Dress for success: What does it mean, exactly?

Your appearance sends a message.  It’s important it’s sending the right one. And although we don’t recommend becoming someone you’re not because authenticity is a positive asset to finding the right fit for you and the company. We’ve seen often that the choices you make about your appearance can have a huge influence on your career, in both positive and negative ways.

Your Outfit is a Non-verbal Interviewing Cue

Interview guides talk about how non-verbal cues like making eye contact, firm handshakes, etc. are just as important as how you answer the questions.  And physical appearance is a huge non-verbal cue, and it’s more complicated than just ‘looking neat and tidy’. Here are some things to consider when getting ready for your next IT job interview.

Consider the IT industry

An ‘edgy’ fashion is more appreciated in advertising than in Big 5 consulting. And the reverse is true as well. I’ve seen talented people not get jobs in creative fields because they didn’t look ‘cool’ enough.  Dressing for success has different definitions in different environments. Ensure you know the environment you are walking into and present the you that fits in with that.

Consider the co-workers and clients

Try to find out what everyone else is wearing. You don’t want to go in with the most formal of business suits if a stylish and trendy outfit will make more of an impression. And you certainly don’t want to be underdressed. Also, looking into the companies who are clients of the company you are interviewing with will help you determine the type of look they are expecting and the environment they have created.

Consider the IT Role

No one expects a junior IT consultant to show up in a 3-piece suit – in fact, I’ve seen IT consultants confuse people by showing up in a shirt and tie rather than khakis and a button-down.  Similarly, a hedge-fund manager who arrives wearing a black turtleneck and jeans is going to be mistaken for the IT guy or possible a Steve Jobs impersonator. Dress to the role you are interviewing for.

Consider the Organization

A high-tech company located in a converted warehouse downtown is going to have different standards for appearance than a family-owned business in a small town. Waltzing in to the converted warehouse in $350 sunglasses and $500 shoes may be a good way to indicate you’ll fit in there; it probably won’t send the same message in the family business. Be respectful of the culture the organization has created.

Outfit Standards Tend to be Higher in Big Cities than Suburbs

If you’re going for a job in a big downtown office, you may want to invest in a high-end suit or designer handbag to signal that you’re sufficiently ‘cosmopolitan’ and polished to send the right message on behalf of the company

As we mentioned before, you don’t have to look like everyone else, follow a specific set of rules or become someone you’re not. You just have to be aware that the choices you make in regards to your appearance may affect your career in one way or another – and then make your decisions accordingly.

If you are looking for a new IT position, we’d love to meet you. We have many positions ready to fill and love to meet new candidates. Connect with us today!

For more tips on the interview process and all things leading to your new IT position, visit our Guide to Finding the Perfect Tech Job.