do I need to wear a suit to a job interview?

Do you need to wear a suit to a job interview?

Probably. But maybe not.

But if you’re unsure, then yes.

Here’s the deal with suits and job interviews: You need to know the norms for interview dress for your own field. And not just your field in general, but your field in your particular geographic area. The norms for banking jobs in California can be different from the norms for banking jobs in Chicago. So you need to know your field, and how it plays out in your particular area.

When you are unsure and can’t seem to find out, wear a suit … because the vast majority of candidates applying for professional jobs should be wearing a suit for interviewing. Exceptions include parts of California (not all of it), parts of tech and design (not all of it), and a small number of others. But most people should be wearing a suit to an interview.

The problem is when someone doesn’t know and listens to someone not in their field or geographic area, and that person tells them a suit isn’t necessary, and that advice turns out to be wrong for the field/location.

Here are some other problematic things I hear when this topic comes up:

* “But their office is business casual.” Sometimes people think that if you don’t wear a suit while working there, you don’t need it for the interview either. But that’s wrong — many places expect you to interview in a suit even if their day to day is less formal. In that context, it’s about understanding and respecting professional norms, and those norms often still say “wear a suit to interviews.”

* “Why should it matter as long as you look professional?” Sure, you can find people who really don’t care at all as long as you look professional — and then there are lots of people who firmly believe that if you care about looking professional at a job interview, you wear a suit. Period. And that reality means that job candidates should wear a suit (with the exception of the caveats above) — because they have no idea who they’re going to be interviewing with and how that person will feel. (People would probably guess that I wouldn’t care. I do.) It’s a silly thing to risk your impression over.

* “I don’t really care if candidates wear a suit.” That’s fine, but you are not everyone. Plenty of hiring managers do care. Most candidates stress so much over truly meaningless aspects of job searching (who do I address the cover letter to? should I attach the cover letter to my email or put it in the body of the message?) that it would be silly not to pay attention to this one aspect that actually does still carry weight for many people.

* “In my industry, you’d look ridiculous for wearing a suit.” That’s great — but irrelevant to people outside your industry! People outside your industry should not take that as a sign that don’t need to wear a suit, nor should you encourage them to.

* “I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that cared whether I wore a suit.” That’s totally your prerogative.

* “I’ve always gotten hired without wearing suits.” Cool. If it’s working for you, I’m not going to push you to change it. But people also get hired without writing cover letters. That doesn’t mean that other candidates shouldn’t write them. It’s about giving yourself the best possible chance to be offered the jobs you want.

In sum: Know your field, know your geography, and default to a suit if you’re not sure and aren’t willing to risk making a bad impression. And don’t be swayed to believe the opposite by people outside your field or in a different area of the country.

{ 443 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Stephanie

    I’d say it’s better to show up overdressed, for sure, unless it’s a tech company where showing up in a suit will show you don’t get the culture at all.

    That being said, I must live in an area that isn’t big on suits. I had a hell of a time finding one in the stores in my area.

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      1. Techie

        While I’ll accept that as true, I’ve never seen one. If you were to list off the top five most prominent tech companies in the US, I’ve probably worked for three of them and have close friends at all of the others, along with countless smaller companies and startups. I don’t know of a single one of those companies that would look favorably on someone showing up for a technical interview in a suit (it can be different for business and legal roles, etc.). I feel pretty comfortable saying that if you’re interviewing for a technical role in a tech company on the west coast of the US, you really should not even consider wearing a suit.

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        1. qkate

          I work in tech on the west coast, and it’s not unheard of for candidates to show up in suits. We tend to be pretty good-natured about it, though, rather than ostracizing them for it.

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          1. Stranger than fiction

            I think this “tech” thing is being used too broadly. It depends what type of position too. I’ve worked at tech companies, I’m an admin now and previously was in sales support, and I’ve always worn a suit, here in California. My significant other is in management I’m tech and also always wears a suit. In his case he says of whence gets there he feels he’s overdressed he simply takes off his jacket and or tie

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            1. Stranger than fiction

              Sorry autocorrect at work there meant ” in tech” and “when he got there..”

              But also meant to add by tech and more casual I can see it like for an entry level coder or something like that being ok to not wear suit. But erring on the conservative side is common sense when you don’t have any info to go on

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              1. JB

                “when you don’t have any info to go on” I think that’s the key to a lot of disagreements here, which are based on the norms in their industry/location/position. But if you don’t know what that norm is, a suit is usually a safer way to go than other alternatives.

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                1. qkate

                  Exactly. And interviewers/companies should be gracious if people happen to not nail the dress code exactly but obviously made a good faith stab at it.

          2. Connie-Lynne

            I’ve worked for three tech giants., and there are some people I work with who have said “well, I wouldn’t hire anyone showing up in a suit because clearly … [some weirdo culture fit reason].”

            I’ve always found this really unfair toward women, because we are in general by society expected to dress more nicely than men, and yet there’s this bizarro tech prejudice against people who dress _too_ nicely. Then of course include that a tech job might include physical work, so don’t wear a skirt to the interview or they’ll assume you might not be OK with crawling around and lifting. So what, exactly, as a female systems engineer, do I wear to interviews?

            I’ve decided that I don’t want to work for people who are going to assume that if I dress nice I must not be technically competent or able to pick up on culture cues once I’ve been to the place. And when I interview, I try to just assume that anyone who’s managed to bathe and put on clean clothing without holes in it was caught up in a similar dilemma and did their best.

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            1. JB

              I hear you on the prejudice against people who dress too nicely. (side rant:) It’s like the prejudice some people have against others they consider too educated. I’ll never understand that. If, because of the education, they’ve always been in academia and never worked with people in the “real world,” or if they think that because of the place of their education, they are automatically more knowledgeable than others, I get that. But none of that is because they are too educated. Just because you have a PhD from Harvard should not automatically mean you can’t possibly know what you’re talking about. (/side rant)

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              1. Melissa

                Even with the former two – I don’t really see how having a PhD and only having worked with other academics is any different from hiring 1) a college student who has only a vague concept of professional norms at all, or 2) someone from another field who hasn’t worked in yours. The thing to look for is not whether someone already magically knows all the rules of your workplaces/industry, but whether they seem adaptable and bright enough to pick up on it. I hate it when people assume that because I have a PhD and work in academic setting that I am somehow incapable of transitioning to another field, even though people change fields all the time. Academia is not any different from any other field – it’s got quirks and idiosyncrasies just like anything else.

                Now, the stuck up know-it-all PhD is definitely a thing, lol. But please don’t assume that I am that just because I HAVE one.

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          3. Vicki

            We’re good natured while they’re in the interview. We tweak them unmercifully later, however, if we hire them.

            The Young Engineer Who Wore a Suit to the Interview is never allowed to forget it.

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              1. ay dee jay

                Engineering and tech types tend to be extremely insecure (I am one of them, just have the insight to realize it) and are often looking for a chink in someone’s armor, often way in advance of using it, or a shibboleth to make them feel either above a crowd if the crowd is unfamiliar, alien or hostile to them, or within the crowd for the purposes of ostracizing someone else who stands out and possibly makes them feel insecure for things like, for example, being good-lucking and highly technically competent and savvy with basic human interactions and office politics.

                Picking on someone for being too “preppy” or “fashion centered” or whatever is a very easy trope to fall into. I certainly find myself falling into the margins of a dress code after awhile but not for the interview. The “suits are for marketing and executives” mentality is similar to the whole mentality “Bill Gates didn’t graduate from college so degrees are worthless for everyone” — in many ways it’s true that technically competent and passionate people rise up the ranks in regular-ol’-jobs breaking six figures, and many people don’t need college to be successful well into the millions and billions, but the biggest successes tend to be super-ambitious outliers and it’s often the networking in college and HR gatekeeping that make the degree valuable, so the social aspect of a college degree is undervalued by many techies and if they have what it takes to create their own future, so be it. Once you’re truly successful you’ll find yourself depending on other people in suits :)

                I don’t have a degree but I’m researching the ideal interview suit for a job at a software company — it’s business casual but they expect you to interview in a suit for sure. I’m a metal head and fan of hip-hop who likes to wear whatever the hell I want, but I’m also 35 and know what sorts of compromises are “all things being equal” worth making without “selling your soul” or whatever.

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          4. Rick

            I agree about not ostracizing.

            I work at a company with a very casual dress code. Frankly, I’d be pretty upset with a colleague if they criticized someone for being too well dressed. That kind of prejudice doesn’t belong in my community, and I’m more than happy to make that clear. Thankfully, I’ve never had to do that.

            Software tech has enough inclusiveness problems already — if something as petty as wearing a suit is a negative, then what other prejudices does that company have?

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        2. Colette

          Would they look negatively on it, though? There are a lot of non-technical roles at tech companies, and even in technical roles, it doesn’t hurt you (with the exception of start-ups who are marketing a casual environment).

          You’d look out of place if you wore a suit every day when you worked there, but interviews are different.

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        3. people on their way to work say baby what did you expect

          I’m sorry, but I strongly and respectfully disagree. There’s no “one size fits all” rule for this, but acceptable dress for an interviewee is usually quite different from acceptable dress for an employee. I know everybody wants to be all cool and hip and Steve Jobs and stuff, but there is a power-imbalance at the heart of every interview, and showing respect by dressing nice is rarely a bad decision.

          I wrote something horrible about the cultural semiotics of wearing a suit a couple of weeks ago. Don’t make me find it and post it again :)

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        4. Pennalynn Lott

          I worked at IBM and Microsoft, in sales, and you wouldn’t make it past the first cursory interview if you weren’t in a suit (though a man could get away without a tie, as long as he had the jacket on when he walked into the interview. It would be OK to remove it before sitting). So, there’s a difference in culture between departments at tech companies, at least.

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      2. AAA

        I was so unsure whether or not to wear a suit to the interview for my current job–at a software developer in California, but who makes software for the military. I was totally baffled as to whether I was heading into a tech-like field where casual culture rules, or a really structured, “appearance really counts” culture.

        I ended up wearing a suit and feeling really overdressed when the employee who let me in the building answered the door in ripped jeans, a T-shirt, and huge plugs in his ears. BUT– I got the job, so I must not have come off as too out of touch! I think it helped that I immediately spoke in a casual (but professional!) way to set the tone for the interview.

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        1. Colette

          One of my former manager ended up wearing yoga pants when interviewing someone who wore a suit. She felt out of place, but didn’t fault him. (It was a holiday and only a few of us were in the office, so she’d dressed down.)

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        2. catsAreCool

          Where I work (tech company), you can dress casually if you work there (unless you’re working in person with customers), but they do expect you to dress up when you interview. Maybe not a suit, but at least good slacks and business casual/formal shirt.

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    1. Kelly O

      Don’t get me started on finding decent suits that are not in the $500+ range. Particularly when one is not a straight size, it can be very challenging. I usually just buy separates so I can get the sizes I need right, although I do follow the rule of sticking to the same brand and style, just so the fabrics go together properly.

      Besides, the skirt and slacks are workhorses, and the blazer can go with jeans if you need to be dressier on a Friday. I like to maximize wardrobe options, and a good suit set of basics will work in all but the most casual of environments.

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      1. Stephanie

        That’s one of the many frustrating aspects of job hunting: buying expensive interview clothes that you’ll rarely wear again.

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      2. Laurel Gray

        Have you ever tried on a suit from Ann Taylor? They basically sell suit separates:

        a blazer (sometimes a one and two button option)
        Pants (sometimes a slim fit, straight fit and boot fit…recently they been including an ankle fit)
        Skirt
        Dress – usually in sheath style

        Their website usually has great sales. I don’t buy unless there is a 40% off code. I’ve gotten a jacket, pants, skirt and dress for around $250 in classic navy blue. Their classic fit pants sits right at the waist – I think rise is very critical when it comes to a suit and fit. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone pushing up their pants as they get up or sitting down and selling crack instead of their skills :(

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        1. Kelly O

          Ann Taylor and Banana Republic were my go-to places when I was a straight size. I have to wear *ahem* women’s sizes now, and it is much harder. Lane Bryant apparently feels everything needs a frill and/or a cap sleeve, and we are In A Fight.

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          1. Meg Murry

            If you need suits right now, check out Jones New York. With their sales I got a suit in women’s sizes for $150. I had to order $700 worth of jackets and pants to get a combo of sizes and fabrics that fit and were available, but it was worth the $7.50 in return charge to be able to try them all on in my own bedroom, and they processed the return before my credit card cycle was over.

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            1. fposte

              I think they’re displaying their catalog in Amazon now, too. Anne Klein is/was owned by the same company and had a similar price point and possibilities in extended sizes, and they seem not to be doing direct online sales any more but are also on Amazon, so check them out too.

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          2. Chinook

            Pssttt…Kelly O…eshakti dot com now sells made to measure pants (and I am almost positive they have pockets). Plus they also sell blazers and shirts. I am hoping they clue in to needing jackets and pants in the same fabric, but I am just excited at being able to buy pants that will fit my not normally shaped frame.

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            1. Nashira

              I was looking earlier but did not see front pockets on any of their pants. That said, I’m quite tempted to get a pair anyway…

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              1. MinB

                Some of them have side seam pockets. Make sure to check the ankle-length pants, too – for $7.50 in customization, you can have them made full length and also completely fitted to your measurements.

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          3. Vanishing Girl

            Nordstrom also has good suits, generally, plus free shipping and free returns!

            I bought a suit that was decent from them and then took it to a local alterations place. The alterations were not expensive, and the suit fit me like a glove. Well worth the money.

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            1. Vanishing Girl

              Note: good plus-size suits! I feel the pain of trying to find something professional and not shaped like a sack.

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          4. limenotapple

            We broke up. I sometimes get lucky at the Dress Barn, even though I swore a long time ago never to shop anywhere whose name ends in Barn, Gal, or Mart.

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            1. fposte

              I think I’ve mentioned here before my farming friend who was all excited to see a store called Dress Barn Woman, because she thought it was going to be about, you know, dressing the barn woman.

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              1. AnotherAlison

                Lol. Most people on here probably haven’t been in such a store, but you can buy clothes in “farm and home” stores. That’s where you get the seriously bedazzled tops and jeans you might wear to a Blake Shelton concert or something and your ladies’ Carhart and Red Wings, literally right next to the chicken feed.

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                1. Natalie

                  Although the last time I was at the farm store, the “Ladies Workwear” aisle was empty. No carharts for me I guess.

                2. Clever Name

                  I love our local farm and home store! I wear carharts for fieldwork and fleece for work and play.

              2. Cath in Canada

                LOL!

                A friend of mine who worked in the stables at the vet school to pay her way through her PhD once dragged me into the “career wear” section of a fancy department store and asked an assistant where the wellies, overalls, and lab coats were. It was pretty funny, if mortifying…

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          5. LUCYVP

            My issue with LB is that everything is either looks cheap or looks fussy or both. Nothing plain and good quality.

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            1. Windchime

              That’s true for a lot of things, but I have to say that I went in there for jeans the other day and found two pair (TWO!!!) that fit like a glove. Long enough, roomy enough in the thighs but without the giant gap at the back of the waist. I almost wept for joy.

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              1. catsAreCool

                I found a couple of nice basic slacks at Lane Bryant about a year or 2 ago. (I don’t look for slacks often.) They were even kind of flattering.

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              2. Mallory Janis Ian

                I love the Lane Bryant trouser jeans in the work wear section. They have a nice long length and the fit is comfortable like jeans but with a nice drape like dress trousers. The dark rinse ones are my work uniform. I do agree about their tops, though; I can’t find anything there that doesn’t look cheap, fussy, and/or frilly. So they’re just my pants store. I wish I could find a one-stop shop for all my clothing needs.

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          6. Connie-Lynne

            Oh my gosh, yes. I’ve recently outgrown my final Ann Taylor Professional Lady Dress and am so annoyed about it. Lane Bryant’s insistence on infantilizing grown professional ladies is so frustrating.

            I’ve had decent luck with Coldwater Creek. It’s separates, and I have given up on finding a nice ladies’ suit jacket and wear faux-turtlenecks instead, but … I’m in tech, in California. If I were a man I’d be entirely overdressed already.

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          7. Former Cable Rep

            Have you looked at Jessica London? I don’t know if it’s dressy enough but I was just on their site looking at suits.

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          8. Cordelia Naismith

            Igigi.com. I mostly shop there for dresses, but they sometimes have cute professional separates, too. However, I have two caveats for their clothes:

            1. Most of the tops are pretty low-cut and designed for busty women. You’ll need to wear a camisole under it, and if you aren’t that busty, you might want to buy the top elsewhere.

            2. Their clothes tend to run large. Size down.

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      3. Liz

        I’m in a more casual field, but Loft has their Custom Stretch slacks, blazer, and pencil skirt that are good quality, and they run 40% off sales all the time. I live in the slacks, and they still look just as good as they did the day I bought them.

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      1. Chinook

        I remember when I got a job teaching ESL in Japan. I am a rural girl and the Vancouver interviewer mentioend I would need to dress “professionally.” I asked “Vancouver professional” or “Calgary professional.” When he countered “Toronto professional” I knew I was going to have to invest some real money in my clothing.

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        1. oldfashionedlovesong

          I haven’t lived in Calgary for going on 14 years now but I laughed aloud when I read your comment because I knew exactly what you meant.

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    2. Just Another Techie

      Even in tech, it is so location dependent. In Boston? Wear a suit. In the valley? Ditch the suit, but you still better adhere to the dress code appropriate to your station, or else you aren’t getting hired. (http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/silicon-valley-has-dress-code-you-better-believe-it) And god help you if you’re a woman or trans because finding something that fits and doesn’t look disheveled and matches the expectations is like hunting for a needle in a haystack, because tech hasn’t settled on a definition for women’s business clothings (unlike, eg, law where you know you need a skirt suit and black pumps exactly one and a half inches high).

      Reply
      1. CAA

        As a woman in tech, I don’t think it’s really that hard. I’ve worn black pants, low heels and something like a blouse with scarf or a short sleeved cashmere sweater to every job interview I’ve had since 1995. That’s 6 interviews and 5 of them resulted in job offers. I don’t think my clothing was the reason for the one that didn’t.

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        1. Just Another Techie

          Some of us can’t wear button-up blouses without accusations of being inappropriately dressed for the office.

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          1. CAA

            Not sure what you’re saying here … would you prefer to wear a suit with a button up jacket? Isn’t that worse?

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            1. Just Another Techie

              What I’m saying is it must be so nice for you to be able to come in here and say “As a woman I have no trouble with X” when other women are clearly saying that yes, we have trouble with X, thereby invalidating our experiences. What I’m saying is that for the 99.99999999% of us who have tits larger than an A cup, it is excruciatingly hard to find button up shirts that do not gape, or sag, or reveal too much cleavage (or clavicle), or otherwise get labeled as “inappropriate for the office” but if we then try to wear a shell or twinset or dressy pullover sweater, that also gets labeled as “inappropriate” because it’s not a freaking button up shirt, which has been annointed as The One True Only Correct Business Formal Attire because that’s what men wear when they need to dress up, and it is incredibly frustrating that no matter how much time I waste on trying on clothes, the shape of my body means that someone, somewhere, will always always find some fault with what I’m wearing and blame me for being “unprofessional.”

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              1. Blue_eyes

                Ugh yes. Button up shirts and large breasts are not friends. If they’re large enough to not pull/gap at the chest, they’re comically large everywhere else. I wear nice dresses with a blazer and pumps to interviews to avoid this problem.

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                1. Soharaz

                  I’m in the UK so not sure if this is an option for the US readers, but Pepperberry has EXCELLENT button up shirts that are sized according to breast size. You get like a 12 curvy (some boob), 12 really curvy (bit more boob) and 12 super curvy (my boob). It’s the first button up shirt that I have ever been able to wear that didn’t make me feel like I was about to burst out of it like a stripper. Also I wore it with my suit for an interview at a tech company and I looked fantastic (and got the job).

                2. Cordelia Naismith

                  Soharaz, I am SO JEALOUS. That is an amazing idea, and US clothing manufacturers should get right on that! I would pay good money for a button-up shirt that actually fits me everywhere all at once!

                3. Emma

                  I have the boob issue, and what I normally do is find a nice pull-over, drapey blouse that I wear under a blazer that buttons without gaping, since I’ve found that blazers tend to be a bit more forgiving!

              2. CAA

                Sorry, I see you wanted to vent and I was trying to respond to what you wrote. That was the wrong thing to do. I wish you the best of luck and hope you find more intelligent coworkers in the future who won’t judge you by your breast size.

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      2. qkate

        Another woman in tech here. In the past, I’ve typically worn a blazer, nice button down shirt, and casual khakis or dark jeans to interviews.

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        1. Stranger than fiction

          Even though I’m saying
          Pro suit, I don’t own an actual suit of clothes that came together. I have a black suit jacket that can be worn with black pants or skirt of the same material and then a blouse underneath and I’ve also never had a problem getting another job within a couple months time but now y’all got me thinking this wouldn’t fly if I was on east coast

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      3. mskyle

        I don’t agree on suits for tech in Boston even! I’m a junior developer (female, in my 30s) and for interviewing I was advised to wear very dark jeans, button down shirt, and blazer, or a nice dress with a cardigan. No heels. That’s not exactly what I wear on interviews (I don’t do blazers) but it’s in the same range. This is for companies in the 10-75 employee range, roughly. The big guys may be dressier.

        When interviewees show up in suits, I don’t hold it against them, but it’s definitely the younger and less-established people who do so. My boss has told tales of a guy who showed up for his interview in a t-shirt with large holes in it… he would have been hired but there was some unrelated issue – if you’ve got the right skills, you can get away with pretty much anything.

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        1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

          Yep, I interviewed in Boston today (tech) and dark jeans with a blazer is what I wore.

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      4. EngineerGirl

        I’ll disagree with you on the Valley. There are some places that expect a suit or suit-like dress. I like a black pantsuit with low heels and a nice blouse underneath. If it is very casual I can ditch the blazer.
        I’m a big fan of the Dressbarn Jones Studio line. It’s pretty indestructible.
        As far as fit goes – there are a lot of good tailors in the Valley. I’m a DD cup and yes, I buy large and get it tailored. I’m also a fan of knit shells.

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    3. Cat

      I hesitate to recommend the site generally, because I think a lot of it is kind of cray, but Corporette.com actually does have good on-line available suit recommendations.

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      1. Anonsie

        I read Corporette and Above the Law every day for the same reason: it is interesting to peer into the worlds of people whose lives have never once overlapped with mine.

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          1. Anonsie

            “Gift ideas for your assistant.”

            “What are the best ways to upgrade personal services such as massages, food delivery, personal training, and more?”

            “This law firm had a pool party and one woman showed up in a bathing suit and got into the water!!!!!!”

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            1. Anx

              “This law firm had a pool party and one woman showed up in a bathing suit and got into the water!!!!!!”

              This is cracking me up.

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              1. Anonsie

                It’s not a parody, that’s a recurring thing. Apparently, law firms sometimes host pool parties a partner’s houses, only it’s not acceptable for the women to wear bathing suits or swim because it’s lewd but the men are allowed to. The women are supposed to wear some modest capris and just stand around, apparently.

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    4. Mike C.

      I think tech companies who see a candidate in a suit and think poorly of them are made up of jerks who are most likely going to run their startup into the ground.

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      1. qkate

        I would +1 this. I work at a tech company, and we’re typically pretty good-natured when a candidate shows up in a suit. Why make people feel ostracized when they’re already likely nervous? Plus, at least they’ve signaled they take the interview process seriously.

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        1. JB

          I think that’s the thing–*reasonable* people will not fault you for overdressing because you are taking the process seriously. This isn’t like showing up in a suit for work every day when everyone else is wearing shorts and flip flops.

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          1. Windchime

            We actually did have a guy who showed up to his programming job every day in a suit, while the rest of the guys wore khaki’s and casual button-ups or polos. He was an older guy and had come from a more formal environment. People noticed, but he certainly wasn’t dinged for it. In the IT places I’ve worked, it’s accepted that there are a lot of people who march to the beat of a different drummer. Wear a suit, or a pony tail, or a silver lame disco shirt (yes, I’ve seen it); it doesn’t really matter as long as you can do the work.

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            1. JB

              Yeah, I think it depends on where you are. In your case, it doesn’t show an unawareness of the norms of the workplace.

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      2. Stranger than fiction

        Good one Mike c. And not just startups, my friend interviewed at some small component mfr for the music industry in Los Angeles and he said they made a smart ass corny about his suit while they slouched in their chairs the whole time, so yeah obvi my friend knew right off this wasn’t a good fit there

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      3. EngineerGirl

        Thank you Mike C! If they ding you for wearing a suit then they have their priorities in the wrong place. You should be evaluating against skill set, and clothing is an easy fix.

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        1. qkate

          And in many cases, people will naturally revert to the general norm of their new workplace once they start working there, since they actually have data to extrapolate from at that point.

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    5. J-nonymous

      I have heard the tech thing too, and where I live suits are generally not worn in most companies. I’ve interviewed at a couple places that had well-known reputations for eschewing business attire (even business casual) and before I came in for the interview, I chatted with the recruiter and asked if wearing business attire would be seen as not fitting in with the culture.

      I wouldn’t recommend ‘bothering’ a recruiter with this in all instances — I’d just default to business professional, but if I know the reputation of the company is *extremely* casual, I’d ask.

      Reply
    6. Brian

      I always wear a long sleeved button down shirt with dress shoes, tie, and nice pants. This works for me. If I see someone in a suit at a job I’m interviewing for, I never feel underdressed. I want to be seen as a professional, not an executive. I let my skills and knowledge do the rest. This is on the east coast, south FL.

      Reply
  2. Michele

    I would like to add that for women, suit means business suit, especially if the role will have a leadership aspect to it. I have seen women interview in suits that would be more appropriate for a wedding or for church. Wear a business suit–there is a difference.
    We have to search harder to find appropriate interview wear than men do, but you still need to wear a business suit.

    Reply
    1. Graciosa

      I’ve seen some very high level executive women interview successfully in very high level executive dresses, but they need to be Very Serious and Very Executive to manage this. The message has to be that you’ve reached the point in your career where you set your own style because you are so clearly In Charge.

      If you could walk into the board room of a takeover target accompanied by a bunch of distinguished looking men in suits and have everyone in the board automatically defer to you instead of one of them, it’s an acceptable interview dress for a high level professional.

      Reply
      1. Kelly O

        Those types of dresses really do exist. I think the way in which you wear it, and your personal power/confidence makes a huge difference in how that’s perceived.

        I’ll also add that most female executives I’ve seen in those type of dresses usually have a jacket behind the door of their office, or with them in some way, to throw on for more formal business occasions. They’re also the type who know when that’s required without having to be told.

        I will add I am wearing a dress and jacket today, in an ostensibly business casual environment, when all but one of our executives is out, mainly because we had interviews coming through, and I like to present a step up when I know that’s happening. It’s just a thing with me.

        Reply
        1. Beancounter in Texas

          Claire Babrowski (retired COO) wore dresses with long jackets that matched the hem of the dress, just above the knee. She owned it with being put together and polished, from head to toe. (I worked under her when she was briefly at RadioShack.) Whenever I saw her, I’d tried to remember in detail what she wore so I could emulate her. I don’t know whether I’ll ever wear heels though.

          Reply
          1. Beancounter in Texas

            To clarify: I worked at the RadioShack headquarters at the same time she did. I didn’t support her directly.

            Reply
        1. AnotherAlison

          I read this as “Carrie” Underwood a couple times, and was thinking, that’s a really odd reference for this discussion. I got it now. : )

          Reply
        2. Kelly O

          I totally aspire to Claire Underwood levels of cool and presentation.

          You know, without the murdering and cheating and government intrigue of it all.

          Reply
        3. Beebs

          If referencing TV professional female heroines with amazing style: Alicia Florrick and Jessica Pearson. They may be fictional but they inspire me and their wardrobe is so en pointe.

          Reply
          1. Anx

            I always want to emulate TV heroines, but then I realize that the reason their collars lay so perfectly is that the shirts are custom tailored for them.

            Reply
              1. Anx

                Yes, I believe that’s more common!

                I read something once about some garments being pinned, almost like a mannequin’s. I suppose that makes sense for guest actors and extras.

                Reply
              2. Anx

                I remember a Scrubs BTS special mentioning they wore specially designed or tailored scrubs. I think the cuts of scrubs have become more fashionable in the last decade; I wonder if they could get away with off-the-rack these days.

                Reply
      2. Michele

        Business dresses are one thing, but I have seen women show up in pastel, floral suits. Sure, it is a suit, but it isn’t a business suit. That is what I am talking about.

        Reply
    2. Pickwick the Dodo

      This is going to sound like a humble brag, but seriously, I am extremely chesty, but have a reasonably small waist/ribcage (~34E-G, depending). I simply cannot find button-down shirts or blazers that fit. They gap, or sag, or the arms are too long. Even tailored, they either look frumpy or overly emphasize my chest.

      I usually end up going with either a simple, dark dress, or a pencil skirt and black or grey twinset. It’s the best I can do.

      Reply
      1. Jubilance

        I’m the same, and I simply don’t wear button-down shirts unless they are under a sweater. For suits, I wear a nice shell top, especially since I tend to get warm when I’m interviewing and too many layers just makes it worse.

        Reply
      2. Receptionist Without A Cause

        Oh hey, a fellow Thursday Next fan! I applaud your choices in reading material.

        Reply
        1. Pickwick the Dodo

          I used to be “Miss Chanandler Bong” but I stopped commenting and another one took my place (although she doesn’t want you to know if she’s married or not!) so I switched it up. Glad someone got the reference! Plock.

          Reply
      3. Jennifer

        I’m about the same size as you. Van Heusen does carry button down shirts with Spandex in them, which is what I use for mine. Also, fashion tape (you can find it at Joann’s).

        But that said, man, I haaaaaaaaaate wearing a blazer. My boobs are always trying to bust out of them, and honestly, I don’t think blazers were meant for bulging chests at all. I do not look good in an ugly blazer with boobs threatening to spill like it’s a corset or something.

        Reply
        1. Persephone Mulberry

          The singular most useful piece of advice I picked up from watching 10 years of What Not To Wear is that busty girls need blazers with a high stance (how high on the torso the top button hits). One button jackets? Fugghedaboudit. Two buttons? Doubtful. Three? Now we’re in the ballpark. I also like zippers.

          I have a small but lovely blazer collection (that I rarely get to wear) that I’ve built around this premise.

          Reply
          1. Kelly O

            The other thing I took from What Not to Wear (RIP) was the value of tailoring.

            If you can get the shirt to fit across the bust, don’t worry about how it fits below. A good tailor can fix that for you, and make an inexpensive shirt look amazing.

            Reply
          2. Chinook

            “The singular most useful piece of advice I picked up from watching 10 years of What Not To Wear is that busty girls need blazers with a high stance (how high on the torso the top button hits). One button jackets? Fugghedaboudit. Two buttons? Doubtful. Three? Now we’re in the ballpark. I also like zippers.”

            The thing with zippers and chests, though, is they have to be able to lock in place. I have a wonderful fleece jacket that zips up but if if I inhale deeply, it immediately it zips to the bottom.

            Reply
          3. Anonsie

            Good luck finding a suit with higher buttons in a reasonable price range, though. I’ve been trying for a very long time :(

            Reply
              1. fposte

                It’s not perfect, but if you search “women’s blazer two button” or “women’s blazer three button” on Amazon you’ll get some higher-stance results.

                Reply
        2. mskyle

          I haaaaate blazers and jackets, and fortunately in my industry/company I can get away with wearing a cardigan and still be the dressiest person in the room most of the time. I have heard tell of knit blazers, which supposedly give you the look of a blazer with a more relaxed fit, but by the time they started to come on the market in a real way I had left my suit-wearing days behind me.

          Reply
      4. Tropicool

        I have this problem also (34DD) so I usually just wear a silk shell (Ann Taylor and Talbots have great options) and button my suit depending on the bra I’m wearing.

        Reply
      5. Ann O'Nemity

        I can find some really expensive button-downs that actually fit my body, but I still don’t look fantastic in them. I’m convinced that they are just not intended for my body type. I look so, so much better in a v-neck or a shell that costs half as much.

        Reply
      6. Wren

        SimplyBe has a “voluptuous” fit line that is sized for different bust sizes. You might give them a try.

        Reply
      7. Erin

        Shell top is your only friend here. I can’t wear button downs for the same reason. All of my “high business” tops involve a shell top and blazer.

        Reply
      8. Traveler

        Similar problems. I quit wearing button downs and just started with shells or blouses. I know I could have it tailored, but I still feel like they gap and overemphasize my chest and that’s not want I want to do in an interview.

        Reply
      9. jag

        Budget for tailoring.

        Cheaper clothes plus tailoring is better than expensive clothes that don’t fit.

        I’m a guy with no major fit problems, and still get 80% of my dress pants, blazers and suits tailored. It’s part of cost of clothing. Arms almost every single time. In fact, one cheap company makes all dress pants and dress jackets, for guys at least, with the legs/arms too long. Tailoring is expected. I have a $180 suit from them that I spent $100 on tailoring. And it fits and looks great (quality is low though, so it won’t last as long as an expensive suit).

        Reply
        1. Veronica in Maine

          I’m all for tailoring, but in this situation I’m not sure your experience is relevant to the issues of women’s professional clothing. I say this as someone who sews and drafts patterns: typically you look for fit in the shoulders and neck and armscye, since those are often difficult to impossibly to tailor. For a man, it’s fairly easy then to take in side seams, raise hems, adjust sleeve lengths, etc. For a woman, you can have all of those, but if the shirt or jacket is still too small in the chest, you’re pretty limited in what you can do. You can’t add the appropriate fabric if it doesn’t exist. You can’t make a three button jacket from a two-button jacket. A full-bust adjustment has to be done at the pattern drafting stage. If you buy the next size up, you basically have to remake the shoulder and neck and the armscye will likely be too big. At that point it’s easier to make a shirt from scratch.

          Reply
      10. blackcat

        Bravissimo (on the Pepperberry label) makes shirts, including button downs, where you order sizes based on how “curvy” you are. It’s pricey, but probably worth it. They offer a few blazers, but no suit sets.

        Reply
        1. Soharaz

          I mentioned this above as well, I LOVE Pepperberry’s shirts (as a 32FF, an impossible size to find shirts off the rack)

          Reply
      11. Windchime

        I’m built the same way, and simply cannot wear button down shirts. They would have to be gigantic in the shoulders in order to button comfortably around my chest. I make do with a sweater or a shell; usually something with a little bit of stretch. Even then, I have to be careful because of the “va-va-voom” potential.

        Reply
  3. Adonday Veeah

    It seems to me that if you’re interviewing for a low-level retail job (think Walmart as opposed to an upscale clothing store) or for a restaurant server position, a suit could be off-putting. But if the position is in business, then yeah, wear the suit unless you know FOR SURE that it would be out of place.

    A good pair of trousers or a skirt and a coordinating jacket in a dark color… voila, suit. Boys, wear a tie. Girls, hide your tatas.

    Reply
    1. Natalie

      It’s easy to miss because it’s a couple of paragraphs in, but I think Alison intended to cover that by specifying “professional job”. That typically means office rather than retail or the trades (another world where suits aren’t usually worn for interviews).

      Reply
      1. Stone Satellite

        Once, at my on-campus college job, I had a candidate (if you can really call them that when it’s a college student applying to make minimum wage answering phones) show up for his interview in a suit. Did we hire him? Absolutely.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          IMO college work study jobs are a unique situation. They may not be professional jobs, but often part of the point is to teach young adults professional norms. Whereas for someone in a non-professional industry, the norms are quite different. My bf is an electrician, and a suit would be exceptionally off for his interviews. Slacks, button up, no tie is about as professional as they get.

          Reply
  4. HeyNonnyNonny

    Exceptions include parts of California

    Cause California is the only state where it’s illegal to require a suit, right?

    Reply
  5. Dani X

    I work in the tech industry where people come to work in ripped jeans and tshirts and I still expect to see interviewees in a suit. It’s better to be over dressed then under dressed. I do remember in college being at a lecture by someone at Intel who said that they have hired one person who showed up for the interview in jeans – but he blew them away with his knowledge and skills. If he had just be average the jeans would have knocked him out of the running. And let’s face it – most of us aren’t the superstars that can get away with jeans!

    Reply
    1. looloo

      That’s so interesting, because where I live (SF Bay Area), wearing a suit will almost certainly count against you if you are going in to interview as a programmer or something at a tech company. I have a lot of programmer friends who will tell me “I did an interview with a candidate today and they came in wearing a suit! Can you believe it?! Where the heck does he think he is?” I guess usually candidates just come in nice jeans or pants and a nice shirt.

      Reply
      1. qkate

        Hiring managers (or developers conducting tech screens, etc) who make fun of a candidate for wearing a suit sound pretty unprofessional to me. Why be callous when people are doing their best to show you they take interviewing with your company seriously?

        SF tech’s bro culture reputation precedes it, though, so while disheartening, this is not surprising. (I work in tech elsewhere on the west coast.)

        Reply
        1. looloo

          They don’t really make fun of them for making a suit, its just come in in discussions when I’ve asked them about it, since I work in a different industry and I’m sometimes confused by their view of people showing up in suits. Its also not really due to the “tech bro” culture either, plenty of my friends who I’ve talked to about this are female. (And the quote I referenced actually came from a female programmer). Honestly I have a lot of problems with the “tech bro” stereotype in general.

          Its more about how showing up in a suit indicates that they did not take the time to research the cultural norms and norms for the industry in the region, which is a red flag for the interviewers. There are plenty of resources and references online that come up in a quick Google search that indicate what people should or shouldn’t wear to a tech interview in the area. Also, lots of times companies in Silicon Valley or SF will specifically say in the email to candidates to not wear a suit – so if you still show up wearing one, it comes off as quite tone deaf.

          Reply
          1. qkate

            Ignoring clear instructions in an introductory email is definitely a red flag. But I wouldn’t be so sure about relying on outside research. (Internet = possibly unreliable, actual friends already at said company = excellent resources, but harder to come by for minorities that are trying to join the field.)

            I’m in my third job in tech, and if I had based my dress for this interview on past positions, I would have been woefully underdressed. I didn’t know anyone already at the company, so I wore clothes to the interview that spoke to who I am and how I like to dress for such things. Luckily, it was spot on, but it was a bit of a crap shoot since this particular employer turned out to be a bit of an outlier, in terms of being somewhat more polished than the norm.

            Reply
      2. Connie-Lynne

        I’m a hiring manager in tech in SF, and when people show up in suits, our usual reaction is, “Wow, he wore a suit! I’m impressed!”

        I hate that “Where the heck does he think he is?” attitude. It doesn’t make us edgier or better than other people just because our industry has a more casual dress norm than other industries.

        Reply
    2. SLG

      Ditto. I’d like to echo Alison here: know your industry and your area, but when in doubt, go for more professional, not less.

      I work in marketing for a tech company in the DC area where the dress code is casual/business casual. And I still expect to see candidates in a suit or something close to it for non-programmer roles. Even if I were wearing jeans to interview a candidate, I’d be a little surprised if the candidate were wearing jeans themselves because it’s just not the norm, particularly in DC. It wouldn’t be an automatic write-off, but I would notice it.

      (Also: Belle over at the Capitol Hill Style blog regularly does posts on interview attire for women. If you’re stumped, definitely worth looking at!)

      Reply
    3. Mel

      This. I work in Portland, OR for a very laid-back company–wear yoga pants to work type laid back. However, when I was hiring an assistant, I immediately discounted the guy in jeans. He’d be welcome to wear them all he wanted if he’d gotten hired, but he certainly didn’t know us before he walked in.

      We do have to dress up occasionally, and by not dressing up for an interview, it show that he was tone-deaf to that need.

      Reply
  6. Anon for this purpose

    I have to be anonymous for this but let me share with you some of the things I have seen recently.

    Background – we are a pharmaceutical related company. Normally our attire is business casual, although the corporate suite where interviews happen are more business (i.e., the suits wear suits if you catch my drift.)

    We are hiring for an HR assistant/recruiter. I have seen people in each of the following:
    – Lace up cork wedge heels (clearly more club/after hours than work)
    – Skin tight ponte knit “suits” so clingy I could tell you what sort of undergarments the wearer chose that day.
    – Shirts so low cut I think I saw clavicle.
    – Wrinkled button-downs with wrinkled khakis. I’ve seen a LOT of wrinkles.
    – Boxy linen jacket (think Sag Harbor, ladies) with brightly printed floral skirt and what was clearly a cotton t-shirt underneath.
    – Leopard print EVERYTHING. Not just one piece under a suit, or one pair of heels or whatever. Every accessory. Seriously. And none of them even matched properly.
    – One candidate who came in with seriously wild, all in her face hair, visible tattoos, and some sort of woven crossbody bag made of the same material you see in some certain styles of poncho. (Who also proclaimed loudly her “I am unique and an individual!” attitude to the detriment of her interview, which our manager politely continued to its completion.)

    That’s not counting the people who showed up late, or didn’t show up at all, or showed up without resumes or any “information” to fill out an application, or those who came, and then started calling twice a day because that’s “what you’re supposed to do” and acted shocked that I would not put them through to Global HR because ” I need to let them know I want this job.”

    Sure, for some positions a suit and tie is not required. And we have had candidates come in without ties, but in slacks and blazers, nicely pressed. We have had ladies come in wearing blouses and slacks or skirts, nicely put together. I’ve seen a couple of ladies in nice day dresses that I sort of wanted to ask about because they were perfect for work.

    You can even get nice separates at places like Macy’s and Dillard’s so you’re not stuck with one thing you can’t wear anywhere else. (But I would add that it helps to buy your separates from the same store and the same line, just to make sure they go together properly. Black does not always match black.)

    Reply
      1. AdAgencyChick

        Agreed, I hope “sternum” was meant. Showing a clavicle doesn’t seem out of the ordinary at all!

        Reply
        1. Sadsack

          Sternum isn’t much better. That’s pretty much the part in between your clavicle bones and then down.

          Reply
          1. AVP

            Also I have a strong feeling that I’m going to be Lady #7 with the wild hair and tattoos in about 15 years. The bag sounds cute?

            Reply
      2. Anon for this

        Yes, sternum.

        I may work in pharmaceuticals, but not on the “business” end – anatomy is obviously not my strong suit.

        *makes mental note to refrain from referencing anatomy in the future*

        Reply
          1. Nerdling

            I know! Technically, a portion of my sternum is visible in the V at the neck of my button-down shirt today. Yet somehow it’s completely appropriate and my tits aren’t busting out all over the place. Given that they’re not really all that co-located.

            Reply
          2. Anon for this

            I think perhaps this has been taken out of context.

            If your shirt is unbuttoned below the bottom of your bust, it may perhaps be inappropriate for an interview.

            If I can clearly discern the bottom of the curve of your endowments, your shirt may be unbuttoned too far.

            And yes, I am a bit of a prude when it comes to dressing for work, but I like to think I’m appropriately dressed, and that’s important.

            Reply
            1. Nerdling

              Yeah, that’s way off from the top of your sternum, which runs southward from the notch of your collarbones coming together. That’s liable to be why you’ve gotten so much feedback on the comment.

              Reply
      1. Nerdling

        And busty women can look even bustier in something that lands that high up. It’s a very odd effect, but true.

        Reply
      2. a

        Thank goodness OP misspoke. I saw that and I started worrying, “Does everyone I’ve ever interviewed with think I’m a harlot because my collarbone was showing?”

        Reply
    1. Receptionist Without A Cause

      Is the absenteeism an epidemic? My office hires fairly regularly and out of every four interviews we schedule maybe one of them shows up.

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        We have had a HUGE problem with this.

        We had a candidate who called two hours after her scheduled interview time and “declined” her interview. We had rescheduled other meetings around this interview so those involved could be available, and it made the entire day a nightmare.

        One week we had five interviews scheduled. One showed up. ONE.

        Reply
        1. Receptionist Without A Cause

          I was hoping our case wasn’t indicative of anything since we’re in sales and the employee turnover can be high. This is depressing.

          Reply
    2. JMegan

      we have had candidates come in without ties, but in slacks and blazers, nicely pressed. We have had ladies come in wearing blouses and slacks or skirts, nicely put together.

      This is my interpretation of the “wear a suit to an interview” rule – nicely put together, and dress the way I would for my dressiest day at that particular office. So: dress pants or dress skirt (with nylons), clean crisp white blouse, silk scarf, clean dress shoes. Minimal jewellery (including leaving my hippie beaded meditation bracelets at home), and a nice purse.

      I have never sat on the interviewer side of the table, so I don’t know how other people dress for interviews in my industry.* But I do it this way for two reasons. One, I really don’t want to spend the money for a suit that I will wear only one time. And two, I’m a lot more comfortable this way. I’m not saying that comfort is the primary consideration, of course – I’d be even more comfortable in yoga pants and Birkenstocks, which I would never wear to an interview! But I have never really learned to wear a suit comfortably, since I wear them so seldom. Ultimately, I just don’t feel like myself in a suit, and I’m itchy and fidgety and wondering if everyone thinks I’m doing it wrong. And on balance, I think that would give a worse impression in an interview than not wearing a suit!

      *Government, which tends to be another notable exception to a lot of Alison’s rules.

      Reply
      1. Mallorie, the recruiter

        There is a lot to be said of this particular point. I feel SO out of place in suits and I feel like it makes me interview worse (“Little girl, does your mommy know you borrowed her suit today?”). Recently, I started interviewing in a plain grey dress, black tights, and black suit jacket instead. But I am also interviewing strictly internally. I would suit up for at least a first round interview externally.

        Reply
        1. KathyGeiss

          I used to have this problem and still have that moment of wtf am I wearing when I put on a suit. But I always give myself a little pep talk and abide by the “if I fake confidence, I’ll be confident” tact. sometimes I even have a little mantra that involves channeling Hilary Clinton. By the time I walk out the door, I feel good in my suit.

          Good luck!

          Reply
            1. Stephanie

              I hate them, too. I always feel like I’m wearing an ill-fitting, expensive sack in them. I’m also really broad-shouldered and busty, so I think a lot of suit jackets make me look like I’m a powerlifter for the East Germans. I’ve just kind of accepted suits are not super flattering on me.

              Reply
              1. cuppa

                I’m chesty but narrow-shouldered, so I always feel like a linebacker. Or a little kid playing dress up. I don’t really wear jackets outside of interviews (more of a cardigan/sweater person), but I did by a black moto-style blazer that I’m trying to use as a gateway. :)

                Reply
        2. MsM

          Huh, suits always have the opposite effect on me. It’s like my brain starts thinking, “Okay, looks like we’re in professional mode now; better start acting like it.” I almost wish I worked in the kind of office where it would make sense to wear them (or my Claire Underwood dresses) more often.

          Reply
    3. Mike C.

      So when the leopard print didn’t match, are you saying they were different colors or different species?

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        Colors, patterns…

        I’m assuming different variations of the leopard species. I wouldn’t presume that every leopard had the same sort of spots. ;)

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          There are differences between conventional, clouded and snow leopards from what I can find.

          I was just curious how many different species someone would try and walk out the door with. :)

          Reply
      2. Mallory Janis Ian

        Probably different interpretations of what “leopard” looks like and scaled to different spot sizes. That’s what I see among leopard-print patterns.

        Reply
  7. zecrefru

    Our company was interviewing a manager. He came in for his first round of interviews wearing a suit. As he was leaving, the hiring VP instructed him to wear business casual attire for the next round of interviews. Again, he came in wearing a suit. When the VP asked him about it, he stated he wanted people to know he was serious about the position. The VP immediately dropped him from consideration since he failed to follow the very first direction he’d been given.

    Reply
    1. Christina

      See, I would consider that one of those obnoxious “trick question” type instructions that trip people up and cause so many people to write here “What did my interviewer mean when she said…”. I could easily see how someone could hear that and think either: a) the VP is just being kind/casual, but business standard for interview is suit, I’ll show that I can go a step up and wear the suit, or b) this is a test to see whether I can’t follow business norms, and business norm is suit, I’ll wear the suit. It’s like if the interviewer instructing the interviewee not to write a thank you note.

      Reply
      1. V2

        Neither of those really seem like a trick to me. If I’m told not to write a thank you note, I’d skip it. It’s similar to how people normally walk into an office through the front door, but if I’m told to use the back door, I’ll do it. Business norms are defaults to fall back to when one doesn’t know what’s expected of them in a particular situation, but given clear instructions, I’d go with those over general norms.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Yeah, I’d default to assuming that people meant what they said. It’s the Pascal’s wager of job hiring–if you don’t follow instructions, you’ll turn off a decent manager, but if you please a crazy manager, your prize is working for a crazy manager.

          Reply
          1. Christina

            It’s also to the manager’s benefit to explain why if they make a request that’s outside business norms, even if just to acknowledge that the request is out of the norm. That would make me more at ease and less likely to think it was a weird test.

            Reply
            1. zecrefru

              The VP may have explained why he wanted the guy to wear business casual attire, I honestly don’t know. This was a tech/startup type company & everyone wore jeans & t-shirts. If it were me, in this particular situation, I would have assumed the request was to make me more comfortable, but again, I didn’t hear the actual request.

              Reply
      2. Kelly O

        I’m with Christina on this one; this is the kind of thing that makes people second-guess what’s really happening, and causes all this questioning and fear we see so frequently among questions and comments.

        What if the candidate was coming in from out of town and just brought suits, assuming he was there for interviews? Heck, what if the candidate was coming from a very business formal environment and just has a lot of nice suits to wear?

        Reply
        1. V2

          If it’s the former, I would mention that to whoever asked me to dress business casual. “Unfortunately, since I only brought suits with me, I don’t have anything business casual to wear. Would it be alright if I wore a suit?” If they said no, that would be a serious red flag about their rigidity. For the latter (a closet full of nice suits), I’d suck it up and dress business casual. The nice suits may have been an asset in my old job, but they clearly aren’t here.

          Reply
          1. jag

            That’s not a good answer, at least for men. Take the jacket off or switch to a different colored jacket. Lose the tie and keep the shirt unbuttoned. You’re now in the business casual range.

            Reply
          2. fposte

            I wonder about that, because in places where a suit is a norm, asking if you should wear a suit isn’t going to go over well. They may answer, but they’re not going to take the question favorably; it’s like asking to know what questions will be in the interview.

            Maybe places that don’t wear suits are less hung up on that, but in my experience and in the reporting on this thread, non-suit places aren’t any less uptight, they’re just uptight in a different uniform.

            Reply
          3. Christina

            To me, if the interviewer instructed me not to wear a suit to the next interview, it would benefit both of us for them to tell me why–and if they didn’t tell me, I’d hope I’d feel confident enough to ask. If they planned on giving me a tour or something that could mess up nice clothes, I’d want to know, and if it was just a matter of this particular office being uncomfortable with suits, I could accommodate that too. But just “Don’t wear a suit” with no other information and then playing games with my candidacy because I couldn’t “follow instructions” would make this a company/manager I would not want to work for.

            Reply
            1. Colette

              It doesn’t matter why, though – whether they want to see whether you know what business casual means or they’re going to take you to the warehouse or they just don’t like suits, why would you ignore something you’ve been asked to do? That’s like being told you need ID and leaving your wallet at home.

              Reply
            2. zecrefru

              I really don’t think the intention was to play games. I’m sure it was to make the candidate feel comfortable (i.e. dressed the same as the interviewers). The candidate had already met with several jean-wearing interviews at that point.

              Reply
          4. Stranger than fiction

            But business casual would be slacks and shirt for a guy since could just skip the jacket and tie of that’s all he has with

            Reply
        2. V2

          Also, I agree that it does cause unnecessary second-guessing and it would probably be easier to just let candidates wear suits, ultimately the candidate is still going to have to make a decision: follow the instructions or ignore them. Following them will almost-always look better. A place that tells you to dress casually expecting you to ignore them and show up in a suit anyway is playing serious mind games and I’d run from them.

          Reply
            1. fposte

              I don’t think it was a presumption–I think it was useful guidance. I mean, it’s your second interview, you’re probably meeting different people and possibly higher-up people, and somebody gives you information on what things will matter to them that you didn’t hit this time. I’d be grateful, not offended.

              I mean, if you don’t like a dress code, then that’s a sign the place is not for you, true. But this is like a second bite at the cherry for a lot of people–they wore a culture-misfit outfit the first time and have been told what to wear to make it work next time.

              Reply
    2. beachlover

      Prior to my interview for my current job ( we are a very edgy beverage co located in Calif,). I asked the interviewer, if the office dress code was very professional or more business casual. He laughed and said that he was wearing jeans a t-shirt and flip flops, and the other person in the interview would probably be in her workout clothes. I did not wear a suit but I was dressed nicely. It was the last time I ever wore business casual or any business attire here at work. From the top down everyone is casual. The only people that wear suits are the lawyers, and only when they have to go to court. Lucky for me, every job I have had before, has had a very relaxed dress code. So Calif seems to be like that.

      Reply
  8. John

    It’s all about making a statement. If someone comes in dressed down, I would question whether they will be prepared to do what’s needed to win the trust and confidence of their peers and leaders because, yes, there are some ways in which new employees are expected to do things in the interest of winning folks over.

    Reply
  9. AdAgencyChick

    I get it…but I’m SO GLAD my industry is one of the ones that not only doesn’t require a suit, but will look askance at you if you wear one.

    I do wish hiring managers would simply expect an interviewee to dress as she would dress for a workday. It just seems like such a hassle to put candidates who are employed and need to come to the interview from work (or go straight from the interview to work) through a costume change in a car or a Starbucks bathroom.

    Reply
    1. cuppa

      I think that’s ok if it is common knowledge, or expressed to candidates before the interview, but I would feel pretty badly if I followed a pretty conventional social norm without any indication that it wasn’t ok in this particular situation and then was penalized for it.

      Reply
      1. AdAgencyChick

        It is common knowledge within the industry — mostly because so many of us dress in jeans and T-shirts as long as the clients aren’t around. So the only people I ever see in suits are those who are fresh out of college or those making a career change.

        “Askance” wasn’t the way I should have put that — when I see a suit, I simply think, “This person has never worked in this niche of advertising before.” Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad candidate.

        Reply
        1. Jen S. 2.0

          dress in jeans and T-shirts as long as the clients aren’t around
          —————
          See, to me, wearing a suit in this environment is the way to show that you know how to dress to hit the right note with a client. Who is committing the bigger faux pas, the interviewee who arrives for an interview dressed the way s/he would dress to impress a client, or the employee who interviewed in jeans and t-shirt…and then dresses that way in front of a client because s/he doesn’t know how to turn it up a couple of notches? I think the advice to dress the way you would on your dressiest day at that job is excellent. It sounds like on the dressiest day at your firm, a suit is highly possible.

          Reply
          1. AdAgencyChick

            We don’t wear suits for the clients either! Thank goodness it’s not like “Mad Men” any longer.

            I would say the dress in the industry ranges from casual but neat (jeans and T-shirts are OK, but ripped versions of either are not) to business casual, with business casual being the norm when clients are in. The very dressiest day at the office would be a new business pitch — the one and only time the suits come out. (I wasn’t even required to wear one the last time I did a pitch, though the men did.) Since a pitch is something only fairly senior employees do, I wouldn’t expect the rank-and-file employees I interview even to own a suit, much less wear it to the interview.

            I expect to see business casual, or even jeans with a button-down shirt, when I’m interviewing someone — especially since so often I’m interviewing someone who is taking an hour out of the workday to come see me. An employee who normally dresses in jeans and T-shirts and starts talking to her employers about “doctor’s appointments” and showing up in nicer clothes than she normally wears to work, has a big flag waving behind her at her boss saying, “I AM INTERVIEWING!” So I don’t bat an eyelash at seeing a candidate in a nicer pair of jeans and a blouse or button-down shirt — and I would never assume that a candidate doesn’t know how to dress for clients just because she dresses on the casual side to meet me.

            Reply
    2. qkate

      I don’t understand why you are glad to work in an industry that ostracizes people for wearing a suit to interviews?

      I get why you’re pumped to not have to wear a suit to interviews (so am I, I’ve never worn a suit to a single interview in my life, though I have worn blazers), but why cheer on the shaming?

      So the candidate didn’t know they didn’t have to dress all the way up to a suit for the interview, eh, that’s really not a big deal in the grande scheme of things.

      Reply
    3. Gene

      So I should show up in rubber boots, orange coveralls, a High-Vis vest, and a hard hat? :-)

      Or if it’s a day in the lab, prescription safety glasses, a face shield tilted up, and a lab coat.

      Or a desk day (like today), rental uniform pants, steel-toe boots, and a logo sweat shirt.

      Reply
  10. Suitor

    Curious – does “suit” only mean bottom/jacket match exactly? In other words, does a grey suit jacket with black slacks “count” as a suit? Thinking about women’s suits in particular.

    Reply
    1. Receptionist Without A Cause

      I think women get a little more leeway with the ‘suit’ rule, since business fashion conventions give us a little more leeway in terms of mixing patterns and colors.

      Reply
    2. Artemesia

      No, a suit matches. It becomes a sport coat for a guy and just ‘separates’ for a woman if mismatched.

      Reply
      1. Kelly O

        Yup. You can buy separates that match and make suits, but usually it all goes together.

        (From a sartorial perspective, it can be tough to match things like that and look “right” especially for women in formal settings.)

        Reply
      2. TotesMaGoats

        I disagree. I’ve bought suits that were black pants and patterned/colored jacket. While they might be termed separates they were designed and sold to be worn as a suit. I think we are into semantics at this point but I consider both a “suit”.

        Reply
        1. Kelly O

          Okay, yes, but they’re intended to go together.

          It’s not like taking a grey jacket from one suit and putting it with a pair of black slacks.

          The intent with the suit is that they’re worn together. The materials go together (even when the jacket is patterned but the pants are solid, or vice/versa.)

          My own personal experience has been that grabbing random jackets/pants/skirts and trying to make suits of them winds up looking less than put together and polished. So it doesn’t have to be black jacket/black pants, but it has to have intent. It has to look as though it’s supposed to go together, if that makes sense.

          Reply
  11. Steve

    As a man living in NYC, I interview in a sports jacket/ blazer, grey pants, black shoes, blue or white shirt, and tie. It’s dressy without being overally formal, and it can be dressed up or down depending on the company. i can lose the tie to be more casual or keep it on to be more formal. It’s not as expensive as a suit, and it’s incredibly practical. This is what I wear. I recommend you wear it too.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      No, don’t recommend that to people! That was the whole point of my post — that you might know what works for your industry/area but shouldn’t extrapolate it for people in other industries/areas. There are fields where what you describe would be too casual (hello big law).

      Reply
      1. AMT

        I agree with what he said except for the “I recommend…” part. This would work great for a lot of industries, including my own, but I don’t imagine that it’d go over well in finance.

        Reply
      2. nof

        At a certain point though, aren’t the industries that demand a full suit strongly outnumbered by the industries that would be happy with formal separates? How many people are interviewing in big law or corporate finance compared to the vast majority of less formal industries?

        Reply
        1. fposte

          But the ones that are okay with you wearing a black jacket with a grey skirt will be okay with you in a full suit, too, so the best bet-hedge in those places is a suit.

          It’s knowing when you need to wear khakis that’s the real challenge.

          Reply
      3. Steve

        Ok, I won’t recommend it blindly. However, I have used this approach for every job I have received. I belief largely most people don’t realize if you are wearing a suit or not if you are wearing a jacket and tie.

        I work at a large multinational ad agency, I used this approach before to work at a small tech star-tup. Unless you are interviewing at a white shoe law firm or some other traditional profession like baking or job that requires one to dress up regularly, this approach would work.

        The definition of suit is really bothering me. A suit is a jacket and pants/skirt made of the same material. Not a jacket and pants in the same color or made by the same manufacturer in the same color. It’s better to wear complimenting colors like navy and grey over black and slightless black, black. Also, who wears black to a job interview?

        Reply
        1. Stephanie

          Wait, what’s wrong with black? I get it looks a little severe, but all I could find in my budget was either black or pastel Easter suits. I figured black was the better option. (I did wear a white shirt with a black suit once, which I realized after the fact was a bit funereal.)

          Reply
          1. Cat

            I think some people object to men wearing black suits in business settings but nobody objects to women wearing them. No idea why.

            Reply
          2. Cath in Canada

            One of my male colleagues showed up one day in a black suit, white shirt, and plain black tie. I assumed that he had to attend a funeral that day, but then someone else asked him that and he said “no, why?”

            Reply
        2. LBK

          The definition of suit is really bothering me. A suit is a jacket and pants/skirt made of the same material.

          I don’t know where you got that definition but I’d imagine almost everyone would disagree. A suit has to match colors.

          Reply
          1. Steve

            I mean to say match materials and match colors, however, a cotton black jacket and cotton black pants do not make up a suit. They are called a suit because they match. The material is the same exact fabric.

            I speak as a man, Navy or Grey. For women your rules may differ, but no, not pastel easter colors.

            Reply
            1. Steve

              suit
              so͞ot/Submit
              noun
              1.
              a set of outer clothes made of the same fabric and designed to be worn together, typically consisting of a jacket and trousers or a jacket and skirt.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Right–*designed* to be worn together. Not just stuff that goes together because you put it together.

                The problem is that the closer the fabric is (and just being cotton isn’t necessarily close, because there’s multiple kinds of cotton and multiple weights of cotton, ditto for wool and silk), the more apparent it is that your blacks, or your navies, or your greys don’t match. Which they won’t, because they weren’t part of the same run (you can even run into this if you buy a piece that’s technically the same product but wasn’t in the same dye lot).

                Sure, theoretically it’s possible that somebody can make something work as an actual suit that wasn’t bought as one. But most of the time, the best way to make two pieces like that work is to treat them as different pieces with some contrast rather than trying to force them into a suit model despite the not-quite-matching.

                Reply
                1. Natalie

                  Or even if they aren’t cleaned the same number of times. Always have your suits dry cleaned together, even if you’ve worn the jacket once and the pants 10 times.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale

          I wear black to every job interview! I have a really wonderful, well-fitting black dress that I wear with a jacket or a cashmere cardigan (my field is not one for suits for women– men often do it, but women get away with a good dress). I usually wear it with a scarf or colorful earrings so it doesn’t look funereal, but it looks great on me– both fit and color (I’m fair-skinned with dark hair and always get compliments when I wear black). The idea of eschewing black altogether for interviews is a head-scratcher for me.

          And for what it’s worth, most of my job interviews in the last 12 years have been in NYC, in media.

          Reply
        4. Connie-Lynne

          I wear black to most of my job interviews? Because that’s the color they make clothes in for ladies my size?

          Reply
    2. AMT

      Male, NYC, and I take the same approach. A nice blazer and dress pants aren’t too far off from a suit, especially with the right accessories. I look young for my age and a suit, no matter how expensive or well-fitted, tends to makes me look like a Mormon missionary fresh from the J.C. Penney.

      Reply
      1. AdAgencyChick

        I think — at least, I hope — NYC and other cities where a large segment of the population does not own a car are more lenient on people showing up in outfits that are not suits. If not, then pity the poor candidates who have to run around the city carrying garment bags and getting changed in coffee-shop bathrooms to avoid disclosing to their current employers that they’re interviewing!

        Reply
        1. Cat

          I live in a city where most people don’t drive to work and most people just wear the pants or skirt and try to keep the jacket (and tie if relevant) out of sight till they leave the office.

          Reply
          1. Cat

            (To clarify, I live in DC and at least my segment of it is the opposite of lenient about people wearing suits to an interview. That said, it’s usually less obvious that you’re interviewing anyway because people tend to wear suits for things other than interviews.)

            Reply
          2. Natalie

            My favorite subterfuge was dropping my suit off at a cleaners near my work to get pressed, and then picking it up before the interview and changing.

            Reply
            1. Stephanie

              I have no clue why my mind went here (my imagination’s a funny thing), but I’m imagining you doing this in a frantic pace a la the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage video (complete with you driving a car over the hill to get to your interview on-time).

              Reply
  12. BRR

    I got my job by wearing a suit. We work in a conservative industry and this office is particularly conservative. I was told later on the other finalist really messed up attire and while they had a good skill set they were worried how professional they were. My manager thought it was a maintenance worker for an issue they had called about.

    Reply
  13. Receptionist Without A Cause

    The best interview advice I ever got was; an interview is about what you can DO not about your personal fashion statements. The most important things are to be tidy-looking, recently showered, and prepared with notes/printed resumes/business cards/questions.

    I think that’s why most interview guides advise you to go with the neutral ‘suit/neutral makeup’ formula. The idea is that the person interviewing you can see that you’re tuned into interview culture and clearly invested time in preparing yourself.

    Showing up to an interview in clothing that’s not appropriate for ANY work environment (if you get my drift) sends a clear statement about how much thought you put into your application, which is to say ‘I didn’t even do a desultory Google search on interview behavior.’ That’s a lot of lost ground to deal with right out of the gate.

    Reply
    1. some1

      I’ve never brought notes I have made into the interview with me. A copy of your resume is not a bad idea (but the interviewer[s] should have it already); handing over a business card seems like kind of a moot point since you are trying to get another job, not the one on your card, and they should have your contact info on your resume (and I wouldn’t want a prosepective job calling or emailing me at work.)

      Reply
        1. Macedon

          I think that really depends on the industry, though. In mine, for instance, the ability to seamlessly introduce questions and background knowledge into a conversation without letting effort or research show is essential. Sure, I wouldn’t axe a candidate for stopping to consult notes, but I would be slightly unenthusiastic about their having done so.

          Reply
      1. Receptionist Without A Cause

        I’m in design so the business cards are way more personal and include links to my online portfolio, etc. You’re right that it’s probably different for other fields.

        Regarding resumes; I didn’t used to bring them with me, but I kept getting asked for copies so I started bringing spares.

        Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          I know the resume seems redundant but 1. Generally, you’d ne printing it on nicer stock (resume paper) and 2. I’ve gotten a glance at my resume that they printed from their system before and it looked like crap

          Reply
            1. Receptionist Without A Cause

              No kidding. Plus there’s an added wrinkle if you’re in an artistic field. Resumes for artists, designers, and illustrators are a horse of a different color. A patchy grayscale version of your resume isn’t going show your skills to advantage.

              Reply
    2. Jipsy's Mom

      Regarding the recently showered… I once interviewed a candidate who showed up with her hair still visibly wet. Like, I think she had toweled it dry and brushed it, and that’s it. I know not everyone uses a blow dryer for whatever reason (convenience, makes curly hair frizz, etc), but for God’s sake – give yourself enough time to let your hair dry! It looked like she’d gotten out of the pool and come straight to her interview. The rest of her attire was acceptable, but the hair really threw me. She did not receive a job offer…and my employer is aggressively casual day-to-day.

      Reply
      1. Anonsie

        Oh god, I’m always afraid something like this will happen to me one day. I have thick hair and if the humidity is just wrong it will not dry for a full day or more.

        Is it possible she slick-gelled her hair? This is really common where I grew up for women with curly/coarse hair but I’ve noticed people don’t do it a whole lot elsewhere in the country. If you weren’t used to seeing it, it would definitely look wet.

        Reply
  14. AllieJ0516

    And ladies, if you’re going to wear heels, especially with a dress or skirt, leave anything with platforms and/or heels over 5″ high at home…please.

    Reply
    1. Jubilance

      There’s variation with platforms tho – I have a pair of nude Nine West closed-toe heels that have a very small platform, but it makes the heels so much more comfortable to wear. And it’s obvious at all that my shoe has a platform. Certainly anything with a 4 inch platform should be avoided, but not all platforms are bad.

      Reply
      1. Kelly O

        I think this is another example of “your mileage may vary” as well as knowing your environment and what works for you specifically.

        My personal opinion is that if you look like you’re wearing hooves, the platform is too high.

        Reply
        1. Kelly O

          Not a heel with any height, that’s for sure. I stick to fairly low heels these days, just because I am not entirely what you’d call graceful. I like a small platform because it helps me keep a lower actual heel, but gets the height to make things look right.

          Reply
      2. Anonsie

        I can’t wear heels without platforms, the impact on the ball of your foot is intolerably painful without them.

        Reply
      3. Connie-Lynne

        I have an amazing set of black fluevog ankle boots with about a half-inch platform. They’re my go-to professional lady shoes. There is no way to walk in them that isn’t striding — I can get *any* job and give *any* talk when I’m wearing them.

        Reply
    2. Mpls

      I would amend this to say – be sure you can walk in whatever shoes you choose to wear. If you can’t manage the 3″ heels, don’t wear those either.

      Reply
      1. Amy Farrah Fowler

        Definitely. Due to a sprained ankle a couple years ago, I can’t manage heels higher than about 2″. Generally for interviews, I stick with a 1.5-2″ pump or wear conservative flats. I’m much more comfortable and don’t have to concentrate so hard on “walking without falling” which makes me interview more effectively.

        Reply
      2. AvonLady Barksdale

        Funny variation on this: I wore heels to my first interview for the job I have now. It was lunch. I drove and changed my shoes before I went into the restaurant. It was a great interview, and my now-boss asked if I wanted to see the new office space, which was a short walk away. Sure, I said, but… “Um, do you mind if I change my shoes? I broke my foot last year and any distance in heels is a problem.” He was so totally unfazed and I was embarrassed, but I think he appreciated my practicality. (We’re both transplanted New Yorkers, so I think that helped him “get it.”)

        Reply
  15. Sally

    I recently had (successful) marathon interviews with major tech companies in Silicon Valley. In their emails coordinating the interviews, they all explicitly said that a suit was unnecessary/discouraged. I wear a suit to work every day (and would for almost any interview), so I was nervous about an alternative. I know this isn’t a fashion blog, but in case it’s helpful to anyone else in the same situation– I’m a woman, and I wore nice black jeans, a blouse, a blazer with the sleeves turned up, and casual black flats. I was very comfortable and felt appropriately dressed. Most of my interviewers wore casual button up shirts with the sleeves rolled up, company t-shirts, or basic knit-wear dressed up with accessories.

    Reply
    1. Dawn

      Man I wish more companies would do that- just tell you what expected interview attire is. It would take out a significant chunk of interview stress!

      Reply
      1. Not Today Satan

        Same. I also like when they say, “We’ll have your resume printed out” so I don’t need to waste half an hour going to the copy center.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous Educator

          Honestly, that’s cool, but I usually bring a copy of my résumé anyway, because typically the hiring manager will have printed out a bunch of copies and given them to the various people interviewing me and inevitably one of my interviewers will go “Shoot. I had a printout of your résumé but didn’t bring it. Do you have a copy handy?”

          Reply
      2. Tau

        Yyyep. I’m interviewing for entry-level tech jobs and the comments on this post have left me more confused than ever on whether I ought to be wearing a suit and whether I’d be penalised one way or the other for doing/not doing so. I’d love it if companies made their expectations clear!

        Reply
  16. Sassy Intern

    Yes! I have a story about dressing for your specific location. I work for a company whose headquarters are in DC, while my office is in Detroit. My boss was telling me recently that the intern over in DC regularly wears a full suit jacket. Meanwhile I regularly wear jeans and a cardigan.

    I would be totally out of place in DC, while she would be weirdly overdressed here. But we work for the same exact company doing the same exact job. So, yes, please pay attention to what people are wearing. (Especially if you’re expected to visit any sort of formal building, like the Senate floor, haha.)

    Reply
    1. JB

      I work for a nationwide bank and it’s like that here also. The people in NYC at lower levels dress far more professionally (traditional sense) than we do here in Houston. Here, it’s only top level management that are in suits every day. Some of the bankers wear suits frequently, but it depends on their customer base. In NYC it’s all suits, all the time, even among non-customer facing people. I will say that I wish people here dressed better. It’s getting to the point that they’ve confused casual with sloppy. We have a few people who wear clothes to work that I wouldn’t wear to Home Depot on a Saturday morning.

      Reply
      1. JB

        Are you the person who usually posts as J.B. (with the periods)? There seem to be a few of us JBs around, and I’m thinking I’m going to have to change my usual name when posting. And I’m also in Texas! But not Houston.

        Reply
  17. AGH

    I usually go with the “one up” rule. If it’s a “jeans” environment, I go with dress slacks and a nice shirt. If it’s “business casual” I add a suit jacket to the dress pants and shirt. If I’m not sure, I straight up ask about the dress code.

    Reply
    1. Kelly O

      I like this rule; it shows you’re aware of the environment, but also aware of the formality of the occasion.

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        Sure. Women could wear dress slacks and a business casual top if it was a jeans environment, or a nice work appropriate dress.

        Reply
    2. jag

      But if the normal clothes are suit and tie for guys, what would you recommend? A tuxedo? That ain’t right.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        No, of course not–you’d need to go to white tie :-).

        I think you one-up until you hit the most business formal and then stop.

        Reply
        1. BeenThere

          Diamond emblazoned suit, aka Barney Stinson style….

          to demonstrate you don’t really need the job but obviously want to work there ;)

          Reply
  18. hayling

    I work for a startup in SF. I wore a suit to my interview. I knew I’d be overdressed but at that point it was the only “nice” outfit I had. I dressed it down a bit with flats and tights (instead of heels and nylons).

    Candidates come in wearing a variety of levels of professional clothing. I don’t care what they wear per se as long as they don’t look sloppy.

    Reply
    1. qkate

      “Candidates come in wearing a variety of levels of professional clothing. I don’t care what they wear per se as long as they don’t look sloppy.”

      Agreed!

      Reply
  19. insert pun here

    I will go ahead and wear a damn suit, if I must — but I am not wearing heels. Have to draw the line somewhere.

    (The dress code at my current place of employment is basically “better than sweatpants” and “wear a jacket if outsiders are coming in, otherwise, no one cares.”)

    Reply
  20. AnotherAlison

    I’m always surprised when people think a suit is unnecessary in a business casual environment. I’m in the engineering arm of a national construction company, and as a company, they are particular about the dress code. My office is business casual, but people in corporate HQ wear ties to work, even at the manager and below level. The norm is to absolutely interview in a suit, especially on the construction side, but your average Joe off the street might not expect that since the job site dress is typically jeans, boots, and a Carhart.

    Reply
    1. Jader

      Excellent insight, I was about to ask about this on behalf of my husband who is interviewing in training and development for construction companies. 95% of the workforce will wear beat up jeans and t-shirts but we weren’t sure what to do for an office position.

      Reply
      1. JB

        I once worked as an intern in the legal department of a construction company, and everyone there dressed professionally. Women wore suits, men did too (although they often took their jackets off when not in meetings). Everyone in the corporate office dressed that way. Granted, that was a decade ago and it was just one company.

        Reply
  21. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

    We do not wear suits at my office, unless someone is going somewhere outside of the office where a suit is appropriate. It’s not just that it’s not the norm, it’s that it is not allowed. I don’t want to identify my field here, but we work with low income people, and our goal is partially empowerment, which means that we are careful not to place ourselves “above” in the way that we dress. We are very intentionally casual and friendly as this helps us do what we do most effectively. I also live in a casual area (seriously, the mayor, who is a high-powered attorney, often opts for a fleece instead of a suit jacket). That said, nobody is walking around here in yoga pants and sneakers.

    However, I have had a few candidates who take this way to far and show up in something much too casual. The problem is that I have to assume that you never get MORE dressed up than you do for an interview – and if you’re too far toward the low end of the scale, I really wonder what your everyday wear is. Even though we are enthusiastically anti-suit, I don’t worry one bit about someone wearing a suit to an interview. It’s just a normal way to dress in that situation. I also don’t mind a sharp-looking business casual outfit. But I’ve seen stuff that wasn’t all that far from pajamas or gym clothes. My point is that even in a very casual, friendly culture, you can totally under-dress – and that is almost always worse than overdressing.

    If you truly can’t afford a suit, wear the nicest thing you have that fits you properly. People look (and likely feel) very awkward and un-put-together when they are wearing clothes that just don’t work for them. I love thrift stores as much as anyone, but a greatly outdated, ill-fitting, frayed outfit is not better than your own dressy-enough clothes.

    Reply
    1. NJ Anon

      My recently former job was similar. We worked with homeless teens. The admin offices were in the same building as one of the programs they lived in. We wore jeans on a regular basis. (It was awesome!!!)

      Reply
      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

        It really is awesome, isn’t it? And when my work clothes stop looking their best, they make great regular-life clothes. I feel like I would have to make more money if I had to buy two sets of clothes (work, and not work) and also pay for dry cleaning. I am sorry for people who have to do this who don’t make enough money. I do have to dress up some – maybe 25% of the time, but that’s not so bad.

        Also, it is awesome that I do not have to wear shoes that hurt my feet or back. I don’t wear athletic shoes to work, but I flatly refuse to wear heels (In this area, at least, I don’t stay out at all without heels).

        Reply
        1. Shell

          Amen. I’ve always hated heels, but after I busted my knee skiing about five years back, I refused to wear heels–period. Any sort of heels. If “flats” had a sort of wedge shape where the heel was more than 1/2″ higher than the ball of the foot, it counts as a “heel” to me. I want the heel and the ball-of-foot to be as close to level as possible.

          Makes finding shoes that aren’t runners really hard, lemme tell you. But my joints are so much happier. And I’ve been lucky enough that none of my workplaces have given a damn about my footwear, not even the law firm I used to work at.

          Reply
          1. Windchime

            I refuse to wear heels as well. I’m 5′ 11″; I don’t need to be 6’2 or 6’3. Add in ankle problems, and I’m just fine in my Clark’s leather slip-ons.

            Our dress code at work just recently changed from Business Casual to “jeans allowed”. We’re all pretty happy about it. It makes it so much easier to get ready in the morning.

            Reply
            1. Shell

              I’m only 5’3″, but adding that extra inch or two isn’t worth the pain in my knee. Doesn’t matter if they’re pumps, slip-ons, boots, whatever–if the heel and ball-of-foot aren’t close to level, I’m not wearing it. And I’m so, so thankful that my jobs have not cared one whit. (My fashion sense also isn’t great, so I’m doubly glad they don’t/didn’t care.)

              Reply
    2. TCO

      Yes, most social-service places I’ve worked have very casual dress codes, to the point that when interviewing I’m pretty much always dressed better than my interviewees. Wearing a suit to the interview wouldn’t get you in trouble, but it’s not needed. I usually wear a nice dress/skirt and cardigan.

      I think everyone in social services has different levels of comfort with casual or professional dress, but I usually went somewhere in between on a daily basis. Jeans, totally fine unless I had a large formal event (like a nice fundraiser) or something. Hoodies or printed t-shirts, fine if I was working with clients but not with the “greater public” (funders, large numbers of volunteers, etc.) who might have different expectations. I often would go a little dressier just due to personal preference, but I was always careful not to overdo it if I’d have a lot of client contact that day.

      I have seen social-service providers whose dress code is fancier, particularly if they work in employment services, because they want to demonstrate the professional practices they are teaching their participants. Every agency’s comfort level is a little different. Many, like yours and mine, didn’t want to make clients feel uncomfortable or powerless by creating a large clothing differential. (I worked largely with people experiencing homelessness, so their wardrobes tended to be limited by necessity.) Others want to demonstrate “seriousness” and “quality” to their clients as a way of demonstrating how much they care about being of help to the clients.

      Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      I had a person come in to my workplace and ask if we were hiring. Not kidding, it looked like she was wearing pajamas. I fully expected to see bunny slippers. I told her we weren’t hiring, which was true. But I probably would have told her that anyway. The job requires a lot of training and some basics must be in place or the learning curve is going to be insurmountable.

      Reply
    4. JB

      That’s a really good point–that interviewers, with nothing else to go on but normal, customary behavior for interviewees, will assume that the interview is as dressed up as you’ll ever be at work, because the norm is to dress up for interviews. So if you can’t be bothered for the interview, what will you look like at work?

      Reply
  22. DrPepper Addict

    I had worked in the music industry for 7 years when I applied for a certain job at another record label. At the place I was still working at, our President/CEO wore jeans and a sport coat on nice days, like when his bosses would visit from out of the country. There was also a running joke with a guy I worked with, who showed up to an interview with this company in a suit (who eventually did get the job). Our manager, in a fun way (we had a teasing/joking culture on my team, it wasn’t out of line) always teased him saying “You were dressed nicer than our President/CEO to your interview.”

    Anyway, fast forward, I applied for a job at another record label. I wore dress jeans, a dress shirt, and sport coat. I was dressed nicer than anyone in the office (I passed by a lot of people on the way to the conference room where I interviewed and was taking notice). And one of the first things the interviewer said was “So no tie today huh?” I didn’t get the job. I don’t know if he was just joking, or making a subtle suggestion that I should wear a tie to the interview. But all that to say, even working in the same industry, in the same city, applying for the same type of job, there can be different rules on dress. For that interview, I was thinking I wanted to look nice but not too formal since it’s just the music industry. But apparently that label had different expectations than what I had experienced in my previous job.

    Reply
  23. Ash (the other one)

    I’ve had the same argument over and over about whether its required to wear pantyhose with a dress/skirt suit as well… I argue it doesn’t matter, but I agree with those folks who say that it depends who you are interviewing with. On the brink of retirement? Yea, maybe wear pantyhose…

    Reply
    1. KathyGeiss

      For an interview, I say yes 100% to pantyhose even in the summer. Although if it was that hot I’d probably opt for a pant suit.

      For regular business casual days, I’m of the opinion that pantyhose needs are dictated by the weather.

      Reply
      1. Kelly O

        This is why my interview suits are typically pants; it removes the question, and if I need to slip on some knee-highs I can do that easily and not be too hot.

        Reply
      2. Stephanie

        But pantyhose aren’t even warm! It’s a purely aesthetic thing. If it’s actually that cold, actual tights are way better.

        Reply
        1. Ash (the other one)

          I wear tights in the winter. Fleece-lined are the best when its frigid and I opt for those over pants, a lot. Nylons? Ugh, no.

          Reply
        2. MK

          They may not be enough to keep you warm in January, but they are sweltering in August.

          I realise this may be a cultural thing, but in my country the perception of aesthetic follows how it fits the weather. Wearing them in the summer comes across as ridiculous (frankly, the only women I have seen do so were homeless), not wearing them in winter (new fashion right now) equally so, and somewhat trashy to boot.

          Reply
        3. Natalie

          I disagree. Pantyhose might not be the warmest option, but they’re warmer than bare legs. And I live in Minnesota – I’ve experienced both in zero degree weather.

          Reply
        4. Ellie H.

          They are warm though – warmer than bare legs if a bit less warm than tights. Even fishnets are warmer than bare legs. . . .

          Reply
    2. AnotherAlison

      I’m nearly that old, and I have never worn a skirt suit to an interview without pantyhose. Even in July in a humid state. I don’t think you should be exposing skin in an interview, period.

      I’m not a very important person, and I’m slightly under 40, but I wouldn’t recommend that any candidates interviewing with me skip pantyhose. How could anyone know that I would care?

      Reply
      1. NJ Anon

        I haven’t worn/owned a pair of pantyhose in years. I refuse. I wore a pantsuit to my interview with socks and shoes. Got the job too! I will say that it is a nonprofit and we are decidedly more casual in dress.

        Reply
        1. AnotherAlison

          I’ll totally wear a pantsuit. It meets the requirement to not show skin.

          I’m kind of weird about this, and I think part of it is my take on being in a male-dominated industry. If our executive team isn’t walking around with bare legs, I don’t want to walk around with bare legs. Since they are all dudes, that means I don’t generally wear skirts without tights. I also do not wear sandals to work. Plenty of women here wear skirts without hose and wear sandals, but it’s a more difficult look to get right. Too casual of skirt + sandals = beach. Too short of skirt = going out.

          Reply
    3. Amy Farrah Fowler

      Again, I think that’s a situation to know your industry and your region. I live in Texas where it is absurdly hot 9 months out of the year and don’t even own pantyhose… I have a couple pairs of knee-highs, and might wear them to an interview, but I’m also likely to wear pants, not a skirt to an interview because I don’t like showing too much skin in that situation.

      Reply
      1. JB

        (This is not the JB in Houston) I also live in Texas, and I’d look sideways at someone interviewing in a skirt but not hose. Quite a few women in my office do not wear hose, and I myself wear hosiery but of the fashion-forward variety. But I work in a conservative city in a conservative field, and unless you know someone who works here, you won’t know that’s ok. Lots of places in my field do expect women to wear hose with skirts. So that means someone interviewing with us in skirty/no hose probably doesn’t know what the norm is in our office in an industry that is notorious for still having pockets of extreme dress conservatism and yet still opts to go to an interview with the less formal attire. That alone would not be enough for me to not hire someone. But it would prompt me to pay more attention to signs that they maybe don’t pick up on professional norms.

        Reply
        1. hellcat

          Texas as well – I’m in a conservative industry, so I’d probably still wear hose to an interview or big presentation, but I don’t wear them with skirts/dresses in the summer. Too hot.

          Reply
    4. Ash (the other one)

      And yet, I am under 30, a director level at a non profit, previously in federal government, and have never, ever, worn pantyhose and definitely have worn skirts and dresses without them to interviews. I don’t think I’d want to work for someone who thought I was “showing too much skin” by wearing a knee length skirt without them. Gasp!

      Reply
      1. Fact & Fiction

        Yep, sorry. I don’t do pantyhose. I rarely wear dresses to wok but when I do, they go to or below my knee and are definitely sans hose. Not sure I’d wear that to an interview but it’s mostly cause I’m more comfortable in pants.

        Reply
    5. Sunflower

      Ugh I hate pantyhose and don’t really understand it. If I’m wearing nude pantyhose, you really shouldn’t be able to tell unless you’re really looking at my legs. And why are you looking at my legs at all during an interview!

      That being said, I rarely wear it but I will definitely wear if it’s at a super formal place(like a law or accounting firm).

      Reply
      1. Not Today Satan

        Yeah, I’ve gotten some expensive pantyhose that REALLY looks like I’m wearing no pantyhose in most lights. So… in that case I could be penalized for not wearing it, even though in reality I just invested in a special pair. The whole thing is nonsense.

        Reply
        1. JB

          Once my sister’s coworker made a comment about my sister being able to pull off white tights . . . but she wasn’t wearing any. She’s just that white.

          Reply
      2. cuppa

        I’m actually pro-pantyhose and wear it myself, but can’t imagine noticing whether someone else was wearing them and making a judgement on that.

        Reply
    6. Chinook

      I am a believer that pantyhose are required if you are wearing closed toe shoes, regardless of the season (which is why I am suffering through them now). But sandals should be pantyhose free. Since I wouldn’t wear sandals to an interview, pantyhose are required.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        I can’t wait until it is warm enough to wear sandals without risk of loosing a toe. Then, I can hide these pantyhose for the next 6 months! On the flip side, I stil prefer wearing them to wearing pants that don’t fit me in the rise or made with material so cheap that they pill when you look at them sideways. And don’t even get me started on the inability to find lined pants for under $500 (I know – I looked) or that that aren’t made for people without hips.

        Reply
    7. Stephanie

      Ick, no. But I usually just wear a pantsuit to avoid that even being an issue. Being nonwhite, it’s tough finding pantyhose that actually match my skin tone, unless we’re talking about the high-end brands. I feel like the “mocha” tone that ends up being too ashy for my skin tone looks worse than no hose at all. (I’ve worn black pantyhose a couple of times.)

      Reply
    8. fposte

      Ha. The great pantyhose debate years ago was the first comment thread that got so obstreperous that Alison had to close comments.

      Reply
    9. C Average

      Once a sorority girl, probably always a little bit a sorority girl! Nylons (NOT *pantyhose*!) are de rigeur when I’m dressed in something professional. I got used to wearing them on chapter Mondays in college and just don’t feel properly dressed up without them. I’d never judge anyone else for not wearing them, though!

      Reply
    10. Cordelia Naismith

      Pantyhose? Noooo. So old-fashioned. Plus uncomfortable in the summer.

      I’m sure this is industry-dependent, though. More formal industries (like law) would require pantyhose, I guess.

      Reply
  24. Muriel Heslop

    I could write a book about fashion mishaps at teacher job fairs. But I won’t, because it would be boring and short: stop wearing apple sweaters and cutesy clothing! It’s not professional!

    Every interview I have ever had with a district began with a variation of, “It’s nice to see someone dressed so professionally.” I wore a basic black or navy suit. Save the apple sweaters for the classroom! Now that I am on the other side, I am always appreciative when someone dresses in business casual or a suit. It doesn’t have to be fancy – just something polished that asks that you be taken seriously.

    Reply
  25. Retail Lifer

    Some day, when I get an interview that’s not for a retail job or a job that pays next to nothing, I’ll buy a suit. 20+ years in the workforce and 10+ years of trying to get out of retail and I still haven’t needed one.

    Reply
  26. Xarcady

    I’ve been contemplating this very issue, as I’m temping for a company I’d like to work for. My manager encouraged me to apply for an open position, so there could be an interview in my near future.

    Everyone here wears jeans, at least part of the time. The CEO wears khakis, a button-down shirt and a sweater most days, unless he’s meeting with clients. The official dress code is business casual. The area is full of fleece, plaid flannel shirts and LL Bean boots all winter long.

    My plan is to wear a suit, with a button-down shirt that will work as a business casual outfit with the suit pants. I’ll carry the jacket and put that on for the interview. So I won’t be wearing a suit all day, but I will be slightly more dressed up than most of the employees around me. It would look really odd if I wore a suit here all day, but I can’t figure out what else to wear to an interview. (And I’d rather not deal with all the comments that I’d get about wearing a suit, either.) Possibly dressy pants and a blazer, which would still be several steps up from the day-to-day attire of most employees. But even though there is only a slight chance this job would ever be client-facing, I figure it won’t hurt to show that I know how to dress appropriately in various circumstances.

    On the other hand, when I interviewed for a retail position, I was able to find the store’s dress code on-line, and I wore an outfit that met the dress code. My interviewer even commented on it, and in a good way. (I got hired at the interview.)

    Reply
    1. Kady

      I’ve known lots of people in your position. They usually got changed into a suit right before the interview and changed back into their normal clothes after.

      Reply
      1. Xarcady

        Maybe it’s just me, but the hassle of dragging extra shoes, a shirt and a suit to work–how to keep it clean and unwrinkled in the car? where to put it during the day when you don’t really have a place for it, just a desk and a chair?–then finding a place to change, then repeating the process in reverse, plus the attention that carrying a suit through the office would generate–equals much more trouble than it is worth. Wearing the pants with a suitable shirt and carrying the jacket seems much easier.

        Reply
  27. Jake

    I always just ask. I’ve never had that be an awkward question. During the logistics discussion about where to go and what not, I just ask, hey what would be appropriate attire.

    Now, I work a white collar job in construction, so that typically makes a huge difference since you never know when you’ll be out in the field during the interview.

    Reply
      1. fposte

        The thing about candidate dings, though, is you don’t know when they happen most of the time. It’s something that gets brought up when we’re conferring about a candidate. I would think that even with places that cared it wouldn’t automatically knock you out of the running, but it might be a factor when they’re trying to decide if the candidate seems experienced enough for the job, or fits with the not-a-lot-of-direction office culture, and so on.

        Reply
        1. Jake

          The key is exactly what Alison said, know your audience.

          I’m able to get away with the question because if I showed up to an interview in a suit for a field job, I’d be unable to go out in the field, which tends to be a rather important part of some interviews.

          One thing that bus me though is how everybody claims to want openness and directness, yet may ding somebody for directly asking what is the appropriate attire for this office.

          Reply
  28. Apollo Warbucks

    Don’t whatever you do turn up to a big internal interview in torn scruffy jeans and beat up gap hoody and flip flops. (especially when the flip-flops and breach of dress code on there own)

    All I can say is I was very young and didn’t know any better. The interviewer was really nice about and only mentioned it at the end of the interview. More by luck than judgement I got an job offer.

    Reply
  29. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

    This is very interesting to read as my organization has had several open positions over the past few months, so I’m frequently seeing candidates as they are given the tour. So far the male candidates have only worn suits, whereas the women there has been more diversity in dress- dresses, suits, slacks and blouses- though everyone has looked absolutely professional (far more professional than me at this point/this winter where business casual has become “how many sweaters can I wear and still move my arms”). And it seems that the younger than woman candidate the more likely she is to have on a suit and blazer. Just some purely random observations.

    Reply
  30. Joey

    Honestly I think it matters far less than alison is insinuating? I’ve worked in multiple big and small cities in the south in multiple industries for over 20 years and suits, while fine, don’t make or break a candidate anymore. As long as you look professional and not out of place few managers are going to go with someone because they wore a traditional suit.

    i think many people who hire now have relaxed their idea of what it means to look professional in an interview. I see a ton of folks now who hire people with visible tatoos, unshaven faces, non traditional haircuts, and non traditional professional attire who wouldn’t have let them in the door 20 years ago.

    Obviously there are exceptions, but from my view the professional world is redefining what it means to look professional.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m not going to reject an excellent candidate because she showed up in a polished and professional outfit that isn’t a suit. But it goes into overall presentation. I’m not going to reject an otherwise excellent candidate for not sending a thank-you note after the interview either, or for having an objective on her resume if everything else is great, or for being a minute late. But those are all things that go into the overall picture of you as a candidate, and why wouldn’t you want to present the best picture you can?

      Given how much people stress about every other aspect of a job interview (see yesterday’s post on cover letter formatting), it’s seriously bizarre to me that people wouldn’t want to be on top of their game in this regard.

      Reply
      1. Joey

        A thank you note costs next to nothing, writing a good cover letter- next to nothing, removing an objective- next to nothing.

        A good fitting suit though and shoes? Most people have a hard time stomaching spending upward of hundreds of dollars for a suit they’ll wear a handful of times. And few people want to pull out the dusty suit in their closet currently, if they even have one.

        Reply
          1. eee

            yes, I think suits fall in a weird middle ground on indicators of a good candidate. On the one hand, suits, just like a cover letter, resume, or interview responses, show that the candidate has a good grasp of the social expectations of the interview. Someone who didn’t wear a suit, and wore something inappropriate (clubwear, sweatpants, what have you) would indicate to me that they don’t understand very basic expectations of how to dress for an office, which would be a pretty big red flag. On the other hand, you don’t want to penalize people who cannot afford suits. Sure, it’s very easy to say “suck it up and spend more than you can afford on a suit”, and for lots of people that would be doable. On the other hand, for lots of people, spending money on a suit might mean they can’t afford to pay for rent, or food, or some other bill. Or they might simply not have the money to buy a suit in the first place.
            It would be really, really unfortunate to inadvertently screen out someone who would otherwise be a great fit because they could not afford a suit. I personally would probably try to weigh whether the person looked professional, put together, and appropriate. Sure, an 80-s style suit may proclaim “I have weird taste in fashion and I’m bad at sensing social norms,” but it also might say “I know I need to wear a suit to an interview, I cannot afford a suit, this is the best I could do looking in thrift stores.”

            Reply
            1. AcademiaNut

              I’ve seen the thrift shop approach recommended for people who need work/interview clothes and can’t afford to buy them. It can work, but finding something that fits and is appropriate is really hit and miss, particularly for women, and the more unusual your size or shape is the harder it is to find something acceptable.

              Reply
        1. AnotherAlison

          You just never know. My company requires everyone to attend an annual division meeting, and the dress code is suits, so you’ll be buying one to sit in the closet 99% of the time. As I mentioned above, some of these people have a daily dress code of boots and jeans.

          I’m not saying we wouldn’t hire someone *not* interviewing in a suit, but I think people get into their own world of saying *nobody does that anymore* when they really don’t know. Maybe 75% of the world doesn’t give two hoots about interview attire, but it’s not always a slam dunk to figure out which 25% does care.

          Reply
            1. AnotherAlison

              Sure, but would you want to reduce your shot at the next 5 years of wages at a well-paying job to save the cost of buying a suit*? Just like the cover letter discussion, the suit probably won’t be the deal breaker, but it could add a +/- to your overall candidacy.

              *I do understand that some people genuinely can’t afford it, no matter what the stakes are or whether the suit costs $20 or $500, but that’s not typically the case for people I’m interviewing. They’re just being cheap.

              Reply
              1. Joey

                its the equivalent of not wanting to buy a brand new pair of suit shoes and wearing your everyday shoes.
                Will it be noticed? Maybe. Will it make a difference? Most of the time, no.
                I just don’t want people thinking they need to go charge hundreds of dollars on the perfect new suit for that interview because its probably not going to make the difference.

                Reply
              2. jag

                Yes.

                If they can afford it, men should have at get one good suit. Everyone who ever thinks they might interview for an office job. For men, dark gray or navy. Solid. Not black. Not checks. Not pinstripes. Solid dark gray or navy. The dark gray is a bit more versatile if you might be going to funerals. The navy is a bit more versatile for younger people – a bit less boring. But either is good.

                It’s not good to have to run around at the last minute buying a suit when the need arises.

                Oh, and wear the suit at least a few times a year anyway to get used to it. If there is an occasion where it might be appropriate – social or professional – wear it.

                Reply
                1. blackcat

                  This is where I think men have an advantage. My husband has one nice black suit. He has worn it to weddings, funerals, and job interviews, just changing the shirt/tie combo. Yes, the suit cost a fair amount more than any one outfit I have, but he’s gotten a lot of use out of it. I can’t pull off wearing the same thing to all of those.

                2. AcademiaNut

                  For a man, if you buy a good dark grey suit, shoes, and two shirts and ties you’re set for at least a decade, for job interviews, weddings, funerals, formal dinners, cocktail parties, church, etc.

                  For women – you generally can’t wear the same thing you’d wear to a funeral to a wedding, or to a cocktail party to a job interview. So you’re going to need four or five outfits to cover various dressy events, plus appropriate accessories. Depending on the climate you live in, you may need different versions for summer and winter as well.

                  Women’s fashion also changes faster and more drastically than men’s. At the point when a man’s suit is looking a little bit dated, women’s fashions will generally have changed completely. So that suit you bought 10 years ago can be in good shape and still fit, and still not be appropriate for an interview.

            2. JB

              I generally agree, except it depends on what “that job” is. My first professional job? Sure. But I make a decent enough salary now that I could definitely afford a suit (if I didn’t already have some) for an interview. There are certainly many people who can’t afford a suit, and I always keep that in mind in interviewing–is it, for example, for a support position and they’re coming from a similar job that probably doesn’t pay well? In that kind of situation, I’d be fine with them showing up in a $20 suit from Ross or the thrift store, or a non-suit that is clean and professional looking and is something that looks like the nicest work outfit they have.

              Reply
        2. Kelly O

          I think this may be the disconnect in my brain, but I guess I don’t understand people who don’t have at least one more formal outfit on hand, just in case.

          Just pull out the “dusty” suit, get some Dryel if you don’t want to go to the dry cleaners (although that’s really a fairly inexpensive option) and put on the suit, because that’s just what you do. You might not pull it out again for years, but I guess I’ve always been of the mind it’s good to be prepared.

          And again, I may be weird. But you never know when someone is going to pass away or get married or have some sort of formal event that requires a step up in the wardrobe department.

          And maybe it’s because I’m Southern, and rather traditional when it comes to clothes. I know not everyone is, and I get that, but still. I just don’t get the big deal about dressing more nicely for an important occasion, when you want to present your most polished, professional, put-together self.

          Reply
          1. Joey

            Honestly Id probably ding you more for the old looking doesn’t quite fit well anymore suit than if you came in a nice well fitting day to day outfit.

            Reply
            1. mskyle

              Yeah, what’s more professional, really, wearing clothes that would be actually appropriate for a dressy day at the office or an old, ill-fitting “job hunter costume”? I don’t think I’ve ever worn a suit except for at job interviews and maybe a commencement ceremony or something (worked in higher ed for many years), although I’ve always been careful to get them with at least one piece that I can wear in other circumstances.

              I interviewed for my current job (as a software developer at a small tech company) in a dress with wiener dogs on it, a nice cardigan, tights, and ballet flats. As soon as I got the job I got rid of my suits. I hope I never have to buy one again!

              Reply
            2. JB

              But that’s just as arbitrary as dinging someone for not wearing a suit, if not more so. The norm is to wear a suit, or at least is has been for a long long long time, so long that people who are interviewing for casual-wear jobs still debate if they should go ahead and wear the suit. So it seems to make more sense to give someone credit for trying to meet the professional norm, even if the suit doesn’t fit great, when that’s all they can afford, versus someone who has a suit but refuses to wear it because they’ve decided the standards have changed.

              Reply
              1. Joey

                How so? I need them to look professional day in and day out. If they have on an ill fitting suit I have no idea if that will carry over to their work clothes.

                Reply
          2. Anx

            For women though, a funeral suit or wedding suit isn’t the same as a business suit.

            I actually did buy a suit after college for interviews. And new shoes. I no longer have shoes that are in condition. I am very hesitant to pay money again on shoes until I’m working more than 20 hours a week and am not mired in debt.

            In 7 seven years, that suit hasn’t helped me land a job that required a suit to interview.

            Reply
          3. Stone Satellite

            I’ve never been the same size 5 years running, the suit in my closet would look ridiculous on me now. Fortunately as a candidate for my current job, we were encouraged not to wear suits to interview, so I didn’t have to buy another one for this job.

            Reply
          4. Not So NewReader

            “I think this may be the disconnect in my brain, but I guess I don’t understand people who don’t have at least one more formal outfit on hand, just in case.”

            I understand the thinking behind this but I also know that there are plenty of people around me that do not own suits- men and women. They just have no need for a suit. It’s fine to wear jeans to a funeral or church, very few people care. Okay, very few people care enough to say something.

            I know I had a couple suits from my early 20s. I was determined to keep them because you never know. I lost weight, I had them taken in. They were kind of a classic style so I could limp along. I never wore them. I got rid of them in my late 30s. When I got into my 40s someone gave me a “little black dress”. It’s perfect it covers everything from my thyroid down to my ankles. I love this dress. I have worn it exactly once in 14 years. And now I have gained weight….

            This is where the suits and other dressy clothing goes. People may start out with it, but lose it somewhere along the way. Between style changes and body changes it ends up in Salvation Army eventually and never gets replaced.

            Reply
            1. JB

              At my office, you can always tell when someone has to go to court–they are, with the exception of a few of the high-ups, the only people in suits. I still have plenty of suits in my closet, but they’ve found their way to the back and only come out when I have to wear them.

              Reply
    2. Jen S. 2.0

      To me, interview attire is one of those things that won’t automatically get you the job, but certainly can lose you the job. If you have two otherwise equivalent candidates, it can come down to presentation. Why take the chance on being the one who looked sloppy?

      Reply
      1. Jen S. 2.0

        I agree 100%. (I also have seen some sloppy, ill-fitting, grubby-looking nightmare suits.) But there are interviewers who do not. You can’t predict who you’re going to get.

        Full disclosure: I am one who doesn’t see the big deal about a suit versus not. It’s no less or more comfortable to wear a coordinating jacket and skirt, dress, or pants than an ensemble that is not coordinated. I err on the side of wearing a suit, although I have worn separates to interviews (nice dress, blazer and dress, blazer and pants, pants and blouse, et cetera) and gotten the job; and I have worn suits and not gotten the job.

        Reply
    3. Cordelia Naismith

      I’m wondering if this might also be a north/south thing. I’m from the south, and I don’t think I’ve ever worn a suit to an interview. I always dress professionally — to a higher standard of professional dress than I would wear daily on the job — and it’s never really been an issue for me. A gray dress with a blazer or cardigan is my usual interview attire.

      Reply
  31. Ops Analyst

    Oooo. Ok, I have a question about what people consider a “suit”. For women, is it ok to wear dress slacks, a nice blouse, and a jacket that doesn’t match the pants? Meaning it’s all separates and not pants and jacket that come together? I usually wear something like this to interviews. It’s professional business clothing, not business casual. Would anyone hold it against me for not wearing a traditional “suit”?

    Reply
    1. mess

      That is not a suit, but whether or not it is acceptable depends on the role, industry and location as Allison said. I am wearing such an outfit today to make a presentation at a public meeting — I thought a suit would be too much but I still wanted to look professional.

      The one thing you have to do with this type of outfit is be sure the skirt/pants and jacket don’t match on purpose (like gray jacket, black pants). I can always tell when people try to “make a suit” with two black pieces that don’t match!

      Reply
      1. Ops Analyst

        Yes, they deliberately don’t match. I have one interview outfit I wear regularly for a first interview. The pants are herringbone and the jacket is black. And all three pieces are high quality fabrics. They are very clearly business clothes. It would look way to business to wear to anything other than a work function. I also do presentations and this is about the level I would wear for them.

        Reply
    2. fposte

      Have a look upthread–a conversation dove into that. The gist is that for most places that’s fine, but those that want a suit really want a suit.

      Reply
    3. MsM

      I think it’s better if everything matches, but it at least has to look like an ensemble you’ve put some thought into, not just like you grabbed the first suit jacket you found and threw it on over everything else.

      Reply
    4. Ops Analyst

      Thanks for the responses. I recently started a new job so I won’t have to worry about this again for a while. This outfit seemed to be fine for this company. It is also a tech / software company so perhaps that has something to do with it.

      Reply
  32. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees

    Here’s a question: Outerwear. What’s appropriate? When I interviewed for the job I have now it was January in New England and my mother (who I was staying with at the time) absolutely freaked that I wanted to wear an oversized men’s peacoat to my interview because it wasn’t fitted and therefore not professional. Given that the people I interviewed with didn’t even get to see me in my jacket, it seemed like a silly thing to focus on.

    (If you’re in California and don’t have this problem because you’ve never seen a below freezing day… yes, I’m bitter)

    Reply
    1. AnotherAlison

      I think the peacoat in question would first depend if you’re a man or a woman and how oversized we’re talking about. If it’s simply not fitted, I think it’s okay (as long as we’re not talking about a suit-every-day lawyer-type job). If it looks like it’s someone else’s coat, no.

      If we were talking about a ski jacket or other casual coat (I have an army green nylon one with a furry hood that comes to mind), nope.

      I’d leave it in the car, if you don’t have far to walk. If there was a chance I’d have to carry around an inappropriate coat while meeting with the interviewers, I might leave behind a really tacky coat, even if I had to walk.

      Reply
    2. Xarcady

      The bigger issue, for me this past winter, was what to put on my feet. Even driving, there was a lot of snow to contend with, most days. The walk through the company parking lot could be very snowy and icy. Nice shoes would leave you slipping and sliding, good snow boots were too clunky and not appropriate.

      I have one pair of winter shoe-boots that look like oxford shoes when worn with pants, so I wore those some of the time for interviews. On days when it was really snowing, I wore snow boots and changed to real shoes in the lobby of the building. But then I had to drag a tote bag around, which didn’t feel very professional.

      But any sort of winter coat that fits should be fine. I don’t think I own a “fitted” winter coat–I buy them a trifle on the large side, so that I can easily layer a suit jacket, blazer or heavy sweater underneath.

      Reply
    3. Lizzy May

      I dress for warmth. I’ll bring a change of shoes but my winter coat is my coat. It keeps me warm and keeps me from shivering and sniffling during the interview. I hope that anyone who lives in the cold gets it but at the end of it, I can’t afford a second winter coat and warmth trumps looks.

      Reply
      1. blackcat

        I also think it depends on how bad the weather is. My husband interviewed in 5 degree with snow weather and he had to walk several blocks outside. He dressed for warmth. No one held it against him. When it’s really cold, I think people who live in cold climates are pretty forgiving (particularly on the footwear front).

        But wearing a shabby winter when it’s 40 or so out would seem strange to me. I think it’d be better to wear a sweater with a suit jacket or just suffer being a bit cold than be in an unprofessional coat if the weather is chilly but not very cold.

        Reply
    4. Florida

      This is definitely regional. In Florida, you can get by with any coat (truly, any coat) as long as you are dressed appropriately when you remove your coat. We have one week of really cold weather each year (as in, it gets down to the 30-40’s), so no one expects you to have a huge wardrobe of winter coats.

      BTW, in the summer it is freaking hot here (it’s the humidity). If you are wear a bikini to the office, you will still be sweating bullets by the time you walk 100 feet across the asphalt parking lot. Having said that, I would not even think of going to an interview without wearing a suit. I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees with 90% humidity. I’m wearing a suit for an interview.

      It is one day of your life, people. It won’t kill you to wear a suit.

      I understand that many people do not own suits and can’t afford one. I’m sympathetic to that and don’t really have a good suggestion. However, I feel like many of the objections in the comments are not about money, but more about putting forth the effort.

      Reply
  33. CaliCali

    I think the West, in general, is more relaxed dress-wise than the East coast. I’ve lived in California and Colorado, in urban areas, and typically worn coordinating, but not necessarily matching, blazer and slacks/skirt combos for interviewing. I’ve also worked in fairly conservative industries and casual ones. My current company is hiring relatively aggressively and most people come in similar attire. I don’t think it would ever hurt anyone to wear a suit, but unless you were in finance, law, or government, I don’t think it’d be a deal-breaker for anyone to be wearing suit separates, not wear a tie, etc. out here.

    Reply
    1. doreen

      I think it depends on exactly what you mean by “suit separates”. If you mean the sort that I always buy, where the pants/skirt and jacket are made of the same fabric and color but they’re sold separately (so I can buy the size 16 jacket and the size 12 pants/skirt), that wouldn’t be a deal breaker anywhere. The mix-and-match separates probably would be a deal breaker some places.

      Reply
  34. Prismatic Professional

    I didn’t see this resource in the discussion but I thought I’d let everyone know that Dress for Success[https://www.dressforsuccess.org/] provides free interview outfits to women. In my state, you have to be referred by a non-profit agency. However, they are not picky about the non-profit. If you volunteer with a non-profit (or are in a government program) I recommend asking if they could refer you. My clients have gotten 2-3 complete outfits (including shoes, handbags, and jewelry).

    Reply
  35. LEL

    I wore a suit to my interview for my first professional job–blazer, skirt, office-appropriate heels and jewelry, etc. One of my interviewers (the hiring manager) was wearing a polo with khakis, and the other interviewer (senior staffer) was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and jeans. I felt absurdly overdressed. So when I was invited back for a second interview, I dressed down a little bit, wearing slacks and a sweater. I figured I’d misread the culture on the first interview, and here was my chance to correct it. Turns out the hiring manager was out sick that day, so I interviewed with his boss instead, who was wearing a tie and sportcoat. Now I was the one who was underdressed! I was kind of embarrassed, but since there was nothing I could do about it, I tried not to let it rattle me.

    I got the job–and the Hawaiian-shirted interviewer became my trainer and later colleague. Turns out he and the manager were basically the two outliers to the dress culture–which is conservative, and on the dressier side of business casual. And it was a good lesson for me–when in doubt, wear the suit!

    Reply
  36. Rachel B

    Accessories and your shirt can make a big difference for women. I work in tech, where a button down and pearls reads too corporate. But the same suit with a more relaxed top and great shoes would work for most positions, especially for the first interview.

    Reply
  37. Selkie

    I always find this discussion really interesting. I’m plus size, and I really can’t get away with pencil skirts or sheath dresses. Can’t do it. I carry my weight in my stomach and it *really shows* – like, ever since I was a young teenager I’ve had a stomach overhang. I usually wear skater dresses, and sometimes even a circle skirt. I interviewed in an a-line black/white check dress and a blazer over the top because I literally could not find a suit to fit my 4’11” plus size body that would have allowed me to have money to eat that month.

    I find it infuriating that the ‘professional’ standard for dresses is so form-fitting. I’ve spent hours in shops trying on suit jackets – either they’re grotesquely long in the sleeves, too tight in the bust, or the armpits are so deep that I can’t lift my arms without the whole jacket going with them.

    At a bit of a loss. How do other plus size women handle this?

    Reply
    1. LadyTL

      I go for long business skirts (maxi length) or if I can find a pair of good black slacks. Tops always seems a crap shoot though at the high end of plus size. Though I can’t find a good jacket either. Plus size clothing for work is so hard to find in certain size ranges.

      Reply
    2. AW

      How do other plus size women handle this?

      Pray for the day that spending money you don’t have on clothing that’s unflattering and/or doesn’t fit* stops being a prerequisite for getting a professional job.

      In the mean time, I do the best I can while acknowledging the fact that anyone who’d hold it against me is trying to weed people like me out anyway. For interviews I default to black dress pants, a nice shell, and suit jacket and try not to move my arms too much during the interview. But I’ve also tried your strategies as well: skater dresses, a-line dresses or skirts with a blazer or nice sweater.

      *Assuming something you can even fake fitting into exists

      Reply
    3. puddin

      Try eshakti for separates. They custom make lengths on many items and you can tailor the sleeve style and other details. I am not petite like you, but I have to search quite a bit for well constructed clothing that fits my shape. Petite Plus size are indeed difficult to come by. For a suit you may have to buy regular plus and have it tailored, which of course, adds to the cost unless you go to someplace like Nordstroms with free tailoring.

      Reply
    4. Connie-Lynne

      I have some nice slacks, and a nice longline skirt; I pair them with mock turtlenecks and hope that I’m not interviewing on a hot day.

      I’ve given up on finding a suit jacket that works. Even if I got one tailored to my bust size and belly, it would end up looking more like I was playing dress-up than that I was wearing professional clothes, due to my size (I’m 5’6″, 220 lbs).

      I did have some luck recently trying on waistcoats. They end up looking stylish but not costumy, I don’t know why. I’d have to get them tailored to work with my bustline, but I’ve been considering it — it might still be a little over-the-top for an interview but would give me something more dressy to wear to the office on Professional Days.

      Reply
    5. Snoskred

      Selkie, I personally read many blogs of plus size fashion bloggers. They usually have sources and links for the clothes so you can easily find them yourself.

      With internet shopping these days, there are so many more places you can buy reasonably priced plus size clothes. You just have to figure out where to look for them. :)

      Reply
    6. Leisabet

      I hear you.
      Try an a-line skirt in a dark, solid colour – on the knee or very slightly above, so it doesn’t make you seem shorter – with a lighter coloured blouse and a blazer/cardigan. I’m shaped like a fertility statue, and this seems to work for me.

      I actually found two very nice blazer-type jackets at Forever 21+! I treat them as separates – worn with the wrap dresses that are my summer work staple – and the look all together seems polished and is comfortable. I gave up on formal skirt suits all together when I realised I was spending most of my time tugging the skirt back into place. :)

      Reply
  38. LadyTL

    I seem stuck in business casual for interviews since I am in the high end of plus size and can’t find a suit that either fits well enough or is quality enough to take to being altered. I do try to look as put together as possible though.

    Reply
  39. PostPartum Suits?

    Okay, here is a one time situation that if anyone wants to give advice on, I’ll take it. I’m up for a promotion and if I make it to the next stage I will go through a formal interview process. Normally, I’d wear a suit, even though the work environment is casual. However, right now I’m not quite 4 months postpartum, and nowhere near my suit size. If I make it to the interview stage do I cough up the cash for a suit that I’d wear once or twice, or since it’s internal dress like I would for work? (I hate doing this here as a first time commenter, but this really struck a chord with me, and now I’m freaking out about buying a suit.)

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      What’s your field? How long have you worked there? Have you seen what other (successful) internal candidates have worn? I think you’re probably fine in a (nice) dress, maybe unless you’re in a very conservative field like finance or law.

      Reply
      1. PostPartum Suits?

        It’s public service. This is the first time my employer has posted and interviewed for a promotional position in the 8 years I’ve worked here. In the past 3 years we’ve had quite a bit of change, including at least three promotions without any sort of application process. I assume there was some sort of interview process, but it was not public. I kind of feel like they are trying to see how hard I will work post -kids to get the promotion, and it is frustrating. I actually discovered AAM when this all started, and it’s really helped keep me in check with all the change how it’s not personal.

        Reply
        1. Joey

          Do your bosses ever wear suits for work, like when they have to go to important meetings? Will you ever have to wear a suit in the role? If so, and you can afford it Id try to go with a suit or suit separates.

          Reply
    2. puddin

      Try Rent the Runway or Gwinnie B for rentals. Not sure about how many suits you will find in there, but there are plenty of professional separates to pick from.

      Reply
    3. JB

      As someone who has trouble figuring out what to wear to even social events (lots of “Hey, friend, what are YOU wearing” calls), I can feel that panic. I don’t have any advice except what is very specific to me and my work place. I work in law in a conservative environment, but we cut some slack to the people we know and work with. We already know what they are like at work and whether they get the culture, we already know if they take the work seriously, and enough women work here that we get that post-baby body sizes aren’t the same as pre-baby bodies for a long time, if ever. As long as the person dresses in a way that they aren’t assuming they don’t need to put in any effort for the interview, it would be fine. But that’s only my work place, so YMMV.

      Reply
    4. Florida

      I’m in the always-wear-a-suit camp, but I think in your case, you’ll be OK without a suit. Since it’s an internal interview, your dress isn’t as important as it would be in another situation. (That’s not to say you should show up in sweat pants!)

      IMO, the reason to wear a suit to an interview is that so much of other people’s opinion of you depends on their first impression of you, and your appearance is the first thing they notice. Yes, you can get a job without a knock-out first impression, but why make it harder on yourself?

      In your case, the first impression aspect is moot. They formed their first impression of you a long time ago. So, I would wear the nicest business outfit you have that you feel comfortable in. Don’t wear something that used to be your favorite outfit, but now it doesn’t fit right. You will be uncomfortable and you won’t perform as well. Even if your spouse, or whoever’s opinion you get for this type of thing, says it looks fine, if you don’t think it looks good on your current body, don’t wear it.

      So I think the criteria for you should be:
      a. nicer than what you would wear to work on a regular basis
      b. you feel comfortable and you feel like you look good
      c. as close as possible to suit-level in terms of dressiness, professional (I hope that part makes sense)

      Good luck with your interview.

      Reply
  40. JB

    This is way off-topic, but I have a favor to ask. This week I have something I absolutely have to finish, but I’m having focus issues. If anyone sees me commenting here tomorrow through Friday, would you please politely tell me to go away?

    Reply
      1. JB

        Oh, good point. the other JB would probably not appreciate being told to am-scray. If I remember, I will specify that I’m not the JB from Houston?

        Reply
  41. Austinite Product Manager

    Here in Austin, if you put a suit to interview for any of the dozens of tech company I’m familiar with, your culture fit would definitely be questioned (even for sales or financial positions). Last year we were even told that for a company event for customers, wearing a suit would mean we’d be asked to go home and change (!). Like AAM said, do your homework to figure out what makes sense for your location, role, and company.

    Reply
  42. NewbieAlex

    This is a really interesting thread and something that a college student I’ve been wondering about. I am going to graduate college next year but I am very small and look very young. When I wear suit, instead of making me look older, it makes me look much younger, like a toddler that escaped from the dress up box. So, when I dress up I tend to wear clothes that look less “little kid dress up-y” like skirt/blouse/cardigan or sheath dress/cardigan.

    So my question is… is it still better to wear a suit even when it overwhelms my small frame and makes me look younger or is it better to go with something like a cardigan that doesn’t make it look like I’m a kid playing dress up.

    Thank you all so much!

    Reply
    1. C Average

      This is exactly my problem! I just wear dresses. I don’t care if it’s frowned upon. I’d look ridiculous and feel really uncomfortable in a suit.

      Reply
    2. Hillary

      If you’re interviewing for a job where a suit would be expected, try to find a suit that fits really well, especially through the shoulders. A good fit will make you look polished. You probably also want a slimmer line and minimal shoulder pads. That may mean trying on everything your size at Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and Nordstrom Rack and then paying for tailoring. Unfortunately this is expensive advice.

      I feel a little bad saying it, but we expect our external interviewees for professional positions to wear classic business suits, especially the students applying for development programs. Even a non-traditional tie attracts the wrong kind of attention (you want to be remembered for your sterling qualities, not your tie). A dress and good blazer would be fine.

      Reply
  43. Matt

    I have nothing against wearing a suit for an interview or other special occasions, but I can’t get over why a tie must be a mandatory part of the suit. This is just the most useless piece of clothing that was ever invented. My theory is that many of the world’s problems come from politicians and bank managers wearing this thing, thereby restricting blood flow to the brain ;-)

    Reply
  44. Zillah

    Ugh, this subject makes me so tense.

    I’m currently job-searching and don’t have a whole lot of disposable income, so I’ve been a little shy of finding the money to buy a nice suit, especially since I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary in my field (library science/archiving). What I’ve been wearing to interviews is an A-line skirt, tights, a nice shirt, a nice cardigan, and either booties or just plain heels. Nobody’s seemed offended… but ugh, I worry. But I don’t even know where I’d find an affordable suit in the first place – I hate anything button down that isn’t cotton, because it just doesn’t fit in approximately a gazillion ways. :/

    Reply
    1. Reburkle

      I really don’t think it’s necessary for the library/archive field! Unless, of course, you’re interviewing for a corporate library job. But generally speaking, cardigans all the way :)

      Reply
    2. A

      I work as a children’s librarian but I always wear a suit. I think minimum would be trousers and a blazer. I don’t wear a button down under the suit, usually a silk shell or similar. I’ve gotten suits at NY and Company for around $100 and also Lane Bryant when I interviewed just a few months after having a baby.

      I never wear any of the pieces after actually taking the job, of course. Maybe if I was doing a presentation for the Board, but I haven’t been asked to do that.

      Reply
    3. Tomato Frog

      I was told before getting my first professional archivist job that a suit is more or less expected in archives (this advice was given to me by an early career archivist, but one who had done some hiring), and so I’ve only worn a suit. However, I know entry-level archivists who have gotten jobs without wearing suits, and I think in general if you’re not wearing a suit, you’re in good company in the LIS field.

      Reply
  45. C Average

    I loathe separates. Hate how they look, hate how they fit, hate how they feel. I only do dresses for interviews. Nice, tailored dresses with nylons and heels and appropriate jewelry, makeup, and hair. I’ve never felt underdressed in an interview.

    Reply
  46. AnonAnalyst

    I’m super late to this discussion, but as a (recent) former California resident, I can’t think of anywhere that I’ve lived in the state that it was not the norm to wear a suit to an interview. I’ve lived in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco, and the central coast, and while I don’t think anyone would have been eliminated for not wearing a suit to an interview, it was definitely expected that a candidate would show up wearing one in all the places I worked (and I don’t work in finance, banking, or law).

    I can think of certain companies and industries where you’ll be perceived as out of touch if you wear a suit to an interview, but I just wanted to throw that out there as one data point because the “we’re not as formal in California” thing has never been my experience in the interview process (although maybe I’m just an outlier?) It is, however, generally my experience that office dress codes are more relaxed in California, so I would agree that it’s probably less likely that you would need to wear one daily after being hired.

    Reply
  47. NickelandDime

    I just default to a suit. It makes me feel better and I don’t have to think. I have a black three piece – jacket, pants, skirt, some shells in various prints, and black pumps. That way I can switch things up for multiple interviews. I keep a pair of panty hose on hand in case I need it, but won’t wear them if it’s 100 degrees outside. What also helps is I maintain a nice rotation of work/professional clothes. I make sure they fit, don’t look dated, are clean and repairs are made quickly. You just never know when you might get That Call. Plus I do go to work everyday. Maintaining a good work wardrobe also helped when I was laid off for a very long time. I had nice things so I didn’t have to spend money I didn’t have at the time on a suit. It’s just like keeping your portfolio updated, your resume updated, etc. You don’t need to spend lots of money or have LOTS of clothes. I don’t. Buy the best you can and take care of it. Be prepared for opportunity.

    Reply
  48. ess emm

    This morning I received an email containing details about an upcoming interview. In the email the dress code was listed–business professional–I was delighted that they eliminated any ambiguity. :)

    Reply
  49. PolarBear

    I work as a PA…I haven’t worn a suit for interview for years and I get jobs. I work in finance too. I wear a smart dress instead.

    Reply
  50. CollegeChick

    I don’t want to sound like I’m whining or anything, I guess I just don’t see the need to go out and buy an expensive suit (even discounted, suits are still expensive), when I have lovely, professional buttoned-down blouses and nice, black slacks – or even in one of my nice dresses – that I already have. I’ve thought about getting an inexpensive blazer at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, but I look so horrible in them, I’d rather go into a job interview and look well put together & pretty, rather than stiff-looking.

    Reply
  51. Kirpi

    I would rather work at a place where my performance was valued over my state of dress and the interview should reflect those qualities in a company I would want to work at. So – no suit and if you don’t like that I don’t want to work for you anyway.

    Reply

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