The Best Job Interview Outfit? It Depends.

The best interview outfit? It depends. Read on...

It was really easy back in the day. When you got a job interview, you got a suit. It didn’t matter whether you were a man or a woman or what profession you were entering. You chose a getup with a jacket, slacks or a skirt and polished shoes. It typically included a tie or pantyhose (or, in the case of women in the ’80s, both) and maybe even some shoulder pads to make you look extra powerful.

But today, the best job interview outfit might not include a tie or pantyhose or even a jacket. Depending on the work environment, it might even include jeans.

According to a recent article on Monster.com, the shift began around 2010 as a result of the growth of the tech industry. More offices are encouraging a more casual environment, one in which navy polyester might stand out like a sore thumb.

At Merrfeld, however, we suggest a bit of caution. This is not license to wear whatever is easy to throw on. Rather, it requires a little more work to find the best job interview outfit in this environment. You must know your audience.

An auto mechanic isn’t going to interview in a suit and tie, but his or her clothing should be pressed and clean and fit well. A banker may need to step up his or her game in matching jacket and pants or skirt in a neutral color with cuff links, watch and other conservative accessories. For those more nebulous positions, it doesn’t hurt to ask your contact beforehand about the office culture and how it relates to dress. If you can, attend a networking function in the industry and choose a job interview outfit that reflects the dress of the most formal attendees.

If you still aren’t sure, take the advice of my mother, who always said, “Better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.” I live by this and suggest candidates do so too.

And if, after all your research, you dust off the suit and find yourself far more formal than the rest of the room, it’s easy to soften your appearance. Take off your jacket; roll up your sleeves. Add a winning smile and carry yourself with casual ease. The ability to adapt to an unfamiliar situation is valuable to employers.

The best job interview outfit of all? Calm confidence. Do your homework to see whether you need to coordinate that confidence with a tie.

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