Dress code

I’m switching to interview mode again for a couple of posts, as it is something I have been doing recently.

Today’s subject is around dress code. Should you dress formally for an interview or not?

My view is an unequivocal ‘Yes’. We may have changed so that wearing jeans and t-shirts are acceptable for IT workers who do not generally need to see customers, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there are certain standards that should be upheld. When someone comes to an interview smartly dressed (blouse, skirt/trousers and jacket for a lady and shirt, tie & suit for a gent), then it creates a good first impression. They have taken the time to think about their appearance, and how they look. and have shown me the courtesy of dressing for a formal meeting. Interviews are not generally an informal chat (I know some can be), so should be approached formally.

Two people are meeting for the first time – they may have spoken over the phone, but neither know each other. One is interviewing another for a job – so a level of common courtesy is required.

Call me old-fashioned, but it irritates me when someone cannot be bothered to make the effort, and makes me wonder if the actually want the job they have come to be interviewed for.

Of course you can have a smartly dressed candidate who cannot do the job, and a casually dressed candidate who can do the job – but I would not want either. If that person needed to visit or meet a client, or present an important project report to very senior management, how do I know that they would dress appropriately? I could ask, but of course they would reply that they would dress formally when needed, which would lead me to ask why they were not properly addressed for an interview then!

There is one exception, and that is where they have requested beforehand not to wear a tie or suit jacket. I understand that if someone has a half day for an interview, and they are in the office for the rest of the day in a suit, people may guess they have an interview, which is not ideal, but an advance request is a must.

Common courtesy can be very undervalued – but not by me!

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5 thoughts on “Dress code

  1. Is the suit still an absolute necessity in your opinion? Does a shirt, tie, and trousers (so basically no jacket) suffice? Of course this would completely depend on the role.

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  2. It depends on the organisation. A financial institution will want a suit, a start up might not, but I still think the minimum is smart trousers, shirt and tie out of respect for the company and the interviewer. If I worked in a place where we all wore jeans etc, I would expect the candidate to still come wearing a shirt and tie, although I might say to take off the tie if they want to.

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    • I agree that the minimum is certainly shirt, tie, trousers regardless of the dress code of the organisation. Definitely gets things going correctly.

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  3. Even though I still dress up for interviews because I don’t know the expectations I really resent that I have to. It’s such an antiquated tradition. I think people should be able to wear whatever they want as long as it’s not truly offending anyone (ie tshirt that says “I hate ___” where the ___ represents a group of people – not offended because I’m wearing jeans). Trying to fit people into boxes doesn’t work. The new generation is proving that more every day with flexible working hours, remote working, stand-up desks, dogs in the office, casual dress, shorter work weeks, and more to come. Assess the personality/attitude and the skill set, not the appearance.

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    • Hi Stina.

      Its interesting as there is a real generational gap in thinking around business dress etc.

      If I am to meet someone I dont know, and I am looking to them to give me a job based on who I am and my skillset, then I want to create a good impression and show them the respect that they deserve.
      To be honest if I can wear casual clothes for 99.9% of my life, and only need to dress up for an interview, I don’t see that as a problem.

      Its easy to say that interviewers should look beyond dress code, but in business if you are meeting a potential client, there is an expectation that you dress smartly out of respect. If I saw someone for an interview who couldn’t be bothered to dress up for it, I would conclude that they would not do so for a client, and therefore this could lose the company business.

      You describe this as an antiquated tradition which again shows a generational difference in how we view the same thing. But all of us need to be mindful that others might respect things that we do not – but that doesn’t make them wrong.
      Millennials like flexibility, dressing down, break-out areas etc, and the older generation will respect that, even if they do not agree with it, so surely it can work the other way round.

      In the end, I believe it comes down to some basic principles of good manners and respect for others.

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