I saw a post a few days ago on LinkedIn asking whether or not you should wear a suit to your next job interview. There were plenty of people answering yes or no, but it isn’t that simple. My short response is that you should dress one level up from the organization’s customary dress code. But what does that really mean, and how do you go about figuring it out?
What it means is the easy part. If you’re interviewing at a factory and the dress code there is closed-toed shoes and uniform, dress one up from that and wear a polo and slacks. If you’re interviewing at a tech startup where everyone is in shorts and a t-shirt, do the same. A consulting firm where everyone seems to be in business casual? To quote Captain America, “put on the suit.”
How do you go about figuring it out? This can seem a little daunting, but it really isn’t. Just ask. Ask the person you have been speaking to about the job over the phone or by email. Send them a quick note and let them know you’ve been preparing for the interview and need to know what the attire is. 100% of companies you want to work with not only appreciate you asking, but are happy to tell you. “But Franklin, shouldn’t I be expected to know it? I don’t want to bother the recruiter and make them mad.” You won’t make them mad and if you do then you don’t want to work there anyway.
There’s always a “what if.” What if the recruiter responds back and says, “oh it just depends, nothing fancy.” There’s a recruiter out there somewhere that is going to say that and they mean well. They’re likely trying to make you feel at ease. If you’re uncomfortable responding back with, “so wear a suit?” then do a little detective work. And if you do respond back and get another vague answer, do a little detective work.
A few years ago I was interviewing with the CEO of a recruiting company. This company had it all – suits to golf shirts to jeans. So I looked up the CEO on LinkedIn and he had a tie on. Chamber picture? Tie. Company website? Tie. You can guess what I wore to the interview.
The world of work has changed. Twenty years ago it was a little more cut and dry when the question arose about what you should wear to an interview. Today it’s murkier, but it’s not hard to figure out. It just requires asking questions and doing your homework. And if you’re interested in some help with your homework, check out our interview preparation services.