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How To Dress For An Interview | Men's Guide To Interview Dressing

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Alyssa Breeden

Landing an interview for a job is hard – especially one with a company that you would love to work for.  You spend months preparing and tweaking your resume, reaching out to all of your friends for a possible connection, doing everything that you possibly can to get a foot in the door.  Then it pays off, you get the call – you have an interview with the company that you have always wanted to work for.  The time has come.  You are so close to your dream job.

All that you have to do now is win over your future employer at the interview. 

But you are prepared - you have done everything from researching the company, practicing your answers for those “they are definitely going to ask these” interview questions, and have even compiled a list of loaded questions to ask your interviewer.  Good news is that you are just about ready – bad news is that you still have to figure out what to wear and it is not as easy as it sounds.

Your appearance is a direct reflection of your professionalism. It is a known fact that employers believe that employees are more productive when they are dressed and presented well. 

When showing up to an interview you want to avoid rookie mistakes such as having a wrinkled shirt or sporting a stained tie.  Interviewers are trained to take notice of wrinkles and unkemptness and a lot of times they associate a sloppy appearance with a sloppy job performance.

Starting to see the importance?

THE FIRST IMPRESSION

Your first impression is created within the first 90 seconds of your job interview.  It is within these first 90, or so, seconds that an interviewer sizes you up- paying attention to your cleanliness, grooming habits, style choice, and conservatism/appropriateness.  And remember, you never get a second chance at a first impression. Or you could just wear a ridiculously oversized suit and create a memorable, comedic experience for the interviewer:

Wearing Shaq's oversized suit may not be the best interview idea, or it may be!

While your skill set will absolutely play a huge role – how you present yourself during that first impression could ultimately cost you the job that you have worked so hard to get. 

It is said that about 30% of interviewers know within the first 90 seconds if they are going to hire an applicant or not.  It has also been noted that 65% of interviewers said that clothing choices and appearance could be the deciding factor between two similar candidates.

HOW TO KNOW WHAT IS APPROPRIATE

It is always safe when interviewing to dress conservatively and appropriately.  An applicant should always dress for an interview as if they are applying for a job one or two steps higher than the one they are actually interviewing for.  Simplified – dress like the boss that you think that you are going to have.  It may be a good idea to Google your future boss and get a sense of their style, but be sure not to show up like a clone.  It will be weird, I promise.

 Jean Claude Van Damn Dress

Dressing, and more importantly, looking like a clone of your boss may prove to be problematic. It may cause 'double the impact'.

It is a good rule of thumb to research the company’s dress code before the big day.  Not all company policies are the same – startup companies have the reputation for having more relaxed environments, while law offices tend to steer towards more traditional environments.  While we do recommend dressing to the nines, we do not want you to stick out like a sore thumb.

If you are completely unsure about the environment of your future job, call the human resources department.  They are always happy and willing to disclose company dress codes!

DO I NEED A SUIT?

While we recommend dressing well, and the best that you possibly can within your means, it is vital that you feel comfortable in what you are wearing.  You should always choose to wear an ensemble that makes you feel confident and something that you actually feel looks great on you.  If you are uncomfortable with what you are wearing it is going to shine out of you like a beam and you will have a higher chance of losing confidence in the middle of your “big moment”. 

You will definitely need a suit though – no matter what.  The guy who shows up to an interview immaculately polished in a suit and tie is going to absolutely outshine the guy who shows up in jeans and a polo.  Think about it, what would you think if you were the interviewer?  Who is going to make the better first impression? 

To clarify what a suit actually entails:  A suit means the works- a matching jacket and pants, paired with a nice (clean and crisp) dress shirt, dress socks, and a pair of nice shoes that are the exact same color as the belt holding those up pants mentioned above.  Oh, and do not forget the tie!

Interview Suit

A clean, crisp look works perfectly for an interview. Courtesy of www.indochino.com

The job market is competitive and your overall appearance is weighed heavily during the interview process.  If you go into the room sporting an outdated suit, your interviewer may subconsciously translate your look to your work experience and thought processes.  You could be shut down before you have even started your pitch.  Take the time to invest in some modern pieces –browse through popular menswear sites for inspiration and ideas.  Suits today can be much more on-trend and edgy, perfect for any job environment.  Accessories, which we will discuss later, are how you can sell yourself to each different and unique environment.

Do you feel like you are wearing someone else’s clothing when you don a suit?  Try testing your new ensemble out at a social event to pick up some compliments and gain extra confidence before the big day!

WHAT COLOR OF SUIT SHOULD I CHOOSE?

An overlooked component for most interviewees is the importance of color choice.  Color can send subconscious signals to your interviewer(s) about your personality type and work ethic.

When choosing colors for an interview, you want to select shades and styles that accent you personally but do not come off as too flashy or gaudy.  Most sources agree that a darker colored suit with a lighter colored shirt is the best option for any type of interview. 

We recommend a navy blue suit, as it is said to inspire confidence to the wearer.  The color blue has also been attributed to feelings of friendliness, openness, trust, and a willingness to listen when worn for first impressions.  (Pro tip:  Keep this in mind for your next date!)  A white shirt is the best shirt option for this look, as the color white often correlates with truth and simplicity.

A conventional and dapper option that is considered even more neutral would be a grey or charcoal grey suit. A staple in the modern gentleman's wardrobe, the charcoal grey suit can also make you look the part on interview day!

Blue Suit Blue Tie Interview

A Navy Suit with a Blue Tie demonstrates a sense of affability and trust, both of which are crucial qualities for the workplace. Courtesy of www.dhgate.com

APPROPRIATE ACCESSORIZING

This part is important.  To complete your professional image you must choose an appropriate necktie.  A necktie is the first thing that most people notice in a man’s outfit.

Make an appropriate choice, unless you are auditioning for clown school or a kindergarten music teacher, leave the bow tie at home.  There is a time and place for everything- your first trip to the 38th floor of a NYC sky rise is not the place for a bowtie.

Leave the crazy prints at home.  No one during your interview cares that you are a die-hard Yankees fan.  Maybe they do, but just tell them some other time and do not cloud your 90 seconds of first impression with it.

Stick to conservative prints, or solid colors, during interviews.  Which seems more “you”?  Go with that one.  You are definitely showing more personality with a striped tie, but if you are more of the conservative and shy type, maybe a solid is the way to go.

Let’s talk necktie colors; this is where you can send signals about your personality (even if you chose a solid).  You can go bold here but be sure not to get too close to the line of inappropriateness.  A monochromatic look (a blue tie) will reinforce the trustworthy and friendly reflection that you have started with your blue suit.  However, if you are going for a managerial position, red will convey power and authority.  There is a reason why you always see the President wearing a red tie, and it is definitely not because it is his best color. 

Red Tie Interview

A red tie, while bold, can demonstrate a sense of authority during an interview, which can be especially useful when applying for managerial positions. 

Whatever you do, avoid the color orange as your main necktie color.  Orange was noted as the WORST color to wear during an interview, as it often relays a sense of unprofessionalism.

Whichever tie you choose, whichever color you decide on, just remember that your tie should always be long enough to reach your belt buckle and not hang past it.  Let’s say it again for the people in the back.  Your tie should always be long enough to reach your belt buckle and not hang past it.

If you need to update an outdated tie, click here to take a look at our collection of preselected interview ties.  You will also be given the option to pair our selections with your existing wardrobe.

Are you looking for an extra accessory that will spruce up your ensemble just slightly further, providing that ultimate finishing touch? A white linen pocket square (linen fabric helps the pocket square retain its shape) worn with a presidential fold can help elevate your look even further! 

White Pocket Square

A plain white pocket square can help accentuate your look and provide that perfect finishing touch! Courtesy of www.styleforum.net

 

COMPLETE THE PACKAGE

This should go without saying but I feel like it should be mentioned, show up clean.  You could have the best fitting suit in the world but if you show up unkempt with dirty fingernails the whole look is lost.

Be sure that your nails are manicured (no you do not need to visit the salon) – trim them a day, or two, in advance and make sure they are clean. 

Do a hair assessment.  How does your neck look?  The best idea is to go ahead and schedule an appointment with your barber about a week out.  This way you can get a fresh look and not be worried about “the grow-out stage” the night before.

Do you have a beard?  Are you planning to keep it during the interview?  Make sure that it is trimmed immaculately.  If you have it, own it.  Do not half ass it – you will just look like you forgot to “deal with it”.  That does not read well to an interviewer.

I mentioned nice shoes earlier, but let’s revisit that.  Make sure that your shoes are clean and polished before the interview.  Beat up shoes are going to reflect poorly on you and make you appear unprofessional.  Same with outdated styles, get yourself a new pair if you need to.  Shoes sometimes make (or break) the whole look!

The most important accessory?  Your smile and eye contact!

LAST MINUTE TIPS FOR SUCCESS

  • Have your clothing pressed and ready to go the night before to avoid wardrobe mishaps.
  • Consider packing a small grooming kit for any last minute touch-ups.
  • Do not wear heavily scented cologne or after-shave, as this could be a distraction to the interviewer. You want to be remembered for your skills, not smells.  That said, do not forget deodorant; you are going to be nervous.

Jersey Shore Interview

No Jersey Shore 'GTL' (Gym, Tan, Laundry) during the interview process please! Though the sun glasses may be acceptable, just maybe.

  • Polish up your research. Consider bringing a print-out of company notes.  Hiring managers always ask what you know about the company so that they can gauge your interest.  Keep a list of notes about the job duties, client-base, and anything new and noteworthy – just in case you get nervous and forget everything that you had prepared mentally.
  • Pack some breath mints. You do not want your breath to be stronger than your handshake!
  • Do not forget to silence your phone and be sure to loose your commuter headphones before you enter the building. The last thing that you want is to appear distracted and unfocused.

So that’s it- if you do everything possible to look your best for an interview, the interviewer will instantly (within about 90 seconds) associate you with someone who cares about making a good impression.  You will be associated as someone who has a respect for the company, future job and yourself.  Your choice of suiting and accessories will make a lasting impact and can ultimately decide your fate for an open position – so make it count.  Do your best to follow these guidelines and go get that job.  You have earned it. 

And that’s a wrap for this one.  We hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as we have writing it.

To view The Dark Knot’s range of interview ties, please click here.

To view The Dark Knot's range of white linen pocket squares that can enhance your look, please click here.

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