What to Wear to an Interview, Seattle Style
You’ve got great work experience, written a great resume, and landed an interview for the perfect job. Now you’re left with one important task – choosing the right outfit to wear to the interview that pulls all your efforts together! Candidates often use clothes in an interview to demonstrate they are the right culture fit in the company, not wanting to come off overly formal and stuffy while not wanting to appear too informal that you lack respect for professionalism in the workplace. Without insight into the company and their workplace, it can be difficult to know what to wear while also maintaining your personal style, comfort and confidence during an interview.
What is Professional in Seattle?
This is a tough question to answer given the Pacific Northwest’s reputation for very casual style and that we are a city laden with tech giants full of millennials in outfits that resemble something in Mark Zuckerberg’s closet and generations before them would be appalled at seeing in a professional environment. Should we be adapting our job interview wardrobe to fit Seattle culture? Or do we run the risk of appearing too sloppy? While Jeans and Sneakers are no doubt unacceptable, what types of clothing are a go? Professionals and recruiters alike say to tend towards business casual staples such as polished tops and jackets paired with kakis or pencil skirts.
While appearance and clothing may seem shallow and altogether inconsequential in the job search process when your qualifications are everything they are looking for and more, but the reality of the workplace (whether you are in a cubical forty hours a week or interacting with clients in-person on a daily basis) is that employers expect a certain level or professionalism and want you to appear polished. However, they don’t necessarily easily convey these expectations, making it more difficult for candidates to know how to dress for not just interviews but for your first days at the company.
It’s Not Just About the Interview…
When a potential employer views your outfit during an interview, they are often envisioning you appearing in front of clients and customers in the future, will you represent the company well? Are you too formal and stiff? They are essentially evaluating your ability to comprehend the company’s culture and fit in with the team. By conducting prior research of the company, you will be able to emulate a company’s style and the way their employees conduct themselves, in terms of wardrobe and other important aspects of their culture such as communication, levels of formality and values. Is the company full of employees in bold colors and ready to meet you with overwhelming charisma or are they in pant suits and neutral color palettes with culture reminiscent of a law firm? Today, social media can give you a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective into a company’s day-to-day norms so you can confidently show the interviewer how seamlessly you can slide into the company.
What is Professional and Business-wear Today?
When preparing what you are going to wear to an interview, professional business wear in a must. But what does that mean exactly? For men, a nicely tailored, well-fitted suit is great. For women, a pant or skirt suit paired with a blouse is great, as is a professional looking dress – but be aware of hemlines! Gone are the days of professional wear consisting of boxy, menswear. By incorporating modern style trends such as tailoring and experimenting with simple colors – just don’t wear anything too bright or bold.
Even the Most Qualified Candidates Still Have Potential for Wardrobe Mistakes…
The Blazer Myth
We’ve all been there… a big interview arises and you’ve pulled out an old, wrinkled blazer from our closet you haven’t worn since senior prom or the last wedding you attended, hoping that it will magically upgrade your outfit and become professional wear. While a blazer is a key go-to in any professional wardrobe, they have incorrectly been made up to be a ‘no-fail’ option in professional settings. However, an ill-fitting, outdated styled blazer is never going to impress a potential employer…
This One’s For The Guys…
While novelty ties and stylish pocket squares can be eye catching they may not be suitable for a job interview. This is a time to display professionalism and slight self expression, not a fashion statement. A traditional and conservative styled tie is perfect for a job interview and avoids the potential of being remembered as the candidate with the tacky tie!
Equally important to you interview outfit (or interview answers really…) is the strength of your perfume or cologne. If your interviewer catches a strong whiff of an overpowering or unpleasant scent, that may be their key takeaway from the interview and how they’ll differentiate you from other applicants. With scent (especially in perfume or cologne) being incredibly personal and subjective, it is much better to air on the side of caution when choosing a scent for an important interview.
When in Doubt, Ask Your Recruiter or Hiring Manager
If you feel left in the dark and confused about what you should wear to your interview, feel free to reach out to your recruiter or hiring manager. It is perfectly acceptable and welcomed to ask “What kind of attire or dress code should I expect for my interview at [Insert Company]?”. Ensuring you are properly outfitted for the workspace that you are entering shows initiative and how important you feel the interview is. Here at PACE, we know our employers very well and your recruiter would be happy to share additional details of the company’s culture and what type of dress would be most appropriate!
PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest job seekers find their “just right” jobs for over 40 years.
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