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Suit yourself: Managers split on attire for job interviews

job interview Accountemp Robert Half
Source: Accountemps

Dressing up for a job interview still remains a top way to make a positive first impression, according to a study released this morning by global staffing firm Accountemps.

But as to whether you should be wearing a power suit or not depends on the interviewer. In a survey of more than 2,800 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees, Accountemps, a Robert Half company, found while 37% said a suit should always be worn, 36% said it depends on the position or the specific department at the business. And 23% though that the job candidate should just look professional. Just 4% thought a suit was too much considering today’s relaxed dress codes.

In looking at one’s fashion choices more broadly, 52% of senior managers said the way a candidate dresses is “very important,”  while 42% said it’s “somewhat important.”

Also to keep in mind, the survey found that where the job interview is taking place is important as well. Break out that suit if you’re interviewing in Miami, New York City or Washington, D.C. Fifty-four percent of senior managers in each of those cities said a suit should “always be worn” to job interviews.

Save your casual fashion for Phoenix, Minneapolis and Charlotte, where the respondents said wearing a suit depends on the position or department. Austin and Seattle managers said if you look professional, a suit is not necessary.

In addition, the survey also found 40% of managers at companies with more than 250 employees prefer that job candidates wear a suit to interviews. However, 31% of managers at organizations with 20 to 99 employees expect to see applicants be formally dressed.

Michael Steinitz, senior executive director of Accountemps, offered a fashion tip.

“Know your audience before going into an interview to ensure you not only look your best, but also look the part,” Steinitz said. “It can be uncomfortable if you’re underdressed – or extremely overdressed – for an interview. Whether the office environment is jeans and T-shirts or suits, ensure your outfit is one step above the hiring company’s usual protocol in formality.”

And he also said mangers can help get rid of a lot of interview angst by letting candidates know ahead of time of what is suitable attire.

That way, everyone around the table can concentrate on the substance of the interview, including whether the applicant’s knowledge, experience and personality are a match for the role and company.”

And file this under “no surprise,” the study found interview attire varies by industry, with suits more often preferred in finance, insurance and real estate than construction or retail.


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