Revisiting the finer points of appropriate interview and workplace attire.
Nearly a year ago we addressed the issue of dressing appropriately for an interview. After recently experiencing a number of job fairs and hiring events, I felt it was a good time to revisit the issue. Let me tell you about my inspiration for this idea.
Last week my office hosted a popular employer that hires hundreds of temporary staff for the Houston Rodeo. Recently, the employer has initiated a business casual attire mandate for all in-person hiring opportunities, including the event hosted at my office. This mandate grew from the employer’s need to “raise the bar” of appearance to match the culture to which they aspired.
Nonetheless, some individuals who wanted to apply for the positions available found the request unreasonable and in some cases became upset with the employer. Why do I have to dress this way to work a lower-paying temporary job?
The logic behind the question may seem reasonable; but, I have to offer a quick retort before that logic becomes too attractive. Let me be frank: YOU MUST DRESS AS NICELY AS POSSIBLE FOR ANY INTERVIEW. This is the general rule you should have when approaching any employment opportunity. The idea of dressing “interview appropriate” is less about how sartorial (or “fashionable”) you can be and more about demonstrating a respect for the opportunity to interview and a desire to present your “best self” to a potential employer. If your “best self” is flip flops and a coffee-stained t-shirt, you may want to think about improving your image.
Now, let’s tear through some of this lingo. In most cases, interview appropriate means “Business Professional.” Business professional attire assumes a suit for both men and women. Belts, ties, and matching conservative shoes and accessories are also assumed. No loud jewelry and even hair styling should be conservative.
Separates are acceptable if and only if they are well-coordinated. A sport coat for men might be too casual, but might be okay if the culture of the business can be easily seen as “relaxed professional.” Some field sales professionals can sometimes fall in this category as the idea is that an overly uptight appearance is not approachable for some product sales. This, however, is something to be determined upon careful research into a company and its culture. The best rule of thumb for determining your attire is to dress as the company dresses. Remember, you don’t yet have the job so dressing more formal is never a bad idea.
In the less formal category is “business casual.” For men, this is slacks (well-pressed khakis would be acceptable) and a collared shirt. A tie is not necessary but shoes and belt should match and other accessories should not be overly casual. Women can wear separates here but should also remember that conservative appearance is always more desirable for business. Avoid low-cut necklines or hemlines that come above the knee. Accessories can show “personality” but should not be over the top.
Beyond this, all other attire would be considered casual. On occasion, some employers allow for “jeans days” as a reward to employees or for a more directed day of “office catch up.” Even in this case, a tucked in shirt and belt is strongly encouraged for men with coordinated accessories and an otherwise professional appearance for all a basic assumption.
When you prepare for your next interview or the first day at your new job, make a little extra effort to dress up your appearance. Shine the shoes. Press the shirt. Buy a new tie. Spend an extra minute on the hair. You’ll feel better about yourself and your attitude will show it. Why not give yourself the best shot possible at a great new opportunity?
Danny Zendejas is the Senior Business Consultant specializing in the Education Industry for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. He has over eight years of experience in workforce development and is a native of San Antonio, Texas.