Anxiety over what to wear to a job interview is a common occurrence, especially if you’re switching industries or haven’t been on a job interview in awhile.
PSG recruiters have joined together to illustrate the difference between different attires and provide insight on which one is most appropriate for your next job interview.
In general, dress codes are similar across industries. For example, technology companies and startups, such as TripAdvisor, Google, etc., tend to dress Smart-Business Casual. Higher education institutions and medical industry organizations lean toward Business Casual, and law practices, financial institutions – like Wellington Management – and formal business environments dress in Business Professional Attire. You’ll see Creative dress at advertising and marketing firms, art galleries and graphic design firms. Remember, there are exceptions to every “rule” so it’s always a good idea to confirm the dress code with your recruiter and through research before the interview.
Here’s what we mean when we use these terms to describe an organization’s dress code:
Smart-business casual– This is likely seen in a tech environment and at startup companies, etc. This style of interview dress could be considered to be a blend of “business casual” and “creative.” You should still have a polished appearance, but should consider adding a unique and varied component to express your personality. This could include a printed, more unique tie or bowtie, a colorful necklace, or a printed blazer instead of conventional black.
Business casual– This would typically be seen in higher education institutions, the medical field, and a number of other industries. Business casual refers to a professional look, but a full suit is not needed. You should feel comfortable wearing separates instead of a full suit. This could be a dress pant with a collared shirt and v-neck sweater for men, or a solid dress skirt with printed blouse and a solid cardigan for women. Please remember that “Business Casual” does not equal “casual.” Denim should not be worn to a business casual interview. For interview purposes, if you wear a skirt, you should also wear nylons, as they are considered more appropriate.
Creative– Feel free to really express yourself! Incorporating prints, patterns, accessories, and fun are typically viewed favorably. Keep in mind that “creative” and “fun” still mean professional. You should therefor make sure you are not wearing anything ripped, too low cut, too short in length (skirts), etc. You still want to be viewed as a professional, but need to balance creativity with professionalism. Layers, prints, and accessories can be helpful in pulling together your look. Also remember to bring your professional portfolio of all of your creative work, as most firms in this space will ask to see it. You likely don’t need to wear a tie, but if you do, a bowtie or tie with a fun, bold, or colorful pattern will be best.
Business Professional– This is considered to be a very formal business environment, and is often found within the legal and financial fields. For these environments, a full suit is required for the interview. Wearing a dark suit (grey, black, navy) is highly recommended, and will convey the most polished presentation. You should also make sure you wear nylons if you choose to wear a skirt suit, and will want to make sure makeup is minimal, hair is tidy, and accessories are simple. For men and women, wearing heavy cologne or perfume will not be well received in a highly professional environment. You will also want to bring a professional “padfolio” with you that contains your resumes and the questions you plan to ask during your interview.
In addition to the basic guidelines highlighted above, it is important to take the following into consideration:
Dress can vary extensively by department. For example, within a highly professional financial firm, the Client Services team may be required to wear a full suit at all times, whereas an IT team may have business casual dress. By doing research and learning more about the specific department you are interviewing with, you can tailor your interview “look.”
Level of role
Regardless of industry, you may want to wear a full suit if you are interviewing with a higher level individual. For example, although the day-to-day attire in a higher education institute might be “business casual,” if you are interviewing with the president of the college, you would want to wear a full suit and shift more towards “Business Professional” attire.
Culture of company
It can be valuable to learn about the culture of a firm prior to interviewing. Doing research on the firm through a variety of channels (LinkedIn, Google, Glassdoor) can help you learn more about the cultural norms at an organization. This can help shape what you wear to an interview. You may also find discussions on Glassdoor or other online forums about what others wore on their interviews with that specific company. This insight can help you make a strong first impression that also aligns culturally with the firm.