Know When to Ditch the Suit! Individuality in an Interview

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Posted by The Editors on July 19, 2011

Imagine the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company showing up to a conference in sandals and jeans to mingle with media moguls and investment bankers dressed in perfectly pressed suits.

Such was the case of Mark Zuckerberg at Foursquare’s annual conference in Manhattan.  According to this New York Times article, Zuckerberg was “wearing Adidas flip-flops— sans socks—with a blazer and jeans.” Despite how many times this billionaire has made public appearances in his Adidas, that lack of professionalism can still be shocking to some. Truth is, Zuckerberg is just a reflection of his company’s culture—one that values great ideas and collaboration over stiff business suits and traditional management styles. (I bet no conference attendees doubted his level of intelligence just by looking at his flip-flops.)

In the past, interviewing dress code consisted of a suit and tie for men and a black or navy pant- or skirt-suit for women, but it’s not that straight-forward anymore. While it’s still safe to wear a suit to most job interviews, what’s considered appropriate attire changes depending on the company to which you’re applying.

So if you were interviewing for a position at Facebook, would you consider the company culture when deciding what to wear? I sure hope so.

Here are a few industries in which ditching the traditional attire may be appropriate.

Fashion

This is the perfect industry to express yourself through clothing, especially if you are an aspiring fashion designer. Wearing clothes that show your personal style—while still demonstrating your professionalism—will prove to the interviewer that you’re passionate about fashion and value individuality.

Film
This is another industry that involves personal expression, but take into consideration where you are interviewing. If you’re headed to a small independent film company, nudged between an Italian bakery and a grungy tattoo parlor in Greenwich Village, you’re probably not the only one with an eclectic wardrobe.

Computer Software
If you look at Google’s philosophy page, it assures readers “You can be serious without a suit.” (I kid you not. Check out number nine.) Although it’s easier to assess the company culture of Facebook and Google due to their highly publicized status, all it takes is a little extra research to figure out if the tech company you’re interviewing for is as laid back. It may just be as simple as looking at their philosophy or careers page.

No matter what you decide to wear to your interview, be sure to walk in with confidence. When it comes down to it, a potential employer would rather hire someone dressed in a polo shirt with a proven track record than the person who simply looks like management material.

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