Job Interview 101: Know the Office (and Outfit) You’re Applying For

by Rachel Yeomans | September 11th, 2009   

I’ve written several posts on job interviews in the past, but I feel it’s a subject worth coming back to. You may be a student worrying about interviewing for your first job (or even your first career); you may be laid off and hoping that this one is the job for you; or you may be attempting to reenter the work force because retirement was taken a wee bit too early.

Whatever your reasons, the interview is still the first and scariest step toward obtaining your end goal: The Job. With that being said, do you know the type of dress code of the office you are applying to work in? You may know the history of the company like the back of your hand, and you may even have a swift retort for what animal you would be if you were any animal besides human; but what if the office is business casual or business–or for that matter, do you know the difference?

Read the following excerpt from the The Examiner on some tips on knowing your office and outfitting appropriately.

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Below are descriptions of work attire most commonly accepted in western culture.

Business - (ie. attorney’s office, executive level positions, banking)

If you are interviewing for a high level position or very formal setting, bring out the suit. Make sure your clothes are neatly pressed and you are well-groomed (nails, makeup, hair.) If you have on a skirt, keep the length below your knees and wear hose. Also, wear closed-toe shoes that are polished. Keep jewelry simple, so the focus is on you and not some visual obstruction you are wearing.

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Business casual - (ie. corporate office setting, picture hit TV show “The Office”)

Here’s where the confusion begins. Western culture has no clearly defined rules on what defines business casual. Business casual ranges from just below to business attire to just above casual attire.

If the business place seems “dressier”, think white collar apparel. This could include collared shirts, button-up shirts, ties (for men), skirts below the knees, and absolutely no jeans. Office settings that follow these guidelines usually have “Casual Friday’s” where you can wear jeans or more comfortable apparel. Even if your interview is on a Friday, don’t assume you can dress this casually.

For a more casual work setting, khakis and a polo shirt might make the perfect impression. Avoid jeans, and anything in your wardrobe with holes, rips, or stains. In fact, throw those items out of your closet completely. Once you get the job, you might discover that jeans are allowed and encouraged. Consider that a bonus.

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Workwear – (ie. the trades, warehouse, nursing, etc.)

If you are going into a job in the trades, you will probably be required to wear some type of uniform for your own safety. Even if your job as a painter will involve you wearing an old hat and dickie overalls, it would not harm your chances to wear an outfit on the more casual side of business casual to the interview. An unbranded shirt without loud patterns and clean, pressed pants can get you in the door to most any hiring manager.

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If you don’t know how to dress for the interview and you want to make a good impression, you have three options.

1. Use common sense.
2. Research the company
3. Ask when you are called to set the interview.

Whichever of these options you choose, I would always error on the side of being slightly overdressed than slightly underdressed. Think of it as showing up early for the interview rather than late. The first shows that you are interested, which may be the difference in the employer showing interest in you over another candidate.

Good luck finding your perfect career match.

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2 comments
Cherish
Cherish

I love posts like this, its a great way to get more "mix-and-match" ideas for my career-closet.

Cherish
Cherish

I love posts like this, its a great way to get more "mix-and-match" ideas for my career-closet.