It’s time to change what you wear to job interviews

What would you think if a CEO showed up to an online job interview wearing a t-shirt? Well, that’s precisely what Bill did. He thought casual was hip and his usual business attire. When Bill didn’t get a second interview after conversations with two recruiters, he wondered why. He approached me for interview coaching, thinking he was not answering questions effectively. For our coaching session, I asked him to dress like he would for his interview. When we started on ZOOM, I saw the problem right away. The image he presented was totally wrong for his C-level role. It was an easy fix. In the next interview, he showed up in a suit jacket and open-necked shirt. He navigated and moved on to the next round of interviews.

Katherine, 26, was aiming for a consulting job. She asked if she needed to wear something nicer than dress pants and a blouse for an EY interview. For any high-level customer-facing position, really dressing up is the right answer. So, Katherine bought an elegant dress with matching accessories.

The “what should I wear for my interview” is a crucial question to be answered. Whether the person is interviewing online or in person, many candidates admit they don’t know what they should or shouldn’t wear. Many have forgotten what work clothes look like. What was perhaps good before is no longer so today.

It has become common to see people online in comfortable clothes. Tops often become what you pull out of the drawer. The prevailing attitude was that clothes no longer mattered. You could be very laid back, and that was considered acceptable. Unfortunately, some people have taken casual dress to a new level of neglect, regardless of how they present themselves. This has been true for many tech workers. As more employees return to the office, job seekers wonder what is appropriate.

What doesn’t work is projecting the character of someone who doesn’t care. Recognize that your dress for work is not what you wear to the interview.

What to expect in this ever-changing hiring environment

Currently, most job interviews remain online. However, that is starting to change. Look for companies to use more of a hybrid method, with the first screening interview online with a recruiter and the next in person. This seems to be the path some employers are heading. There is also another consideration. As many companies now search regionally or nationally, candidates from out of state would rarely be flown in for a live interview. Still, a few of my executive career counseling clients have recently flown in for the final rounds of interviews.

What is the employer thinking?

Does the employer care that you dress the way you do every day? Are comfortable clothes acceptable for online meetings? Do they wonder if you’ve ever heard of Company relaxed?

Let’s consider what an employer might object to. When recruiters first see you, they carefully assess how you present yourself. They immediately notice your clothes. They think, “Would you be a good representative of our company? Will you quickly be respected and listened to during a presentation, or will your attire hurt your credibility? “What will management think of this person? How will your appearance be perceived by a customer? »

Another consideration is that you act a little more formally when you’re dressed up. This polish shows up when talking to potential bosses and recruiting team members. You want your attire to be accepted quickly, allow the interview to flow, and not be rejected within the first few minutes.

Online interview

Your first impression is key because, like it or not, employers make instant judgment based on your attire and presentation. Employers are already nervous about hiring people they can’t “see”. You want to reassure them that you will dress appropriately as an employee. Take a moment and assess your on-screen appearance. Make sure the lighting is good, so your face is well lit. Choose an outfit that you would wear if you met them in person. Pay attention to your job title and the level you would have within the company. Are you in contact with customers? Do you collaborate with external customers or suppliers? Do you regularly meet C-level people? Are you an executive? Will clients see you in this job? Dress for this role.

Men should always wear a collared shirt. For a more executive look, an open-necked dress shirt with a suit jacket but no tie is a smart way to present yourself. If you’re wearing a tie, avoid colorful or wild prints as they look bad on screen. Some people should wear a suit and tie, including anyone on Wall Street, executives, consultants, or lawyers. Dress conservatively.

Ladies, wear solid colors and avoid prints, plaids or bright colors that distract you when viewed online. No t-shirts, sportswear, evening wear or sexy clothing. Exclude all dangling bracelets that could clash and make noise. Most women will look better with makeup. Use a light hand when applying and double-check your appearance online before looking into an employer’s eyes. Lipstick is a must. The colors look different online, so make sure the color isn’t too loud or shiny – think pinks or corals, not red.

In-person interview

A firm handshake and a warm smile showing that you’re the right person to hire are essential. Give a refined and contemporary image.

Ladies, for most positions, a classic style dress in a solid color is ideal. A blouse with a blazer and dress pants, or paired with a skirt, also works. Choose a color that makes you look good, and the outfit fits perfectly. Light makeup but nothing sexy or too trendy. Other women notice your handbag, accessories and shoes – choose them accordingly. Jewelry should be simple and tasteful.

Gentlemen, start with clean, polished shoes. People take notice and they can ruin an image if you ignore how your shoes look. The advice given above for online interviews is correct here, but make sure the pants are matched, ironed, and the whole outfit fits perfectly. If you’re only going for a dress shirt, try adding a tie and see if that’s an improvement.

In person or on a virtual screen, your warm smile is your best asset, so smile often.

About Ronda Reed

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