What Not to Wear- Interview Edition

Hey there,

I’ve got some design firm interviews coming up and after visiting the company websites I was curious, what would be good to wear to interviews?

I’ve worn skirt suits and pant suits when interviewing for jobs in marketing etc, but I was wondering if I could shake things up a bit for interviewing in the creative industry? The key is to remain professional of course but it feels like pin stripes or suits w/ button-downs are out-of-place. How much of our design sensibilities and self-expression is appropriate? Do I have to stick to the suit formula or could I try something different like a nice dress or stylish blouse & pant? Dress for the job you want and the type of company it is I’m told…I’m only interviewing for entry-level, nothing director.

How do you approach dressing for design interviews??

I would say it really depends on the place of course.
Being over dressed is just as bad as being under-dressed.

I have found that that the worst thing an interviewee can do is to dress up as something they are not. Your appearance is being judged to check if you fit with the team. Wearing something that gives you confidence is key.
I work at a consultancy and nobody ever wears a pinstripe suit. If somebody were to show up in formal wear, one would certainly wonder if the person is right for the job. Especially if the interviewer as a lot more casually dressed than the interviewee.

We had a young girl come in for an internship interview the other day and I thought she was exquisitely and appropriately dressed in dark, skinny jeans, a simple white blouse, a camel colored scarf and riding boots with a matching belt.
Looked great and more importantly, she was wearing something that seemed genuine to her, her style and her work.

Wearing a skirt suit depends, are you a guy or a woman?

We had a girl come in with 4" stilettos, black skirt, black top and skarf, with an office full of jeans and T-Shirts.

Needless to say, the ladies in the office were not impressed (the boys in the back in fabrication, however, could not be bothered with their work while she waltzed through. I know, we’re all big dumb animals.)

But, dressing like that just made it stand out that she wasn’t a good fit personality-wise, not to mention she was under qualified. If you’re going to come to an interview dressed like you’re headed to the club, you had better stand out with your work and with your personality.

Call the company where you are interviewing.

Introduce yourself to whoever answers the phone and say you will be interviewing on X date.

Ask what is the company dress code.

I would recommend dressing one step above but dressing equal to is also acceptable.

This made me giggle. :smiley:

I am a female :slight_smile:

What city is the interview in? Is it corporate or consulting? Generally speaking, the west coast is more casual than the east coast. And consultancies are usually a bit more laid back compared to corporate.

On a personal note, I’ve interviewed in NY and SF, at corporations and consultancies–and could’ve worn dark denim to all of them without a doubt. Even in corporations or companies you perceive as being ‘formal’, the designers tend to be well-dressed and fairly casual.

Short answer: don’t wear a suit if you’re interviewing with other designers.

Exactly. Every work place is different. Dressing in a crisp suit to a jeans and sneakers or hipster centric metro area design office is usually instant death… and vice versa. As with everything, know your audience. If you really want to work there, a big portion of the interview’s subtext will be around how good you are a fit with the existing culture or how you fit with how leadership would like to move the culture.

yo got me to thinking. Please remember, an interview is a two-way street. You also have to work within that culture, 8+hours a day, 5+days a week. You need to see if their dress code is acceptable to you.

Being an old curmudgeon who thinks everyone should stay off of my lawn (dammit), I think there would be a bad outcome if I had to blend in with a bunch of skinny-jean-wearing, ironic-facial-hair-sporting, inked-up hipster doofuses.

Hopefully I would do better blending in with the management of the above fictitious firm. But you never know. I had a client , obvious ex-hippy, who would wear a shiny silver night shirt, matching pants (what you could see of them, the shirt went down to below the knees) and bare feet. He was a hugger too. Not that there is anything wrong with that. And it was OK for the occasional meeting. But I don’t know if I could work with that year round.

funny, I was tossing this around last night as well, realizing my comment could read as “you should be a chameleon” . I think you should dress appropriately, but within the spectrum that is authentic to your person. IE, I would never walk into a place with ripped jeans and an old t-shirt because I just don’t dress that way, but I’f I was going to Cole Haan I’d probably wear a tailored suit and if I was going to Nike I would probably wear nice jeans, a button up and some retro Nikes because those are in the spectrum of what I would wear. I think the most places I interviewed were all places that I felt would fit me as well… though there were some bad ones.

One disastrous one that comes to mind for me was back in 1998. I interviewed at Adidas. I wore black pants, a bright blue button up, and a pair of dress shoes… the head of design walked out in ripped jeans and a Steelers jersey. Within 15 seconds I knew I was not getting the job, nor did I really want it. It wouldn’t have been a good fit.

Interview outfit recap:
frog: dark jeans, white and blue stripped button up, tailored grey hoodie, black blazer, black leather premium Chuck Taylors and a blazer.
Nike: black and white checked button up, dark army olive green jeans, black retro sneakers
Evo: dress pants, dress shoes, bright colored button up

Actually, I wore a pair of bright yellow surfer shorts to an interview once…

Granted, it was on Skype and the top was a white Lacoste polo shirt!
As long as you don’t have to get up, you’re all good.

We are extremely casual in our office (shorts and sandals are the norm), however, a gentleman came in for an interview last week dressed and groomed like Kyle Reese from Terminator (without the shotgun).

A comment I heard around the coffee machine was “I know we are casual but is he actually wearing ‘dirtbag shoes’ to an interview?”

On the other hand, for my last two job interviews (both succcessful) I was wearing a suit sans tie and the interviewer was wearing shorts. The first one, the interviewer was a principal at the firm he was wearing shorts, old sandals, and a tank top with paint stains (and he never painted anything in the office).

As a designer and female who has interviewed at corporate-y in house places and consultancies where I had next to no knowledge of where the dress code landed on a scale of business 24/7 to shorts and t-shirts, I’ve had the same struggle. I’ll admit a skirt suit is not in my wardrobe, but I’ve found a good medium with nice colored denim pants (tan, brown, darker blue… a color that could be a pair of slacks from a distance?) and a blazer and/or nice shirt. My confidence was once a bit shaken when I was evaluating my outfit choice and a visitor at my apartment (who dresses pretty formally for work…) said “What are you interviewing at McDonald’s?!” but it worked out fine.

Good luck!

East coast or West coast? Because the ‘norm’ is different. And what you can get away with varies.

Skirt suits and suits of any sort are going to send a stronger message on the West coast, where aside from lawyers and maybe execs at banks, nobody wears such things.

Best story was my cousin going to an interview circa 2000 (eve of the dot-bomb) on the Friday before Halloween, in SF, with an energy industry start-up. He wore a suit because in Boston, you work in energy futures, you wear a suit. Everyone in the office was in aloha wear and no shoes. Not a good fit.

Gotta chime in here. Fashion being what it is, you also need to know yourself and fashion style to be comfortable. I’m pretty into fashion so what I may wear and feel comfortable in may be different than someone more conservative. I’ve worn everything from an unstructured khaki suit with short ankle length pants and trainers and bow tie to a sportswear brand interview, to dark denim and blazer with a T-shirt and flower corsage to a corporate gig.

Bottom line is if you feel comfortable your personality and style will come across more than “fitting in” with the office dress code.


Ps. I also don’t believe there is such thing as being over dressed. Tux and top hat aside :wink: go look at the sartorialist. New dandy style can be just as cool and casual as dressing down and looking like joe next door.

But don’t wear a hat, no matter how hipster-chic it may be- It comes off as unnecessarily vain, and verges on the discourteous. Pissed off hiring managers have corroborated this.

(OK, and you can get off my lawn too…)

At the interview for my current job I wore Outlier dungarees, Black Tom’s shoes and a blue button up shirt.

Its a bit more conservative over here in Australia, but most manufacturers would expect at least a button up shirt at the interview even if we dress more casual day to day.

I think no matter what, dress up, and dress to impress. This way you can’t go wrong. If you find yourself severely over dressed for the environment you’re interviewing in, you can always make a comment like “I like how laid back it is here, that’s usually how I like to work…etc etc.” You can let them know that culturally you are a fit with what you say rather than what you wear.

My workplace is very casual, t shirts, flip flops, shorts, etc. However when we see people arriving for interviews casually dressed right off the bat it still irks those that are here; “What? You couldn’t dress up and make an effort for your interview?”

It’s better to potentially show up overdressed than as a slob who appears they don’t care.