Your Top 5 Reasons to Wear a Suit to an Interview Are:
1. If you don't, your competition will! Do you want to be known as a second choice because you didn't make a good first impression?
2. No matter what level of position for which you are interviewing, a well pressed, well fitting suit always looks professsional.
3. You want to be considered for the highest job for which you are capable! Most C-level executives don't go into business meetings casually. (I know there are a few companies that tout a very casual atmosphere. Do your research.)
4. Even in a casual environment, a suit draws attention to you, not your clothing.
5. Wearing a suit ensures you are not showing too much skin. (Make sure a skirt suit hits just above the knee or lower.)
Even in the heat in South Florida in August, it's best to err on the side of more professional! As Barney Stinson on "How I Met Your Mother" says: Suit up!!!
Recently, I was conducting a speaking engagement at a job fair and asked the group who would take me seriously if I were presenting in jeans, a t-shirt, and flip flops. Not one person raised a hand. I then advised them that I often used to recruit high level accounting executives wearing that (or pajamas) while in my house. Even though I am a subject matter expert, I would not have been taken seriously wearing less than a business suit! So, I wondered: why are people in my audience dressed casually when they are looking for work?
Living in South Florida probably does not bode well for the traditional business suit. I should know: I only own 2 of them. Yes, I go on multiple speaking engagements in one of 2 beige business suits. Crazy, right? I interview in one of 2 suits, again, both beige. And if I have a THIRD interview with a company, I am going to need to go out and purchase a business suit in a different color. (I probably should the next time I see a sale!) Here’s the thing: I only wear suits a few times a year, usually for quarterly business meetings and for speaking engagements. And on interviews. ALWAYS on interviews!
Even if you have casual Fridays at the job for which you are interviewing, you want to be seen as the consummate professional! Today, you may be interviewing at an entry level, but if you want to be viewed as someone who grows with an organization, dress for the position you eventually want!
I understand that many of you are not reading my blog with pockets of disposable income. Many of you are reading it in the hopes of getting ahead with your career, or getting out of an unemployment or underemployment type of situation. Regardless, one thing that is critically important to know in developing a business, brand, or career path is that it takes money to make money!
Things you will need to budget for your job search include:
-A business suit or 2 if you have extra interviews (yep, I am a broken record about that damn suit!)
-Polished and professional business shoes
-Hosiery (women) or nice new socks (men)
-A few classic ties and dress shirts in neutral colors (men)
-Nice paper for your resume
-A leatherette portfolio in which to present your resume
-Gas/transportation costs, may include overnight if you are open to relocation
-Relocation expenses if the company does not reimburse the full amount
Please make sure you have enough to get in front of the employer. Show the hiring manager how professional you can look and be. Dress for success, and success will follow with the right attitude!
I provide career counseling in South Florida. It’s a natural sauna here, almost year round. I understand that it is hot, as I have lived here almost my entire life. However, if you want to be treated like a professional, you need to dress like one and act like one too! (Oh boy, I am really starting to sound like my mother!)
My candidates and students regularly argue with me about why they don’t want to wear a suit. Notice, there is no blog article entitled “Top 5 Reasons Not to Wear a Suit.” That is not a coincidence!
When I speak at job fairs, I see people dress all kinds of ways, from business suits to jogging suits, to (please believe me, although I was quite shocked) bathing suits! After I speak at these engagements, many times I read comments following the fair about how employers didn’t want to meet with you or give you the time of day. Perhaps, that’s because you did not create the impression that you wanted to be hired at a glance, by putting on the damn suit! If you are not dressed to be in management for your initial interview, when it comes time for promotion, you will be overlooked due to creating a less than impressive first impression.
At one speech, I asked if anyone would take me seriously as a subject matter expert if I were wearing jeans and flip flops. Not one person raised their hand. When I explained that I had worked from home for some time, and that was typically how I dressed for work, it still did not change their mind. Because…wearing a business suit establishes a level of visual credibility. (This does not mean it is the only reason you will get hired).
Men, that means a tie. Women, that means pantyhose. It sucks. I wear them too. Because, I like getting hired! And I like getting promoted even more!
When presenting at local employment fairs, I meet many individuals who are "career unemployed", that is, individuals who have been out of work for at least 2 to 3 years. Before they speak, I am able to pick this group out of the crowd. Their body language is dejected. These people are no longer excited about being somewhere or talking to another person about a job. These 3 steps should help.
1. Dress professionally! Really professionally! Just because a track suit has the word "suit" in the name does not mean that it is a good wardrobe choice. Leave your shower shoes at home. I am saying this because last week, these were actually issues at the job fair where I spoke.
Do not dress for the entry level position for which you are applying. Dress for the job you would like to eventually grow into. If you want to be the manager in 5 years, look as though you would present well to clients and subordinates. Please be aware that the tattoo on your neck or the piercing in your cheek many not be appealing at a certain level of job. I am not against either, but there is a time and a place, and your job search should target your most professional persona.
2. Smile! The easiest way for me to pick the career unemployed people out at the job fair is because they look like they showed up at gunpoint. I know that you may be thinking: "Another job fair and very little prospect. Great! I got dressed up because my unemployment counselor told me to, and no one is that interested..." No one is that interested because you are not interesting. You are feeling sorry for yourself!
Put your best foot forward in every interaction. There are a handful of people there who are engaging every recruiter at the job fair. They are being personable and likeable. People hire who they like!!!
Even if the people who are hiring are not in your field, have a brief conversation. Give them a resume and personal business card. Set yourself apart. Ask for referrals. Network with the professionals who are there. They may know someone who can assist you.
3. Be confident! A firm (not bone crushing and not a limp fish) handshake, good eye contact, and strong posture will go a long way. Fake it 'til you make it. Come off as professional and people will want to have you on their team.
In short, be engaging, prepared, professionally dressed, and cheerful. Be the person you would want to work with. Be the person you would eventually want to work for. When you present as a successful professional, people believe you. And the money comes rolling in!