Interviews Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

Is the business suit dead?……what to wear to a job interview

By | Recruitment

Since when is it okay to wear blue jeans to a job interview?

This was the question posed by a client this week as he shook his head in disbelief that a candidate could think that this was in some way acceptable attire for a first job interview. Especially for a senior role paying in the vicinity of $150K….I had to agree.

I’ve come a long way from working at Recruitment Solutions in the late 90’s when women were “not allowed” to wear pants, only skirts and my Nazi dress code of years gone by, where my female staff had to wear pantyhose with skirts…BUT blue jeans? Really? At what point, when you are standing in front of your wardrobe did you think, “wow these are my going out jeans and they are sure to win the client over”?

Now – don’t be fooled into thinking that clients aren’t assessing your dress choices.  Don’t think that it’s only your skills and experience that will speak for themselves and win you the job.  It’s the whole package – were you on time, did you have a firm handshake, was your body language confident and did you smile? Trust me when I say these are all things that are discussed with a client after you leave your interview and sometimes in great detail!

Nearly 15 years ago when I started in the recruitment industry, it was part of our standard spiel that all candidates were asked to wear a matching suit to a client interview – both females and males. Regardless of what type of role, level or industry it was just standard procedure to tell candidates this was our expectation.  It was remarkable the lengths some candidates went to, in order to meet this brief and create a great first impression.

Other standard protocols include not putting your wallet, keys, mobile phone etc on the table in front of the interviewer, always shake the interviewers hand, sit up straight in your chair, turn your phone off, maintain eye contact etc …..it’s all just common sense isn’t it?

Well, sadly, no it isn’t.

It seems that today is no different than 15 years ago …… dress to impress people! When I said this to a candidate last month after she came to my interview more casually dressed in a flowing top and tight pants – I thought she would understand.  My assumption that she earns close to $200K and works in a corporate environment, she would interpret “dress to impress” the way I would. It turns out a new Sass & Bide trendy top and blue jeans were her interpretation of impressive. So, it begs the question, is wearing a matching business suit to a job interview dead?

I took a quick survey of the last 20 candidates I have interviewed and only 1 male wore a full matching suit and tie and no females at all wore a matching suit.

So it seems, wearing a full matching business suit is a dying trend. It’s not a pre-requisite for a job interview regardless of industry, position or level.  BUT – and this is a big BUT, you still need to be presentable, neat, tidy, professional and take care in your presentation choices.  The evidence suggests that men are choosing suit pants and open neck shirts and women are wearing tailored dresses or corporate outfits with a modern edge rather than a conservative black matching suit.

Bottom line – first impressions count and what you wear is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

I’m curious….what would you wear to a job interview? Or what are some of the worst outfit choices you have seen?