In the often byzantine route that is today’s professional job interview process, nothing is ever simple, but how you dress comes incredibly close.
Unemployment figures are still high and the economy remains down, so if you’ve received those oh-so-wonderful sounding words, “We’d like you to come in for an interview,” consider yourself among the chosen few.
Now, just don’t blow it with your attire.
“First impressions can be lasting impressions, so be sure that your appearance isn’t distracting,” said Colleen Hughes, vice president of human resources for CompTIA.
She said the basic expectation for a candidate for an IT position is to be clean, neat and well put together. Simple rules, it would seem.
“The apparel of candidates for an IT job would be nice slacks and a dress shirt for men and nice slack or skirt with a sweater, blouse and jacket for women,” Hughes said.
Asked if attire played a different role in interviewing for an IT position when compared to other industries, Hughes saw no difference.
“An individual should dress in clean, net, well-fitting clothes appropriate for the level of the position he or she is interviewing for,” she said. “While a suit would most likely not be the normal attire for an IT job seeker, nice slacks and a shirt would be proper. It is always better to over dress than under dress.”
IT pros - they of the polo shirt and khakis addiction group - may not always be singled out for their fashion sense, but this is clearly an occasion where what one wears matters.
In a recent survey conducted by York College’s Center for Professional Excellence, human resource professionals were asked about mistakes made during job interviews and “wearing inappropriate attire” was listed as the top “interview killer.”
Another bit of qualitative data on the matter may be viewed in some quarters as dated, but the message clearly hasn’t gone out of style - unlike some fashion trends during the interval.
According to 2008 research done by Robert Half Technology, more than a third of the CIOs surveyed suggested IT professionals should wear a suit for a job interview.
Survey respondents all agreed it is better to err on the side of caution and overdress rather than showing up too casual.
Hiring manager CIOs advised candidates unsure of how to dress to ask their prospective hiring manager, recruiter or HR contact about the dress code.
As noted in a post titled, “Don’t Let Your Appearance Hurt Your Job Search,” on the Jobfully Blog, “during a job search you meet new people more often and are regularly creating a first impression.
“As a job seeker, you are selling yourself,” the post goes on suggest. “You are a package. Your achievements, credentials, experience and promise of future value are the great product inside the box. Your appearance and presentation are the outside of the box.”
The posting suggests that interview candidates really need just one or two good quality ensembles that project professional looks. Assemble a networking or first interview outfit and a variation on it and ask a good friend to weigh in with an evaluation.
Hughes said in all cases of attire, make sure not to wear anything distracting.
“The focus needs to be on the interview and the candidate,” she said.
What someone wears to an interview “can quickly speak to their judgement and common sense. If a candidate comes to an interview with a frayed polo shirt and sneakers on, it shows a general lack of awareness and respect,” added Hughes.
She concurred with her peers on the value of prior research on a prospective employer’s culture and dress code.
“An applicant for an IT job in a law firm may want to consider a sport coat, while an applicant for a job at Zappos could probably be much more casual,” Hughes said.
The following is a general list of interview attire options for men and women, culled from various professional recruitment firms.
Men’s interview attire:
- Suit (solid color - navy or dark grey)
- Long sleeve shirt (white or coordinated with the suit)
- Dark socks, conservative leather shoes
- Little or no jewelry
- Professional hairstyle
- Trimmed nails
Women’s interview attire:
- Suit (navy, black or dark grey)
- Suit skirt, length allowing you to sit comfortably
- Coordinated blouse
- Conservative shoes
- Limited jewelry, nothing dangling
- Professional hairstyle
- Neutral pantyhose
- Light make-up and perfume
- Manicured nails