Updates and Upgrades.

Networking Attire

All too often, people only focus on attire for an interview. Yet, during a career transition, you are always networking. Who knows who you will meet and when you will meet them?

Consider the time I went to pick up my daughter from a late-night Halloween party. On the way out the door that evening, I changed from a wrinkled gray T-shirt into one of our new company logo denim shirts. When I arrived, the kids were still having quite a bit of fun, and the host asked the parents to stay while the kids played a bit longer. Meeting one of the parents that evening resulted in the largest single sale in our company’s history. My new shirt initiated questions about our company. Did it lead to the sale? It played a part.

Interview Attire

In today’s world, there is no longer one definition of dress-for-success interview attire. For example, one of our clients wore a blue suit, white shirt, and conservative tie when interviewing for an accounting job at a manufacturing complex. He interviewed with the facility director and her staff. Our client was later told the facility director felt he would not fit the culture. Everyone there was dressed in blue jeans or khaki pants with short-sleeved golf shirts. You can imagine the contrast. Was attire a factor? It played a part.

Consider this related story told through an email sent to The Job Dog.

Thanks to your advice, I am now reconsidering what “dress professionally” may mean for each new interview. As you know, in the past, for me this has meant a tailored, conservative dress suit, a dressy blouse, and simple, yet good, jewelry, etc. I’ve been on several interviews and always followed this approach. Each time I left the interview feeling it went well. However, each time I was not the chosen candidate. Why? I had the skills they were seeking. Even our personalities seemed to click. Yet, the feedback in every case was something like, “We really like you. You’re polished and very professional. We just believe that another candidate better fits the job.”

It’s discouraging. I did my homework and could speak intelligently about the company. I had the right job skills. What was going on that I didn’t fit? In thinking about it, I realized that I had never been interviewed by anyone in a suit, not once. My interviewers were invariably dressed in business casual attire – often highly casual attire. Could it be that my top-end business professional suit approach was scaring people off?

I decided to test my theory with my next interview. My new interview outfit was a pair of dress slacks in dark charcoal grey, and a coordinating cardigan sweater. My interviewers were dressed similarly. I felt comfortable. The result was my most relaxed interview to date. I was invited back for a second interview a week later. While I did not get the position, it was because I lacked some highly specific experience rather than not fitting the culture.

I am going to remember this lesson. — Susan S.

Dressing for success means different styles for different cultures and organizations. So what do we recommend when you really don’t know how to dress for an interview?

  1. Ask someone at the company for interview attire recommendations.
  2. Ask someone you know who dresses well what he/she would recommend.
  3. As a general rule, when interviewing, dress one level higher than that of what you would expect to wear as part of your daily routine at that job. Therefore, if blue jeans would be the norm, business casual is the appropriate interview attire. If business casual would be the norm, wear a sport coat without a tie. If sophisticated business casual or suits would be the routine, wear a suit and a tie or the female equivalent.
  4. Finally, if you really don’t know what to do, wear a solid black, gray, or navy sport coat with coordinating slacks, shined shoes, and an open-collared For women, wear a jacket, coordinating slacks or skirt, a simple blouse, and a minimum amount of jewelry.

Research suggests 90% of customers – interviewers as well – judge a person’s competence based on appearance. What’s outside is taken to represent what’s inside. We are not saying this thought process is accurate; yet, perception is too often reality – and your appearance definitely has an impact on networking and interview outcomes.

Some aspects of your physical appearance are, of course, out of your control. However, what you can control is attire. Investing in a few new pieces of clothing can create an up-to-date, renewed appearance for networking and job interviews. Even a new pair of jeans and newer T-shirts helps when you meet someone in your network at the dog park. If your budget is tight, remember that The Job Dog often finds spiffy dog collars at resale shops.

Is your appearance worth all this effort? If you believe the wrapping is an important part of the gift, and if you believe that the cover sells the book (publishers say it does), then yes, it is worth the effort. First impressions are very difficult to change – whether positive or negative.


At times in our lives and careers, we may just not know what we don’t know. If clothing choices are not a topic with which you feel comfortable, The Job Dog recommends you find someone at an upscale store to guide and advise. Any show dog gets the help of its groomer to look its best on the big day.

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