My 89-year old father grumbled to me late last year about change. Specifically, as he got older, he found himself going to more and more funerals for friends and family members and it seemed he was the only one who wore formal clothes. “Things sure have changed,” he said. “People used to dress up for funerals. Now the only one in a suit is the guy in the box.”
His observation paralleled what we’ve noticed with executive job interviews. More and more hiring authorities talk of candidates showing up for high-level, six-figure positions wearing casual clothing.
It wasn’t that long ago that flying on a plane was an event warranting looking your best. Going to church meant you wore your “Sunday best.” Eating out was special enough to “dress up.” Interviewing for a senior-level job called for a trip to the clothing store for a new suit.
Like it or not, you’ll be judged by what you wear and your appearance when interviewing
Unfortunately for those who have adopted the philosophy of “they should be evaluating my ability to do the job and not what I wear,” many hiring authorities are Baby Boomers. This group remembers (and has some nostalgia for) the office days of yesteryear where professionals were expected to wear suits, ties, and dresses. The team interviewing you wants to ensure you’ll be a good representation of their organization. At the executive level, they want to see that you’re polished enough to impress the board and have a strong executive presence.
Always wear an impeccably fitting suit
Walking into the office building for your interview is likely the first time your potential superiors, peers and subordinates will see you in-person, so it’s crucial that you make a good impression. Always play it safe by wearing business professional clothing – a suit and tie for gentlemen and a business dress or suit for ladies. It’s always better to be overdressed, than underdressed.
The color of your suit matters as well. Avoid anything trendy; navy (a power color for making you seem like an expert), blues and gray (which convey loyalty and dependability) or black are solid choices.
Even if it’s a casual organization, wear a suit for your interview
We sometimes hear the argument that when interviewing at an organization with a casual culture, you can dress down and leave the suit in your closet. Our experience tells us this is a risky move. We’ve heard too many hiring authorities question candidate’s professionalism when they showed up (either in-person or to a video interview) dressed too casually. Not wearing a tie is a deal breaker for many employers. It’s a sign of respect to dress up and if you “dress down” before you have the job, they may question what you’ll actually wear to the job when you’re employed.
At the end of the day, you never want an organization to question your professionalism because you didn’t wear a suit. Have an in-person or video interview? Always wear your suit.
Dad passed away last year. During the planning for his service, several family members asked what I would be wearing.
It was an easy decision, of course: my best suit, tie, and shoes.
Written by Steve Bennett, Vice President of Kirby Partners