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Can You Overdress For An Interview?

Remember - you only have 7 seconds to make a first impression, and how you’re perceived during those 7 seconds can be the difference between landing the job and missing out on the opportunity. We don’t like to think we are that judgmental, but it’s not a conscious judgement, first impressions are an inherent reaction to another person.

In 7 seconds, the tools you have to portray yourself well are your body language and your attire. It’s all too easy to under-dress for an interview, but can you overdress for an interview?

When dressing for an interview, you want relay professionalism, competence, respect. The employer wants to know that your presence will represent the company well when a potential, or current, client walks through the door.

Some of out women's professional attire

What should you wear?

We’ve talked to hiring managers and staffing firms across a variety of industries and the most common recommendation is to wear business professional attire. You may be advised to leave the suit jacket at home for the second interview, but it’s rare that you would be judged negatively for overdressing. When in doubt, wear a suit (men) or professional dress/skirt with blazer (women).  Make sure that you are wearing a style that fits you well: You only get one chance to make a first impression, so don’t cut any corners.

If you don’t want to want to spend the money on a new suit, don’t be afraid to rent one. We rent quality suits here at Own The Boardroom! Browse the options to see what we have for you.

One-up rule

One of the most common ways to decide what to wear to your interview is the “one-up rule”.  This is where you find out what the dress code is at your potential employer and then dress one step above that. If the company dresses casual, for example, then you should wear business casual.  If they typically wear business casual, then you should wear business professional. Use our concept of the dress code ladder to help visualize which dress code is best for your situation.

(Share the dress code ladder with your network: Tweet this)

A few great examples of mens attire that we offer.

How you can overdress

We started this article with the question of “can you overdress for an interview?”, and the answer is yes. As someone interviewing for entry-level or junior positions, you will be given more leeway because you’ve (presumably) spent less time in office environments. If you are interviewing for more senior positions, your attire will be assessed as a sign of whether you ‘fit’ with the culture. Beware of overdressing in this situation: If you show up to the interview in an outfit that is excessively more professional than what your interviewer is wearing, you may make them feel uncomfortable.

Another way that you can overdress is by wearing too many accessories. Jewelry is fine, but you don’t need to wear it all at the same time! Leave behind anything that jingles or distracts from your question responses (especially if you talk with your hands). Men - forget the french cuff dress shirts. Cuff links are too formal for an interview and should be saved for business evening events and dinners.

It’s ludicrous to think that you should purchase an interview outfit to match each dress code, or own multiple suits in different fabrics to match the spectrum of casual to professional. In an upcoming blog post we share an interview attire hack to save you from sinking money into interview outfit after interview outfit. Stay tuned for how to take a standard business professional outfit and dress it down to match with the entire dress code ladder!

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