Bosses hire candidates they think will be a good fit with their team, research shows, and what you wear to a job interview plays a role in the impression you make. If slapping on a suit was always the answer, dressing for an interview would be easy. But every office environment is different. You want to look polished, but also like you belong.
How do you nail that first impression when every office has its own sartorial style?
HR experts recommend doing some of your own reconnaissance to find out how professionals dress at the place you’re interviewing. Ask people who may know someone there or walk past the building to see what employees there are wearing, if you can.
“When in doubt, dress nicely,” says Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director at Racked.com. “You want to look professional.”
Once you have an idea of the workplace environment, check out Yannetta’s top tips on dressing for any type of office.
For a very casual workplace:
If you’re interviewing for a position in a work environment that is more casual, for example a local restaurant, kids’ camp or retail store, Yannetta suggests you still put your best foot forward.
“You don’t want to be stuffy,” she tells CNBC, “but you do want to put forward the impression that you take the interview seriously, even if the environment is laid back.”
Women can wear a nice pair of pants and a blouse or a casual dress spruced up with a blazer or and professional flats. A dark pair of jeans, a blouse and a blazer is probably as casual as you can go, according to the fashion expert.
“I think men get a little more leeway when it comes to what’s acceptable for job interviews,” Yannetta says.
Men can usually get away with a dark denim or khaki pant with a button-down shirt or polo shirt, but be sure to wear professional shoes — no sneakers.
For a business casual workplace:
Interviewing for a business casual workplace like a start-up doesn’t mean you can dress like a start-up founder, wearing sweatpants or shorts. You still want to look crisp, according to the fashion expert. Women can wear a pair of trousers, a button-down shirt or blouse and a well-fitted blazer.
“Try to make it feel young and fresh,” she says.
For men, similar rules apply.
“Wear a pair of work pants or trousers,” she says, “and a nicer button-down shirt than you wear on the weekend.”
For both men and women, pay attention to your shoes. Avoid those that look extremely worn in, have scuff marks or look cheaply made.
For a business formal workplace:
Ladies, this is time for you to break out your paint suit or a professional dress with a blazer. Men, a well-fitted suit is your go-to. You want to pack a punch with this outfit. Both men and women will want to make sure they are well groomed. Having a nice hairstyle, clean polished fingernails and a fresh face make a huge difference.
And don’t be afraid to add a classy, muted accessory to your outfit. Women, carry your resume in a professional briefcase or purse. Men, wear your favorite professional tie.
“You want to be able to walk into a room and feel really comfortable,” Yannetta says. “That’s the most important thing.”
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