I recently read an article written by a high ranking member of the armed forces. The author sat on a national committee that was working on cyber-security.
During a meeting of military and civilian leaders, several digital executives were asked to join them. One of the Silicon Valley execs (who the author would not identify), showed up to the meeting late. When he eventually arrived he was dressed in a dirty tee shirt, jeans, and sneakers. All of the other “leaders” in the room were dressed in traditional business attire (or military attire) as is standard protocol for such a gathering.
The author’s purpose in writing the article was to articulate how disrespectful he and the other members of this elite group felt when the young digital executive waltzed into the room dressed more appropriately for a mosh pit than a meeting on national security issues.
It doesn’t matter if the young executive intended to show disrespect. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe that was his intent at all. However, he should have taken the time to understand that how you dress isn’t just a reflection of your personal fashion preferences. It indicates the respect, or lack thereof, that you have for those around you.
If you spent hours preparing a nice meal and your guests showed up at your home late, dirty and unkempt would you feel that they were demonstrating appropriate respect for you and your efforts? Unlikely.
Several years ago I interviewed 12 people for an open position in my department. Not a single candidate arrived in appropriate business apparel. While I certainly don’t believe their intent was to be disrespectful, their lack of consideration for proper interview attire made it appear so. It also raised questions about their critical thinking skills.
It’s my personal belief that it is always better to ere on the side of conservative attire in a job interview before assuming the opposite to be acceptable. If you arrive overdressed, you can always remove your jacket or tie. If you arrive underdressed, you don’t have many options to correct your appearance once you walk in the door. If you’re unsure of the organizational culture…ask.
In a 2014 Forbes article, Lisa Quast – Business Coach and former Fortune 500 Executive offers these 8 tips to dressing for a job interview:
- The appropriate interview attire depends on the industry in which you’ll be interviewing, as well as the geographic location and time of year.
- Spend time on the Internet researching the company, industry, and competitors to determine suitable interview outfits.
- Still not sure? Call the company’s HR department and ask what they recommend you wear.
- When in doubt, err on the side of being slightly overdressed, rather than show up looking too casual.
- Don’t have an appropriate outfit? Go to a large department store like Nordstrom or Macy’s and ask for help from a personal shopper or hire a personal stylist.
- Ensure that your clothes are cleaned and pressed.
- Avoid wearing perfume or cologne.
- Wear makeup and jewelry that are appropriate to the job/company/industry.
As you prepare for your next job interview, keep these tips in mind. It could just be the difference maker that lands you the job offer over your underdressed competition.