There’s a lot that goes into being ready for an interview: brushing up on the company history, researching what the process will be like, having fresh copies of your résumé printed, etc. When you’ve put time and effort into ensuring an interview goes well, it’s important your appearance reflects that. Interviews are all about putting your best foot forward, and that’s a little hard if you’re wearing flip-flops.
Why Does It Matter?
No matter how many times you hear it, the concept bears repeating: First impressions are important. Your posture, your facial expression and your clothing are the first cues you give to a recruiter about who you are as an employee. According to Tori Criswell, a Quicken Loans recruiting team leader: “I’m not looking to see if you’re wearing designer clothes or your Sunday best, I’m looking to see if you’re paying attention to the details and trying to put your best foot forward. How prepared are you? If you don’t take pride in how you present yourself in your first impression, how do I know you take pride in your work?” If you’re serious about getting the job, your appearance should reflect that.
It’s Not Like the Old Days
Of course, that doesn’t mean you always need to dress seriously. Gray three-piece suits and black pencil skirts aren’t as common as they used to be in job interviews. Cecil Johnson is a Quicken Loans university relationship manager who works to help college students understand their own “personal brand” and how that can be expressed at interviews. “Maybe you don’t come in a suit, but you wear some nice dress pants, a nice shirt and a blazer. Feel free to add a little color to what you’re wearing,” says Johnson. Your tie or accessories are the perfect place to add some color without overpowering the entire outfit, such as pairing red shoes with a navy dress or a purple shirt with a darker pair of dress pants. It’s great to let some of your personality shine through in what you decide to wear, as long as it meshes with the company’s expectations for acceptable dress. The tricky part can be deciding what “acceptable” means to the company.
Research, Research, Research
There are no hard and fast rules for what a company considers appropriate, so doing research beforehand will make choosing what to wear much easier. A great place to start is the company’s corporate website. Many employers have pages on their corporate sites dedicated to mission statements and company culture. The tone those pages are written in, whether it’s casual and fun or serious and formal, will give you a general idea of the image the company wants to project to the outside world. As an employee, you’d be a part of that image, so trying to match the general vibe will be a definite asset. Also, those sites will most likely feature pictures of current employees. Take a look and see what sort of outfits you find. Those outfits can act as a basic guideline for your own choices.
“It also never hurts to ask your recruiter,” adds Criswell. Since their role involves supporting the company culture through strategic hiring, recruiters are experts in the culture. They’re trained to know what fits and what doesn’t. They also come in contact with team members from every business area and understand the different needs of each. Some departments, such as sales and retail, are more client-facing and may have stricter rules as a result. You won’t know unless you take a few minutes to ask.
Friends who work for the company are another great resource, but always remember that what someone wears day to day will not always translate to a great interview outfit. It helps to think of an interview as a first date. What you wear on the first date is quite often different from what you might wear on the 40th. You naturally become more relaxed over time and learn the ins and outs of what the company allows. Instead, find out what your friend chose to wear to the first interview or what the leaders typically wear. That will put you in a much better position to shine.
Better to Be Overdressed Than Underdressed
“I am a firm believer in ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have,’” says Criswell. “If you are going somewhere that is more business casual like the culture we have here at Quicken Loans, you still want to avoid jeans under any circumstance.” No flip-flops, no sweatpants and no sweatshirts. If the item was designed for a different activity, like going to the beach or working out, it might not be the best option for an interview. It all comes back to putting your best foot forward. When the interviewer sees you, you want them to know you’re ready to work, not spend the day on the couch.
Also, be cautious of current trends some brands advertise as work wear. Unless you are interviewing for a job with that brand or one in the fashion industry, some looks will be too “out there” for interviews. You want to look your best, but you also don’t want your clothing to overpower what you have to say. “Don’t wear accessories that are a distraction. For men, this isn’t the time to bring out your 50-inch Shinola watch, and for ladies, this probably isn’t the time to wear all your bangles on your arms,” explains Johnson. The interviewer should be focused on who you are and what you bring to the table, not on what you’re wearing.
When you’re in the midst of a job hunt, a time might come when you need to be ready for an interview at a moment’s notice. Having a few pieces in your closet that will work for any interview will make preparing on short notice a much smoother process. Criswell advises: “Have a pair of dress slacks that fit correctly. For women it could also be a skirt, whether it’s pencil or pleated. Have a nice pair of shoes. They don’t need to be fancy, just clean and presentable. A button-down is also a must for both men and women. And have a nice way to carry your belongings. It doesn’t need to be expensive or designer, just a clean, simple place to put your résumé so it doesn’t get wrinkled or destroyed.” Pick staple pieces in traditional and subdued colors, like navy blue, tan, black and white. It will make mixing and matching much easier.
Having these pieces ready is about more than just having them in your closet. They need to be presentable as well. If you’ve owned them for a longer period, make sure they still fit and they didn’t get damaged the last time you wore them. Johnson adds: “Always iron your clothes. If you don’t have an iron, hang them in the bathroom while you run a hot shower and allow the wrinkles to drop. You can also put your clothes in the dryer for at least a minute, take them out, and put them on a hanger. Don’t allow your clothes to be wrinkled.” If the items are ready, clean and pressed in your closet, what to wear to a last-minute interview won’t be a worry.
Your Style, Their Style
Depending on where you decide to interview, there can be way more rules that come with being work-ready. Some companies may not allow you to have tattoos, unusual hair colors or piercings. When contemplating the dress code of a company, you may need to ask yourself how much of your personal style you may have to tone down during the work day. If a certain form of expression is very important to you, working to find a company that shares your views will go a long way toward ensuring you enjoy your work life.
“My personal style tends to work well with this company,” says Michelle Giorlando, a copy editor with the Quicken Loans Marketing team. Her outfits have a vintage vibe, with floral prints and tea-length skirts that give her a distinctive flair in the office. “I just air on the slightly more conservative when I’m at work. When I interviewed for the company, I wanted to wear something that really showed my personality, which I knew this culture encourages. I wore this great dress with birds printed on it and some cute green shoes. I interviewed almost five years ago, but when I saw my interviewer recently, she said she remembered my outfit and that she could immediately tell who I was.” When your personality matches the culture, it becomes much easier to find things to wear that are not only work-appropriate but also make you feel your best. Always take time to learn about a company’s culture before you interview. Culture fit goes a long way to making sure you get to express who you are every day.
And Remember …
How you dress is important, but it isn’t everything. The clothing you wear is only one piece of your “personal brand,” and a recruiter is reviewing everything you bring to the table. Criswell reminds us: “Appearance isn’t just what you wear. Are you smiling, making eye contact, how is your posture, how is your demeanor? A lot of times we think of appearance as just what you have on your body, but your appearance is really your overall presence.” You are who the recruiter wants to interview, not your clothing. Take time and be presentable when choosing what you wear, but don’t let yourself worry about it too much. Remember that a friendly smile and an open attitude can tell just as much about you as the shirt you’re wearing.
Don’t forget to add Quicken Loans to your options list when job hunting! With so many different types of businesses in the Quicken Loans Family of Companies, who knows what you’ll get wear every day? Find out more at the Quicken Loans careers site!
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