Attention men: do you know the modern rules to dress for success? Times have changed, and with them the guidelines for dressing for job interviews have too. And in today’s volatile, talent-rich job market where one wrong move can send you to the bottom of the applicant pool, the stakes for making an impeccable impression on job interviews are higher than ever before.
Along with your cover letter and resume, how you handle yourself on a first interview—which includes how you dress—is a critical component of your initial impression on potential employers and hiring managers, and we all know how powerful and lasting first impressions can be.
So keep reading, get ready—and go shopping if necessary—to make sure you’re absolutely ready when you’re on your next job hunt.
Dress for the environment
An important (yet often ignored) maxim when dressing for job interviews is dressing appropriately for the environment. What does this mean? Simply put, a three-piece suit may not be the best choice for every situation. An interview at a prestigious law firm and an art gallery are different animals that likely require different wardrobes. There are times when a conservative outfit is practically a requirement, and times when a little creative flair will be appreciated and well received. When you’re on an interview, potential employers will not only be looking to see that your outfit is polished and professional, they’ll also be checking to make sure it’s appropriate for the setting and reflects good judgment.
Bottom line—whether in a board room, theater, campground, classroom, or somewhere in-between, part of your prep for every interview is to research your target environment and audience and to pick out an outfit that appropriately fits the situation.
In times past, men had plenty of leeway when it came to clothing fit and many chose to opt for loose comfort. Today, a more tailored fit is in style, so much so that in some places you’ll look positively behind the times if your outfit is too baggy or loose-fitting. A well-tailored outfit radiates positive, professional poise whereas a baggy, ill-fitting one may send a subconscious message that you’re unprepared, disorganized, or careless (regardless of whether or not it’s true).
Your best bet is to make sure your clothes reflect a neatly tailored fit—this doesn’t mean you have to buy a whole new wardrobe, but it may necessitate a trip to the tailor if you find yourself drowning inside of your current outfits.
Don’t be a peacock
Sure, you want to stand out from the applicant pool when you’re on an interview, but do it with your amazing abilities and experience—not with an overly flashy outfit. Resist the urge to peacock your way through your interviews and save the loudly colored suits and shirts and wildly creative ties for your next party or social gathering (unless you’re absolutely certain it’s the right environment for it). Instead, opt for more subtle color palettes and fits. Trust us on this one—you may stand out with a wild outfit, but likely not in the way you want to.
Comfort is key
Just as important as a carefully considered and appropriate outfit is reflecting the aura that you’re confident—which means feeling comfortable in your clothes. Make sure you’ve tried on your outfit in advance of the interview day, and make sure your choice of outfit makes you feel good about how you look and your chances of landing the job. Nothing wrecks a first interview quite like a complete lack of confidence and comfort, so be prepared and consider yourself forewarned.
Use these tips to plan out your outfit so that when interview day comes, you’re ready to go. Looking great leads to feeling great, which then leads to putting your best foot forward—so you’ll already have a leg up on the competition. Good luck!