Transforming office culture means sweeping change across a huge volume of variables, but when it comes to fashion, post-Covid workplace interview attire has its own set of rules.
Whether it’s virtual, hybrid or in-person, potential candidates and employees are dressing a little more casually across the board. To start your job search, you can create a free profile on ZipRecruiter.com to search for jobs with just one click. Still, “Casualization,” or the concept that “dressing has become much more casual,” was a trend that was already underway before Covid, according to a report from McKinsey & Co, and the pandemic accelerated a sentiment that had been constantly brewing.
That means consumers have shown an increased interest in leisure activities, and as more casual office wear is expected, the athleisure market is set to reach $551 billion by 2025, growing 25 percent, according to GlobalData.
Although it seems that we all lean into this mass case both in the workplace and at home, it does not necessarily extend to potential new employees, or those in the interview process.
“When I started my agency in 1997, it was such a different time,” says Elizabeth Harrison, CEO and founder of H&S, who estimates she’s interviewed hundreds of people at all different management levels, from SVPs to interns. “I would say that the expectation of how people show up for an interview has evolved. Being neat and well put together is still very important, but what has changed is what means neat and put together is much broader now.”
This evolution of business casual, as well as our societal shift towards greater inclusion, means that many offices, from corporate to creative, have thrown out many of the outdated rules in favor of new ones that reflect our collective push for awareness and acceptance.
“As bosses and CEOs, we’ve had to help educate our junior managers who are hiring for the first time to expand their preconceived notions of what the ‘right’ look is because that has changed,” says Harrison. “Not everyone has access to a designer bag, or they might be wearing something interesting by a designer you’ve never heard of. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money to interview well, either; you can go to Zara or H&M for cheaper options.”
Casual interview attire vs. formal interview attire
One of the first rules of getting an interview outfit with a potential company is not to look into or rummage through your own closet, but rather try to get an understanding of how the company sees itself.
Take, for example, Harrison’s PR agency, which represents a mix of luxury fashion, spirits and lifestyle brands, and where creativity is not only encouraged but seen as an asset.
“If you walk in and you look cute and chic and pulled together and you’re wearing a cool baseball cap or streetwear, at least in advertising, marketing or PR, it’s not going to be held against you,” she explains. “Now, if you were interviewing to work with brands that are very corporate, it might give me pause to think not that you don’t have the right style, but that you might not be the right candidate or have the right the style for it. special job.”
To help guide your research, Harrison recommends checking out the company’s social media pages, especially their Instagram, but also their profile on ZipRecruiter.com is a great place to learn more about what they look for in potential new hires . In addition, candidates who are invited to apply for open positions are almost three times more likely to be hired.
“I would start by checking out on Instagram what people are wearing in that company. What is the CEO wearing? Or the creative director? Is their style corporate, business casual, or casual?” she says, adding that you should look up not only the company, but also their top executives, to get an accurate snapshot of their style in the workplace. “Take cues from what the culture is, because if they don’t wear jeans, then don’t show up to the interview in jeans – even if it’s jeans with a nice blazer or jacket – because it shows that you don’t pay attention to the culture, or who they are as a brand.”
This guide will help you navigate the world of dressing for an interview with tips on what to keep in mind, key pieces that mean business, and other helpful notes for dressing across roles and industries—plus all the don’s . ‘ts” to avoid. And when pinning your dream interview wardrobe, go to ZipRecruiter, ranked #1 job site in the US, to help you find your next opportunity.
What you wear reflects your personality
As our home and office lives merged during the pandemic, many employees and potential new hires began to dress in ways that reflected their authentic selves while still following and respecting their work culture.
“For one thing, you probably don’t want to work somewhere you can’t show who you are,” says Harrison. “I think you should show yourself as yourself, but you should think about how it’s going to reflect your personality and style.”
She recounts a recent faux pas made by her creative director, who wore a fashion outfit of tailored shorts and a matching blazer, paired with a button down. “He looked super stylish and appropriate for someone in a creative director role, and we went to the client meeting, but the feedback we got was ‘how could you bring someone to the meeting in shorts?’, and I couldn’t fault it. him for that; it was my judgment.”
Virtual interviews are still interviews
Many interviews are still conducted virtually, including at Harrison’s agency. Even so, it’s not an open invitation to take your outfit down a notch on the style scale – it’s still important to show up as you would if it were an in-person meeting.
“I think as a result of Covid, people have become much more casual,” she says. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea to dress more casually for an interview just because it’s on Zoom. You can still tell when someone has put in a little effort.”
Even if you take the business on top, party on the bottom, approach to dressing for virtual interviews, it’s critical to continue to match your outfit and style to what you think the company expects of you.
The bottom line is that you still made the effort, and it’s a sign of respect for the person who took the time to interview you.
Dress for the season
It can be difficult to know exactly what to wear to an interview if the temperature soars to 95 degrees in the summer — or if you find yourself in the middle of a snowstorm the morning of the big meeting.
“Luckily, there are so many cute snow boots or other seasonally appropriate and weatherproof accessories,” says Harrison. “I’m also a big coat person. I think you can rock a great coat and always keep it on; a coat is a great statement piece that you can really make work for you.”
And while it may seem like nothing to wear when it’s an unforgiving 95 degrees outside, Harrison disagrees, saying there are “lots of linen dresses that are light and chic,” and you can even wear a top which shows your shoulders. for your commute, but throw on a blazer right before you head in for a slightly more conservative feel.
“Just don’t wear flip flops in the summer—there are beautiful sandals and other options—and no one’s really going to fault you for being weather-appropriate,” she says.
Use what you are confident with
“If you’re interviewing for a creative or art director role, you can go crazy,” laughs Harrison, but usually she argues that “an interview is probably not the best place” to try something new. Just make sure what you’re wearing fits you properly and is tailored to your body, as baggy lends itself to an overall sloppy look. This means that the cuffs should not run past the wrists and the shoes should be fastened well.
“Wear something you feel super confident in, and it doesn’t even have to be expensive, because if you’re dressed in something you know you look good in, you come across as confident,” she explains. “You probably won’t be playing with your hair in the interview. You won’t be sitting or moving around uncomfortably in your clothes, and you can focus on what’s really important, which is answering the questions correctly and listening to what the interviewer is saying.”
‘Smart Casual’ dressing is in full swing
“Showing up for an interview is not like meeting for coffee with your friend, and it shouldn’t feel that way,” says Harrison. “It’s a big deal, it’s a trial run.”
If you are not quite sure what to wear, it is useful to lean on the “smart casual” category. For men, that might mean a neutral button-down shirt—no blazer necessary—along with ironed chinos and loafers, while women can rely on a long-sleeved blouse in a subtle pattern and neutral-colored pants (never jeans) with a ballet flat. or low heel. It’s a light and fun style, yet professional and put together. Harrison suggests keeping your makeup clean and nail polish neutral to play it safe.
“I think dressing the way you want to be perceived is great, and dressing for the next job you want to get is great because I think it’s going to make you appear polished and look good.”
Meet the expert
Elizabeth Harrison is the co-founder and CEO of the New York City-based communications agency H&S, formerly known as Harrison & Shriftman. She has worked with global lifestyle brands including Jimmy Choo, Alice + Olivia, Wilson Apparel and Remy Martin and believes the secret to professional success is hard work, persistence and the ability to pivot and change.
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