Dress to Impress: Interview Edition

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Dressing for an Interview
Do’s and Don’ts!

Talent Formula_Interview Dress Code_October 2014

Business casual, smart casual, business formal attire – what do these all mean? Do they mean the same to everyone? Determining how to dress for an interview, should be part of your research strategy. The saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is easy enough to say but let’s be honest, not always easy to do. First impressions matter.

The manner of dress in an interview is the icing on the cake so to speak. It’s another way to convey your personal brand and a way to really bring to life the candidate on that resume. You have to look the part to get the part, and dressing a specific way can partially get you there.

You Know What They Say….

Huge closet…. Nothing to wear! So let’s break it down here and get down to the nitty gritty:

Business Formal

Think of this as your conservative suit. Suit and tie for the guys; suit with skirt or a pantsuit for the ladies with a tailored shirt.

Business formal

Business formal

Pro Tip:

Don’t forget your dark or black socks gentlemen; and ladies, no weird patterns on the tights or hose.

Most likely seen: Banks, law firms, accounting firms, etc.

Your goal: Look like you are ready for your Forbes cover

Business Casual

Sounds like you’re breaking the rules already right? Take the business formal dress code down a notch and voila! For the guys, this can be dress pants and a dress shirt, no tie. In the spring or summer months, khakis with a dress shirt or a nice golf shirt (pressed and tucked in please!) will do. For the girls, you will want to go with either a dress or skirt and a dressier top. In the winter months, dress pants with a nice blouse is a good option as well.

Business casual

Business casual

Business casual women

Pro tip:

The length of the skirt or dress should at the very least meet your fingertips when your hands are held to the sides of your thigh.

Most likely seen: Nowadays, most companies have a business casual dress code with the exception of the ones mentioned under the business formal category.

Your goal: Look presentable but also comfortable and not rigidly stiff. Aka, classic with a side of fun!

Smart Casual

A.k.a., trendy but not sloppy. This category is the most misunderstood category in business dress. Why? Simply because it’s like telling the person to play in the minors but never go pro. This is a fairly new category in business dress inspired by the typically casual dot com companies.
For dudes, nice tailored jeans, a dress shirt and a funky blazer or coat is the ideal look. Dudettes, if you love color, you’re in luck! If you love colour AND are in the creative field then this is your nirvana. A pair of dressier jeans with a nice blouse and blazer or a nice cashmere sweater is a great option. Inject some color with fun accessories such as a statement necklace or a fun scarf.

Smart casual

Smart casual

Smart casual men and women

Pro Tip:

No ripped jeans, ever. Gentlemen, make sure shirts are pressed even if it’s a t-shirt. Ladies, leave the glitter stilettos for a night out with the girls and no bare shoulders!

Most likely seen: Advertising agencies, creative companies, designers

Your goal: You are the trendsetter. Vogue or GQ Fall 2014 runway personified but the business version!

No Bold Moves or Peek a Boos

I was interviewing a candidate once who confessed to me that she was wearing a shirt she planned to return after the interview. I don’t recall now how it came about but I knew as soon as she had disclosed that information, my perception of her credibility was affected. I felt that it was deceitful to do something like that consciously and I wondered how these values will affect the way she will perform in the company.

At the end she wasn’t the best fit for the position anyhow but that exchange really affected the way I looked at her after. So the lesson learned here, if you’re not sure, make no bold moves and no peek a boos. After all we don’t want any wardrobe malfunctions!

At The End of the Day – Authenticity Matters

Fashion has been used for many years in order to convey a look, a feeling and individuality. To maximize the potential of your personal brand, ensure that the look is one that works with you and that you’re comfortable in. With this added confidence, the image you’re selling in the interview should be the authentic you.

If you’re on the fence about an outfit, take it for a test run. Ask a friend what they think and if in doubt about the dress code, always dress more formal than needed so at least you’re not under dressed. You can always take off the tie or adjust the outfit like switch a blazer for a sweater in your bag if it’s totally a miss while in the waiting room.

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Grace Lanuza
Grace’s 10+ years in the ever-changing world of experiential marketing taught her the importance of having the right team in the right roles. Expanding her passion for people, Grace recently grew her career in the talent acquisition and employment branding space managing campus recruiting across North America for Mosaic, a top marketing agency. You can expect Grace’s unique voice to be found blogging about Gen Y hiring, motivating your team, interviewing tips and tricks, and best practices to keep remote employees engaged.

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