes that are clean, without holes, and not composed of blinding and clashing colors.

The old adage, "Dress for the job you want" holds some truth. If the people working in the type of job you're interviewing for wear t-shirts and cut-off shorts to work, showing up in a 3-piece suit can create an instant impression that you might not be comfortable in that environment, or that you think you're somehow better than your peers. Interviewers from within the department where you'll be working tend to form an instant picture of you working (or not!) in their department from the moment they meet you. If that impression is of "that woman in the executive suit" or somesuch, it may be harder for the interviewer to picture you working in their environment and subtly prejudice your chances. Oh, the interview itself and your qualifications can overcome that, certainly, but why create that negative picture if you don't have to?

Again, a little homework is in order. If you know someone (or if you know someone who knows someone) who works for the company, you can try to get insider information about what appropriate interview wear might be. If you can't find out directly, try to find out through other means. Some technology startups do have a suit-and-tie dress code, while some non-tech businesses might dress down. Keep in mind as well whether the culture of that business, as shown by its dress code, is a place where you would be happy working. Some people enjoy dressing "executive" as it makes them feel as though they're in a more professional atmosphere, while others care little to nothing about external appearance as long as the actual work is getting done. Either are valid attitudes, but neither is for everyone.

Next time, we'll talk about Myth #2, which can get you into even more trouble than Myth #1:

Myth #2: For any IT job interview, you can wear T-shirts, jeans, or whatever you like.

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