Never knowingly underdressed

A couple of articles over the weekend focused on the decline of the business suit.  One such article on the BBC website highlighted a recent poll of 2,000 British workers by online bank First Direct that “found that only one in 10 employees wears a suit every day, more than a third of staff opt for jeans and only 18% regularly wear a tie”

This got me to thinking as to the impact of the ever-changing face of workplace attire on the interview process.  Knowing your audience is crucial to interview success.  Doing your homework as to the culture, the people, the environment in to which you are heading is a crucial part of your interview preparation.  So, what to wear?

A simple rule of thumb applies.  You are unlikely to be criticised, to lose out on a job opportunity, for being overdressed.  You are however very likely to be ruled out for being under – dressed ( in every sense of the phrase ).  So don’t hedge your bets.  Once your through the door you have earned the right to sit alongside your colleagues in board shorts and flip-flops if that’s de rigueur.  Until that happens, step up, smarten up, sharpen up.



Filed under Interviews

6 responses to “Never knowingly underdressed

  1. Wow, you are a true blue aren’t you Lee?

    I’m afraid you might have allowed your personal preference to cloud your judgment a little here my friend. Whilst we can agree that suited and booted is the safest bet, it’s an over generalization to say that certain employers would not penalize being overdressed at interview. A decade ago, I recruited heavily in the then ‘new media’ sector (how quaint that now sounds), and the cultural stipulations I received from clients was quite clear – no bankers, no accountants, no management consultants – in other words, no ‘City’ types. I even received an explicit instruction from one client who actually said if the candidate came in a suit, he would be out! Being correctly dressed at interview is all about cultural fit, and that is a relative not absolute value.

    So here’s a better a rule of thumb for you:

    Dress one level above what the clients wears normally. Granted, that usually that does mean tie, suit, starched white collar and everything else, but sometimes that means no more than a collar and clean trainers!

    Good post Lee, not many get me commenting on Monday morning. Remind me to see you a copy of Das Kapital for next Valentines Day.



    • Hung

      As always great value in your contribution, thank you! You read me too well!

      I guess my post may be a little simplistic, but I suspect we agree. My point was not necessarily about the need to wear a suit and tie, but simply to stress that it is better to be overdressed than under – dressed. Extreme examples serve to emphasise the point.

      Your point about clean trainers is absolutely true. There are undoubtedly occasions when wearing trainers to interview might be appropriate, but do you wear the clean pair or your old faithful pair that have been chewed by the dog several times and smell so bad that only RentoKill would be the safest bet for disposal!?

      Dress the part and dress it up.

      Yours in unashamed capitalism!

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  3. Whilst this topic is often discussed, many people still do their best to cock it up. It’s simple; try to look your very smartest when it matters.

    I wrote about the weirdness of getting my first suit just recently.

  4. My philosophy is when in doubt, dress up. It’s always easier to take a tie off then try to find one to put on. Same with shoes for that matter. :>)

  5. The following was posted on Linked in In the UK Business Network Group: A recent survey highlighted 10% of British Workers wear a suit and only 18% a tie. Are there any circumstances under which it is acceptable not to wear a tie / business suit to an interview?
    My comment:
    James Leeper • To wear or not to wear? That is the question…

    An answer lies in the behavioural preferences we all have and how this accumulates into the culture of the organisation we encounter or work in. Wearing a suit and a tie, or, shirts with collars with buttons done, or undone, to reveal little, or, too much and how one wears the dress, or suit, or, not at all reflects and reveals our ability to adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in contrast to our own natural behaviour.

    Some of the responses given in this discussion are good illustrations of what happens in practice and how we align our natural behaviour (feeling comfortable) to the our need to adapt our behaviour (ranging from still feeling comfortable to feeling distinctly uncomfortable) to the work environment. A 44 page guidance manual on how to dress may be perceived by some as overdoing it and others as an absolutely necessary prerequisite for earning a whacking bonus! A clear display of the Organisational culture within UBS and possibly too intensely left brained that might restrict the freer spirited more right brained souls.

    I suppose this puts a new slant on the phrase “If the suit don’t fit, don’t wear it.”?

    Enjoy having a peruse through this link, which has lots of information, explains a little more about what on earth I am describing here. It is the latest in neuro-behavioural preference mapping (N-bPM), mapping out observed behaviour using the research from the advances in neuroscience and scanning technology (rather than predicting behaviour which psychometric testing does; N-bPM is not a psychometric).

    It might interest readers and members of this group to know that this is being used for for mapping out Organisational Culture as well as enhancing the selection process with the focus on suitability. Its plus side is that it is objective and non-discriminatory for those over a certain age finding it a challenge to get interviews. It can save up to 2/3rds on the cost of time and wastage when recruiting.

    As for interviews and any important meetings…a good reconnaissance question prior to the meeting is never wasted along with common sense, courtesy and respect for others? Now there is a clue as to my behavioural preferences. 😉

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