Suit: Do all job interviews still require formal attire?

Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2006

Do you need to wear a suit to a job interview, or can you get away with sneaking to your appointment on your lunch hour in your business casual clothing? Those are the questions that plague many job- seekers when picking out their interview attire. In the past, wearing a suit to a job interview was a no-brainer. However, today's styles allow for some legroom when it comes to what's appropriate and what's not.

Whether you like it or not, you will be judged on your appearance at a job interview. Though artists are typically given immunity to traditional conservative appearances, the rest of us should follow protocol.

Fitting in

Dale Dauten, author of "Better Than Perfect: How Gifted Bosses and Great Employees Can Lift the Performance of Those Around Them" (Career Press, $19.99), says that part of the interview process is determining if you would be a good fit at the company.

"It's important to remember that the interview is not about job qualifications - they already know you're qualified from the resume and phone screening - but about whether or not they want to work with you," he explains. "Appearances are critical - the interview is all about subjective issues, anyway."

Getting a feel for the company atmosphere is always a good idea, whether you're pondering what to wear or not. Dauten suggests getting to know a little about the culture of the company and driving to the building prior to the interview to check out what other employees are wearing. Doing so also allows you to time the commute, find out where to park and get to know the area better.

Dress up

"Come time to pick attire, I go with the rule that it's always better to err toward overdressing," Dauten says. "It's easy to show in a suit, see everyone in jeans and say, 'Thank goodness you're causal here.' Then you take off the jacket and roll up the sleeves with a contented sigh. You've showed respect by dressing up, and camaraderie by dressing down."

However, it only works one way, he adds. You certainly can't show up casual and put on a tie later. Though many companies today opt for a business-casual look, that term can mean many different things to different people.

"I would suggest that you always dress a notch up from what the actual dress code is," says Mercedes Alfaro, founder of First Impression Management, a business attire consulting firm based in Columbus, Ga. "When in doubt, always wear a traditional suit - that goes for both men and women. Grooming should also be conservative, for example it's fashionable for young men to wear spiked hair, but don't wear spiked hair to an interview. One interviewer told me they were so distracted by a young man's spiked hair style that they kept looking at it during the interview."

While they might not be required for everyday wear, suits are a great way to make a good first impression with both men and women.

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