It’s May – and that means the weather is soon to be beautiful and the shorts and sandals are coming out of hibernation! It’s important to know what type of clothing is appropriate and professional to wear in the workplace and especially to an interview. Because we work in such a wide variety of industries and workplaces, not all of this will make sense for your particular job or desired job. You wouldn’t wear flip flops to weld, and you don’t need steel toed boots in an office! Like any advice, this is meant to be a guide – that doesn’t mean that you should ignore your own common sense.
Let’s start with the interview – the first impression that an employer will have of you as a potential candidate. What you chose to wear in this first meeting can be crucial. Besides the obvious blunders (I’ve seen candidates interview in a shirt that has swear words in large block letters) there are many smaller decisions that can impact how the interviewer sees you. The biggest piece of advice that I give to candidates is to KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. This means doing some research ahead of time and trying to determine what kind of environment you’ll be walking into. If your interview is with a large financial corporation, a full suit and tie or similarly formal attire is appropriate. If it’s a smaller IT start up that prides itself on being a fun place to work, you could probably lose the tie. For more industrial companies, I would go with more sensible, clean basics. Nice jeans or khakis might be appropriate here, and make sure to wear closed toed shoes if there’s even the slightest chance that you’ll be touring any industrial areas. If you’re in an industrial environment, you might feel a little out of place in a full suit and tie, and it might even signal to the interviewer that you’re not familiar with that type of environment. That is part of why dressing for the job is so important! The idea of the interview dress is to match and then elevate the typical workplace attire, to show them that you are familiar and comfortable with the environment, yet recognize the importance of the interview by dressing a little more fancy than what would typically be expected.
Now onto the real reason we’re here – WARM WEATHER! As the seasons change, so do the fashions. While it’s important to be safe, no one wants to wear long pants in 90 degree heat, do they? While this may be tempting, for some companies this might be completely against the dress code. Lots of industrial companies require their employees to wear full coverage pants and sleeves, especially in welding or other fabrication industries. Not complying with these policies can result in disciplinary action, safety issues, or worse. Many industrial positions are fine with shorts or a t-shirt, but you must remember your footwear! Sneakers are the norm for a reason – they are comfortable and secure. Do not attempt to wear anything that doesn’t cover your entire heel and toes – like sandals, flip flops, crocs, or slippers. This just doesn’t work in an industrial environment where the shoe may slip off and create a huge safety hazard. In more relaxed or clerical environments, the line may not be so clear. For example, many business casual environments allow dresses or sundresses (as long as they are modest and not too revealing) along with nice open toed sandals. In some workplaces shorts might be appropriate, however, they are not traditionally considered business attire. Usually, companies that provide a clerical environment will also provide some guidance on what they consider appropriate. If you are ever in doubt – don’t hesitate to ask! If you see someone across the office wearing a similar item, that doesn’t mean that it grants you permission to do the same – remember to look out for yourself!
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you don’t belong. When you feel out of place or just “different,” it can be a big blow to your confidence and ego. For interviews, identify what you think is “typical” for the everyday wear of the company, then dress a little fancier than that! For everyday wear, use common sense about what is safe and what is appropriate. When in doubt, go the more conservative route until you get permission to do otherwise. Never be afraid to ask if you are unsure, but remember to have fun! What you wear is an expression of you, so express yourself!
By Matt Nichols, Recruiter