Finding a Job, Then and Now: #2 – Interview Attire

By The Intersect Group

The do’s and don’ts of what job candidates should wear to an interview have changed considerably in just two years.

Way back in the olden days of February 2020, the website The Balance Careers recommended the following interview attire for women interviewing for office/professional positions:

  • a navy blue blazer
  • button-down shirts
  • a blouse with “interesting details”
  • A black dress and tights
  • black dress pants topped with a sweater
  • a “statement dress”

This list actually suggests interview attire that was a lot less formal than even 10 years ago. in February 2010 offered these suggestions for women interviewing for office/professional positions in a “conservative industry”:

  • A matching skirt suit with (A matching blazer and pants – woman’s suit – was OK if the office was a little less “professional.”
  • Closed-toe pumps (no stilettos, however).
  • No dangling earrings.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum; no bangles. (A wristwatch was OK.)
  • Keep makeup light, and don’t douse yourself in perfume.

It was OK to wear dress pants with a nice blazer jacket with low-heeled pumps for a more casual office environment. Jewelry, makeup, and perfume also should be kept to a minimum.

As for men, professional/office positions 10 years ago needed suit and tie, dress shoes, etc. Ten years ago, it was OK to wear a “non-suit” blazer and slacks, but you should still have worn a tie, and you could dare dress this “casually” only if the company was a little more laid back. Even so, it still was wisest to err on the side of dressing conservatively (the suit and tie).

What was the reasoning behind these “interview uniforms?”

It was best to dress as professionally/conservatively as possible because one of the purposes of a job interview was to show that you understood a few things:

  • That working at your job is a serious activity, and therefore you should take the interview that will help you get it seriously.
  • That you understood that you would be working and working is not a time to relax and wear comfy clothes.

And now?

What do recruiters, business owners, hiring managers think about job interview attire?

Things have become much more casual while at work, but job interviews still need to be taken seriously.

You, therefore, need to dress in a way that signals that you understand that.

This doesn’t mean you can’t dress more comfortably than before…

…but you still need to dress rather conservatively.

(We’ll discuss remote interviews in a moment, but first, we’ll discuss in-person interview attire.)

How to dress today for an in-person job interview for an office/professional position

  • If the office is business casual:

Women should wear a nice blouse and tailored skirt or slacks with closed-toe pumps or flats. (Pantyhose is NO longer required.)  As always, keep your hair neat. Keep jewelry and perfume to a minimum.

Men should wear nice slacks and a blazer that “goes” with it (it doesn’t have to be a suit), a tie and a dress shirt. Dress shoes. Beards/mustaches should be trimmed. Cologne should be minimal if worn at all.

  • If the office is professional:

Women should wear a pantsuit or skirt suit. (Pantyhose is still no longer required, but it might be a good idea if it’s a really conservative office, such as in government or law.) Closed-toe pumps (no stilettos). Jewelry and perfume should be minimal.

Men should wear a business suit with tie and dress shirt. Dress shoes. Beards/mustaches and cologne? Same as for business casual.

(Tip: if you have no idea how people dress at this particular office, it’s OK – if not smart – to ask the recruiter, hiring manager, or HR person what the office dress code is prior to the interview.)

Virtual interviews: can you be all business on the top and sweats on the bottom?

Yes, but with a caveat: if there’s ANY chance your bottom half might be seen, it’s best to dress as you would for business-casual or full-professional in-person interviews.

Many hiring experts believe it’s best to dress just as you would for an in-person interview because putting on the “interview uniform” truly does change one’s mindset. Remember: this is business. It’s serious stuff. You want to be perceived as a “serious professional.”

Or as this October blog post says: “Doing so not only makes you appear professional and excited about the opportunity, but it will also make you feel more prepared and confident.”

We’ll help you prepare for your interview

Take a look at The Intersect Group’s current finance/accounting and IT positions and apply to any and all that appeal to you.

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