The significance of dressing for success

Draper Bowen

It’s amusing that this still needs to be mentioned to people, but it does.

When you go on a job interview, you must dress appropriately. Torn jeans, a soiled t-shirt, and uncombed hair will simply not do in the business world. Gauges, visible tattoos, and piercings also do not qualify. I’m not saying any of those things are wrong, but they could work against you. “Things have changed,” and “It’s not my style,” are the most common arguments I hear. “But the company I want to work for will have a cool, hip culture, and they won’t mind if I have gauges, tattoos, or piercings!” I’ve heard recently from some young, still-in-college, twenty-somethings I know. Regardless, certain standards are still expected. Even the most impressive resumes, cover letters, and recommendations will only get you to the first interview. You must proceed from there.

Even in companies with a slacker vibe, expect those interviewing for a job to be dressed appropriately. Keep in mind that even if you want to work for a “hip” or “trendy” company, you will still have to interview with the HR person, who may be a forty- or fifty-something who does not agree with the cola can-sized hole in your ear. It also implies that men should wear non-denim trousers, a pressed shirt with a tie, and a jacket; a suit is preferable. For women, the same as for men, or a conservative skirt and pressed blouse; a suit would also be appropriate. The dress code is conservative, clean, and pressed. Your goal is to get past the first round of interviews. Once you’ve done that and have the opportunity to speak with the person to whom you’ll be reporting directly, observe his or her style. If they appear to encourage a more distinct style, you’re in luck. If not, you should either ask them or observe the other employees as you walk through the office. What are they wearing?

The point here isn’t so much about your clothing as it is about the image you present to the employer. You can have the best resume in the world, but if you look like a slob or have too much (visible) body art, the company will reconsider hiring you. You want the company to see you as a serious candidate who looks after himself and presents himself well. When you appear to have slept in your clothes or have forgotten to wash your hands, you project the wrong image. What are you going to wear on casual Friday if you look like that on the day you’re trying to show them your best?

Dressing the part is frequently the first step toward landing the part. Consider this: if you dress well while everyone else dresses down for the interview, you will have distinguished yourself in a positive way.