Last Updated Jul 4, 2011 5:18 PM EDT
There is not one right answer to this question. It all depends on what the corporate culture is and what the job is. If you're applying for a job as a garbage truck driver, that Armani suit wouldn't be right. But, if you're applying to be CFO for a Fortune 100 company, Armani might just be your guy.
I'm not a fashion maven. In fact, if I needed a new interview outfit, I'd call up my friend the fashion designer and ask him to come shopping with me. But, here is my general rule for job interview outfits:
For a job interview wear clothes that are one step above what the current employees are wearing. If you're not familiar with the company, this may involve a reconnaissance mission to scout out people entering or leaving the building. If you see people in a variety of clothing types, I'd suggest going with the most formal. Also, please take into account what the actual job you are applying for does. If it's construction, that's different than selling high end jewelry.
If the people you will be working for dress like this:
But, if it's not a construction type job and the people coming out of the building are dressed like the guy above, then you dress like this:
This is what we call business casual. She's obviously dressed nicely, but there's no pretentious suit. Men, this calls for a button down shirt and khaki pants. And if the people coming out of the building look like the above, then you step it up a notch. Like this:
This doesn't require a full suit, but if the people are dressed as above, then it is time for the full suit. Like this:
Please note, she's wearing pants. You can wear a skirt (if you're female--men, even if you think it is sexist and horrible that you, too, can't wear skirts, the job interview is not the time to fight this battle) or you can wear pants. Yes, it is not 1965 and women can wear pants to the office. Even to job interviews.
As for the dreaded panty-hose question, I say it's not required unless you observe other women coming out of the office in them. Especially in summer. And even if you're applying for an office position, if the facility you will be interviewing at has manufacturing or research labs, no open-toed shoes.
Remember, that the industry and town you are applying to are also very important ingredients in your decision calculus. My colleague, Amy Levin-Epstein, at CBS MoneyWatch recommended a dress I find more appropriate for a cocktail party than a job interview. But, her viewpoint is more NYC and fashion focused than mine is. The important thing to remember is that you need to pay attention to how people at the target company dress. That will give you the biggest clue of all.
For further reading:
- How to Write a Resume that Gets the Interview
- Job Interview or Bake-Off
- It's a Job Interview, Not a Beauty Pageant