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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

How to Not Overdress for an Interview (Because Yes, That's a Thing)

I used to recruit for a large corporation with a CEO who wore rainbow-colored socks, daily. Everyone on the inside knew this because he’d prop his bedazzled feet up on the desk or a conference room table as he hashed out critical strategy with his team.

I absolutely loved the guy.

His style trickled its way down through the company. What appeared to be a conservative, stodgy organization on the outside was really a relatively fun-loving, casual-dressing team at heart.

So, when the time came for this company to hire a new CMO, I wasn’t at all surprised when the CEO made it very clear to me that those being interviewed should not wear suits. Casual attire only, please, he said. He didn’t want to feel underdressed in his rainbow socks.

I couldn’t help but wonder what those candidates who didn’t have a direct pipeline to the CEO would show up in. How could they possibly know that they were about to overdress, especially considering they were vying for a C-level role?

These days, this isn’t uncommon. In an effort to attract a smart, hip base of employees, plenty of companies are shifting to the more yoga-ball-sitting, Razor-scooters-down-the-hallways, jeans-are-the-norm kind of atmospheres. And while most of us understand how to not underdress for an interview, what can you do to avoid the possibility of overdressing in this type of situation?

Consider these three quick tips:

1. If You’re Working With a Recruiter (or Have an Inside Connection), Just Ask

This is the ideal solution, by far. As you firm up the details for the interview, ask the person who’s coordinating for input on recommended dress. Or ask a friend or contact who already works there what’s best. (Note: Here’s how to find an in at your dream company, fast.)

2. Look for Cues on the Company’s Website

If you’re right up against the interview and realize you forgot to ask, zip over to the company’s website and social media profiles and see what people are wearing. Specifically, look for candid photos of people at work. This will allow you to gauge the “day-to-day” dress code around the joint. Dress one notch up from this. Remember, it’s almost always better to be a bit overdressed than underdressed.

3. Look at the LinkedIn Avatars of Those With Whom You’ll Meet

If you know the names of your interviewers, take a peek at their LinkedIn profile pics. This will show you what they view as “professional attire” and help you choose an outfit that falls in step. It’s important to look like you’re one who will fit in at the company.

And no matter what you choose for the big day, be sure it’s clean, it’s pressed, and it fits. You speak paragraphs about yourself before you ever open your mouth in an interview.

Make sure they’re good ones.

Photo of people waiting for interview courtesy of Shutterstock.