From the time you submit a resume, to the moment you shake the interviewer's hand after you're done, you’re selling yourself to a potential future employer. You’ve got to be conscious to always put your best foot forward, especially when it comes to dressing for the interview. But, because standards can vary from industry to industry, it’s not as easy as just throwing on a suit and calling it good. In addition to trying your best to charm ‘em to death, you always want to be dressed properly (if slightly overdressed) to show that you’re aware of what type of work environment you’re getting into. Show up to a finance interview in a slim lapeled blazer and you’re likely dead in the water. Likewise, if you roll into an interview at a startup in a three-piece suit, the code bros are probably going to laugh you out of the room.
We wanted to make sure that you’re sartorially prepared and ready to knock ‘em dead, so we dug into the racks and put together five foolproof looks that will have you looking sharp no matter what work profession or work environment you’re interviewing for.
The Finance Interview
The level of dress conservatism can vary greatly in finance, big banks and Wall Street firms are often very formal and conservative, while some hedge funds and smaller firms, not as much. Ultimately you want to exude quiet and cool confidence with a formal yet modern look. Now’s not the time to peacock around the office, so dial down your attire and focus on a look that projects confidence and style in a subtle way.
The Vibe: Formal yet powerful
The Look: Navy or charcoal suit, crisp white or blue cotton shirt, dark tie with a subtle pattern, and a wingtip or captoe dress shoe.
The Law or Politics Interview
You’re not a partner at the firm or running for office (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t dress for the job you’ll eventually want, right? Keep in mind where you’re at though, it’s not in your best interest to outdress the boss or any upper-level staff that interview you. Plus, these are probably your two most conservative dressing environments, so you definitely want to dress the part. Think more Mike Ross and less Harvey Spector.
The Vibe: Conservative and polished
The Look: Navy suit, white shirt, subtly patterned navy or light blue tie, and dark cap-toe shoes.
The Sales / Marketing Interview
Here’s where you start to have a little more wiggle room with what you can wear. With marketing and sales, your image can be heavily scrutinized and the formality of work environments can vary widely. These are industries whose employees give clients a fair amount of face time, so your interview look should follow suit. Err on the side of moderation, but you can still discretely add some personal flair or go with a shirt and tie combination that is slightly more style-forward.
The Vibe: Polished but stylish
The Look: Navy, Grey, or blue suit, colored or patterned shirt, coordinating tie, brown wingtips or double monks.
The Creative Interview
If you’re interviewing for something in the creative industries like advertising or design you’ve definitely got some flexibility with your style but since these environments are usually young and modern, it’s important to really flex your sartorial muscles. Whether you go minimalist or style-forward, you always want to keep a professional-looking edge. You can feel free to ditch the suit and go with a mix of formalities, like a blazer and denim combination or a tie and chino look. Ultimately a mix of high and low is always going to look sharp. The small details like a bold pocket square, a tie bar, or a unique shoe are easy ways to add a final punch.
The Vibe: Moderately dressy but stylish
The Look: Patterned blazer, dress shirt, dark slim denim, double monk or loafer. Or, chinos, patterned dress shirt, knit tie, loafers or dress sneaker.
The Startup or Tech Interview
Definitely the most casual and wide-ranging in terms of formality, the tech or startup interview also can be a minefield and sometimes having the most freedom can be the most challenging. Given that many offices will have men and women in t-shirts, denim, and hoodies, you definitely want to err on the casual side as being too dressy can be off-putting. But, resist the temptation to dress like your peers for the interview setting, you want to maintain your professionalism give off the vibe that you’re a man who knows what he is doing. Skip the slouchy denim, hoodies, and t-shirts for the interview; the key is to dress up, but just enough.
The Vibe: Relaxed but professional
The Look: Patterned dress shirt, slim chinos or denim, and desert boots or loafers. Or, denim, a simple knit or sweater, dress sneaker or loafer.
In a time where most recruiters and hiring managers rarely have the time to glance in your resume's general direction, let alone read it, it’s your responsibility to find the right balance between looking stylish and dressing for the environment. Ultimately the way you present yourself stylistically can mean the difference between scoring that job offer you really want and getting back to scouring the web for something new.