The world has become a casual place. Dress-down Fridays have segued into Sloppy Mondays and Dowdy Tuesdays. So many people have taken the “casual office attire” rule to a new level that it’s hard to know how to dress for an interview or in the office once you land a new job.
However, let me offer a few pieces of advice for those of you who may be wondering where the balance is between old-school traditional business attire and the new “lifestyle dressing” craze:
- For an interview, stay fairly traditional. Depending on the job you are applying for and the industry, the definition of traditional may vary; however, the basic rules are the same: clean, conservative and cover up. No ratty jeans, scruffy shoes or cleavage baring tops. A suit or pair of khakis with a dress shirt and jacket for a man are always a safe bet and a suit or dress with a jacket or cardigan is a good option for a woman.
- Dress like your boss – or better yet – like your boss’ boss. If all the other accounting clerks are sporting jeans and sweatshirts every day and you’re dressed professionally it will be noticed. If you’re the receptionist in an office, remember that you are the first impression visitors have of your company.
- If your company has a formal dress code policy, follow it (should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised). If your company does not have a written policy, then err on the side of conservatism. Again, dress like the higher-ups – if the business owner/President is wearing a tie every day, you should not be in jeans!
- Dress codes vary depending on the contact employees have with the outside world. Client contact usually means traditional business attire. Little contact with the outside world generally means a more relaxed dress code
- Remember it is almost always better to be overdressed than under-dressed. A man can take off his jacket and/or tie if the situation warrants it, but it’s hard to conjure up a quick bow-tie in the men’s room when you realize you’re the only one in the building without one….
You only have one chance to make a first impression – whether at an interview or with a client (who could someday be a potential new employer for you!) – so make it a good one.