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Attire/Dress-Code for an Interview

Ashish Pagare
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Joined: Oct 14, 2003
Posts: 101
Hi Friends,
What is the usual attire for a personal interview in America. Do we have to wear tie and suit or just simple formal dress (shirt & trouser) will suffice.
Does the attire also differs from whom are you going to meet? I mean Director or Technical Lead.
Does it also depends on the geographical region?
Thanks for your help & time.
Ashish
Kyle Brown
author
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Joined: Aug 10, 2001
Posts: 3892
    
    5
Usually a tie is optional nowadays. A suit is often not needed (unless you are interviewing with some financial firms, the U.S. government, or certain high-end retail firms), as trousers/sportscoat/dress shirt are often enough. If you think you look better with a tie, wear one, otherwise don't worry about it.
Kyle


Kyle Brown, Author of Persistence in the Enterprise and Enterprise Java Programming with IBM Websphere, 2nd Edition
See my homepage at http://www.kyle-brown.com/ for other WebSphere information.
Tim Baker
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Joined: Oct 04, 2003
Posts: 541
i know this isn't your question but in england you always wear a suit and tie to an interview, even if its to be a janitor


Kim Jong II (North Korea's Dear Leader) said:Nuclear weapons don't kill people, people kill people.
Ashish Pagare
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Joined: Oct 14, 2003
Posts: 101
Matt Cao
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Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi,
During the dotcom days, you would get away with it. Nowadays, you need to wear suit and tie for interview if you are looking for professional jobs. Even though, the desired company policy is casual. You still need to wear it. Why? It shows you respect the position as much as your wedding day or funeral day. On the last interview, the one that you expect to receive an offer, you have a choice of sportcoat or your usual suit and tie.
The only time you need not to wear suit and tie, when you transfer from one department to another.
Regards,
MCao
Carlisia Campos
sanitation engineer
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Joined: Aug 22, 2001
Posts: 135
If you're asking if you can get away with not wearing a suit, I'd say yes, unless you're interviewing for a job in which you'll be meeting with clients. Even if suits are not required when meeting with clients, it will show your best presentation and it counts.
For all other jobs, you probably can get away without wearing a tie as well. Americans are pretty laid back in general, and very much so with clothing. That said, when I interview, I dress my best always. Even if the job looks so-so, since it might turn up to be better than the job description. And if I go in to talk salary, I dress even better! That's because, in my experience, offers are always below what you expect and negotiation is always necessary. Just in case people are even for a second going to judge how much salary I should need based on what I'm wearing. You don't think it happens?.... ha! Plus, I'm more confident when I weare my best clothes. On this note: I've given up wearing suits. I usually wear a nice skirt/blouse/jacket combination that makes me really confortable, and that makes a lot of difference.


Carlisia Campos<br />--------------------------------<br />i blog here: carlisia.com
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Dressing up does show "respect" for the job/company. A suit may be a bit much, a button down shirt and tie (and no sneakers) is probably better for many people. I say this because I've seen many programmers who don't know how to "wear" a suit. By this I mean, there are some people who wear suits well and it gives them an air of importance and/or authority. Then there are people who look like a ten year old force to wear a suit to a wedding. It doesn't quite sit well on them--either because it's an old suit that needs to be refitted, or because the wearer simply isn't comfortable in it. So I'd say if you don't feel comfortable in a suit, and it doesn't look right, just go with a shirt and tie (assuming it is a place you can do that, e.g. not a bank or consulting firm).
--Mark
Chad McGowan
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Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 265
It depends on the company. Believe it or not, some companies still require a suit and tie, and those are the companies that would probably count it against you if you showed up to an interview without one.
In the past, I have asked the person setting up the interview about the company's dress code. You have to be careful how you ask, you don't want to say 'Do I have to wear a suit?'. If you are using a recruiter, ask them.
My rule of thumb is that if you are unsure, wear a suit. I would rather be overdressed than underdressed.
stara szkapa
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Joined: Mar 27, 2003
Posts: 321
Related question, how to dress when meeting with recruiters?
Alenka Shtykel
Greenhorn

Joined: Oct 24, 2003
Posts: 16
For guys a suit with a tie is usually a standard. However, for girls it's a little more complicated. Should she wear a skirt or pants? How about jewelry, cosmetics, etc?
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24184
    
  34


Then there are people who look like a ten year old force to wear a suit to a wedding. It doesn't quite sit well on them--either because it's an old suit that needs to be refitted, or because the wearer simply isn't comfortable in it.

I'm one of these 10-year-old looking guys. What is the secret, precisely? How do you get to be one of those guys (seems like the majority actually) who look like they belong in that suit?


[Jess in Action][AskingGoodQuestions]
James Tikalsky
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 25, 2003
Posts: 4
How do you look good in a suit? Buy a NICE suit. Don't go to some men's warehouse and pay $45. Go to the place where all of the lawyers in town shop. Be prepared to drop some cash. There should be a salesman with you from the moment you walk through the door, right up to the moment you leave. Believe it or not, anyone can look good in a suit, provided it fits well. A well-fitting suit will make you look great, and will feel comfortable.
Jim Doyle
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Joined: Jul 18, 2003
Posts: 36

You need to gauge the habits and customs of the environment before you arrive for an interview. In general, I refuse to wear three peice suits given that they are utterly impractical in today's era of modern fabrics and options for professional attire. Three peice suits are largely the domain of the un-degreed and the supervisory strata of semi-skilled and unskilled labour. Dont confuse this emulation of 18th century Dickensian mill-managers attire with any notions of success, power or prestige. If it's three peice, with a tight fitting necktie - it means $32,000/year.
You will note that even fast food workers are required to wear ties and button down shirts. Worsted wool is uncomfortable and impractical. Educated professionals with acumen and self-accountability have better things to do with their time and money than to pay a dry cleaner and pickup and dropoff their clothes.
Discover what you look good in. Personally, I like blazers combined with a
comfortable button down shirt (cotton, or a blend). If I wear a tie, I go with colours that look good on me. There is a discipline with colours, it has to do with choosing those that match you eye color, you skin tone and hair. If you wear a tie, it should complement your complexion and your personality. Figure out what looks good on you, rather than trying to emulate a "classic" look from advertising cues or messed up notions in your head of what looks good.
Nothing beats showing up in a BMW 5-series with jeans, a button shirt and Doc Marten loafers. To do so requires a resume, balls as well as some humility and calm confidence. The little people refer to this as "eccentric".
-- Jim
merlin bar
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Joined: Feb 16, 2003
Posts: 54
The manager of a company I was interviewed for wore a red hoody top and beige cords! It was a surprise to me. I wasnt sure if they have a casual friday, or is that the way they always dress.
I wore a suit. You should be able to get a good suit that fits your frame well, in a colour that looks good on you for under 600 euro (roughly $600). I'd advise borrowing or stealing the porsche


Regards,<br /> merlin_bar
Matt Cao
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Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi,
It does not matter what the inteviewer wearing. You, the interviewee, are looking for the job. Please show some respect! Please don't overdress nor underdress. You must think what is the ROI of the position. For example, the position is listed as $32K and you wear 3-piece Armani or Hugo Boss. Come on, do your math.
If you are a minority candidate, you must wear it. I know this is racist statement, even though in US racist is faded somewhat because some of the minorities people do landed in the decision-maker position. But the dark cloud is still there. I think Mark H mentioned sometimes before, racist is an artificial barrier installed to cloud the real issue...
Personally, I invested in a good suit because I have very large family not including the extend and the in-laws. Weddings and funerals alone are enough to fully compensate for the investment and unlike any investment, the suit and tie do get depreciate. Invested wisely.
Did you know you can write-off the "professional clothing" just like books and everything else related to your job?
Regards,
MCao
[ December 07, 2003: Message edited by: Matt Cao ]
Chad McGowan
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Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 265
Originally posted by Matt Cao:

Did you know you can write-off the "professional clothing" just like books and everything else related to your job?
Regards,
MCao
[ December 07, 2003: Message edited by: Matt Cao ]

Unless the IRS has changed the rules on this, you can't write off your suit. Business clothes are still considered a personal expense.
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hi,
There is option about it. Put a logo on or called it theatrical costume. After all, not many people wear it everyday.
Regards,
MCao
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:

I'm one of these 10-year-old looking guys. What is the secret, precisely? How do you get to be one of those guys (seems like the majority actually) who look like they belong in that suit?

Invest in a good suit. Get a wool suit, or cotton wool blend. If it's polyesther or ryan, avoid it. Figure the suit will be $300-400. Then get a good tailor. Anyone can look good when the clothing is tailored to fit them.
Just as importantly, you need to put the suit on and say, "wow, I look good." For a couple weeks, look at people in suits, on TV, on the street. See what you like. Some places might have flip books (kinda of like the ones at upscale salaons for hair styles, except this is for suit styles): 2,3, or 4 button, single or double breast (I recommend single, b/c double breasted must be buttoned while standing, but unbottoned to sti), lapel style, color, pinstripes, vents, etc. The most important part of looking right in the suit is looking comfortable. You do that when you put on a suit and it makes you feel good about yourself.
Do a little Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.* I did this with a friend a few years back. I dressed like a typical engineer. For various reasons, I decided I wanted to dress better, so I had a female friend of mine with a good eye for fashion take me shopping. I hated everything she picked out, but I trusted her and bought it anyway. Nearly $800 later, I had a new wardrobe. It's only been in the last year or so that I've been feeling comfortable enough to go shopping on my own (I still prefer going with my female friends with better fashion sense).
BTW, I *love* three piece suits! I had two custom made in Bangkok and wear them whenever I can get the chance. I don't seem them as impractical at all--although they are not common, and might seem out of place in say, financial companies. But that's personal preference.
--Mark
*This is a popular show currently in the US where 5 gay men make over a straight guy (fashion, food, home decor, etc).
Billy Tsai
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Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
i just wear anything to work


BEA 8.1 Certified Administrator, IBM Certified Solution Developer For XML 1.1 and Related Technologies, SCJP, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCDJWS, SCJD, SCEA,
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Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
If you don't feel comfortable in a suit, wear one more often.
If it's because it doesn't fit well, get another.
Choose natural materials, artificial fibres are not comfortable. A wool or cotton suit fits better and looks better quite beside from being more comfortable to wear all day.
To an interview, ALWAYS wear suit and tie. You're selling yourself as much as your skills, so look your best. For a man that means wearing a well tailored suit with matching tie and shoes (yes, the shoes are important as well, don't wear brown shoes under a black or grey suit and never wear sports shoes or sandals under a suit).
Turn off your cellphone when you enter the building, making sure someone sees you doing so (receptionists are often questioned about their first impression of a candidate!).
If you're nervous for an interview, make sure you arrive very early and take a stroll around the area to calm down.


42
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Excellent advice Jeroen!
Definately shut off your cell phone (this should be true for most meetings). Wear the right shoes. For an extra touch, wear a dress watch instead of a digital watch. I also think a tie bar, chain, or pin is slightly classier and will give you an extra edge (but that's personal preference).
And as Jeroen noted, you are being watched from the moment you walk in the front door (probably not while outside). Before you walk through it, try to relax and when you go through, feel like you're walking on stage.
I remember for my last job (HBS) I was coming in to meet with the prof's I was working for and to meet with the other guy they wanted to hire (I was the more senior of the two, so even though I wasn't hired yet, it was pretty clear I was going to be, and I had some say in the other person). I walked in and I noticed a guy who was sitting in a lounge area. It was far away from the offices, so it wasn't clear from hislocation that he was there for these profs.
And yet as I walked in, I instantly knew he must be the other developer. He dressed well, but didn't look comfortable in the tie. There was a pensive feeling to him sitting there. Of course, I try to discount any impression of that nature and said they guy seemed fine. He turned out to be an extremely talented developer who undoubtedly will go very far in his career.
--Mark
Jamie Robertson
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Joined: Jul 09, 2001
Posts: 1879

I think you can look very professional without wearing a tie. Although I think that dress shoes ( polished ), belt, black socks, button up dress shirt all pressed to perfection is mandatory. I think that wearing a tie is sometimes viewed as dressed up because it almost forces your hand to wear the accompanying dress pants, and dress shoes. But too many times I've waited for my interview along with other participants who were wearing "scron" white dress shirts with a skinny leather tie, no belt and ankle biter black dress pants, bad hair to top it off!
My advice:
- stylish but plain dress pants, nicely pressed ( black or other dark colour )
- stylish but simple button up dress shirt, nicely pressed with an undershirt to absorb the extra "pit sweat". Pit stains look terrible.
- black leather belt( solid, not weaved without a huge albertan/texan buckle on it )
- black socks - people wearing white socks with dress pants should be shot!!
- dress shoes - black leather shoes, nicely polished
- ample deodarant/anti-perspirant ( remember to account for the nervous pit stains )
- stylish hair cut
- shaved face ( any unshaven facial hair should be trimmed and not looking rugged )
AND for god's sake brush your teeth!!!
You can add a tie and or jacket as desired, but as long as the basics are covered, you will look great!!
Jamie "the fashion policeman" Robertson
norman richards
Author
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Joined: Jul 21, 2003
Posts: 367
I normally wear exactly what I will by wearing when I work there. Usually it's shorts and a t-shirt, but I sometimes "dress up" a bit and wear pants. I've never ever had a problem getting job offers, and I've actually found that the casual attire helps interviewers take me a bit more seriously. I'm not there trying to "sell myself" and thus there's no advertising gloss for the interviewer to have to peel through. Usually they seem quite grateful for that. But I admit, that I am very careful about the types of companies I interview with. If I get the impression that it's the kind of company where people are stupid enough to be positively influenced by my ability to spend money on clothes, it's definitely not the kind of place I'd want to work at.
Note that I'm not suggesting you necessarily do the same as I have done. I'd also suggest not (necessarily) following the advice of someone who tells you to go by expensive clothes for your interviews. Dressing up or dressing down can both both positively and negatively impact your chances depending on the type of company you are talking to and the nature of the individuals there. My advice is to find your own style. Figure out what kind of position you are looking for and dress appropriately.
If you aren't comfortable in a suit, don't wear one no matter what anyone tells you. You wont be happy at any place where that is a positive. If you aren't comfortable dressing down, don't do it. Just be yourself and you will find a company and position that is appropriate for you.
To put it another way. If you suck in your stomach when you are trying on clothes in the store, you'll end up with clothes that don't fit. You'll look silly and feel uncomfortable. If you don't try to fake out the mirror, your clothes will fit better.
Svetlana Koshkina
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Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 108
Don't forget your overnight teeth witening molds... Otherwise goodbye you 32 grands.
What about interview dress for women? We also use makeup, you know. I found that if interviewer is man, he is doing a lot of staring and forget why we are here, if interviewer is a woman she can be jealous of our looks. In either cases outcome is not as intended: good looking girl can be branded as superfluous.
Note that I am not talking minis, sea of parfum and clown makeup, just stylish and slick. What to do? Come in with blue lips and ugly hair and in designer's buisness dress? It is very difficult to figure out. Better have insider's info for that.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Men should always wear a suit to an interview. Women should dress professionaly. I am sure Norman is a fine programmer but if he showed up in my office in shorts and a t-shirt I would not interview him.
"If you aren't comfortable in a suit, don't wear one no matter what anyone tells you. You wont be happy at any place where that is a positive. If you aren't comfortable dressing down, don't do it. Just be yourself and you will find a company and position that is appropriate for you."
Is it better to be unemployed but wearing comfortable clothes?


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Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Alenka Shtykel:
For guys a suit with a tie is usually a standard. However, for girls it's a little more complicated. Should she wear a skirt or pants? How about jewelry, cosmetics, etc?

Never wear pants on an interview. Do not wear a short skirt. No ultra-high heels! Wear jewelry but it should be fairly simple... nothing gaudy. Makeup should be worn but it should be plain and neat looking.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Chad McGowan:
It depends on the company. Believe it or not, some companies still require a suit and tie, and those are the companies that would probably count it against you if you showed up to an interview without one.
The financial industry (brokerage, banking) usually wears suits. Would you trust your life savings to a guy in ratty old jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt?
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Men should always wear a suit to an interview. Women should dress professionaly. I am sure Norman is a fine programmer but if he showed up in my office in shorts and a t-shirt I would not interview him.

Hmm, I wouldn't have expected that from you.

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

"If you aren't comfortable in a suit, don't wear one no matter what anyone tells you. You wont be happy at any place where that is a positive. If you aren't comfortable dressing down, don't do it. Just be yourself and you will find a company and position that is appropriate for you."
Is it better to be unemployed but wearing comfortable clothes?

To each his own. I held that philosophy for a while, partially because although it's a strong filter (meaning very few companies would let you interview like that), in Boston in the late 90s, there were enough companies which were ok with it.

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

Never wear pants on an interview.

I think lady's dress pants are fine with a blouse, or a pant suit.

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
The financial industry (brokerage, banking) usually wears suits. Would you trust your life savings to a guy in ratty old jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt?

Two words: Motley Fool

--Mark
norman richards
Author
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Joined: Jul 21, 2003
Posts: 367
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

Is it better to be unemployed but wearing comfortable clothes?

Probably, but maybe that's just me.
All I can say is that positions vary widely on this. Know your target audience. Despite what anyone says here, dressing extremely casual at interviews has only had positive benefits for me. But that's just me. Naturally, I lean towards that. You have probably had other experiences that lead you to lean in other directions.
I will say this. If you would turn someone away from an engineering position based on what they are wearing, you would be extremely foolish. Certainly some position might call for more, but not most programming jobs.
I interview people regularly. (I probably have averaged 2 interviews a month for the last couple years) When I talk to the other interviewers, we try not to consider what the people are wearing, but inevitably, we do tend to rate people lower who dress overly formal. I try not to do that, but ultimately I guess I act foolishly in this regard too.
I think I would not enjoy working for you nor would you enjoy working for me. So, maybe it's all good?
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Probably, but maybe that's just me.
You obviously don't have a family to support.
I would remind you that most of the people on this site and in this particular forum are people without a lot of experience. I would also remind you that many of them are either interviewing with consulting firms or large corporations. Following your advice would be suicidal on most job interviews. Mark might have been right about interviewing in 1998 but the market is very different today. In fact, many companies are doing away with dress down days.
SJ Adnams
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Joined: Sep 28, 2001
Posts: 925
The financial industry (brokerage, banking) usually wears suits. Would you trust your life savings to a guy in ratty old jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt?
Whats your logic behind that?
Al Newman
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Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
I always wear my suit and a tie or a nice sport coat and tie. Shined shoes and a nice belt. If I believe going in that the place will be informal I'll wear one of my cotton Liberty of London ties rather than a silk one. Thats as far as I dress down for interviews
My feeling is that you can hurt yourself by dressing too far down and probably not hurt yourself by overdressing. Doing the latter you are showing respect. You can always remove the suit coat or jacket and I've been known to remove my tie if in a room full of grungy-dressed programmers.
It's really a simple thing. Just dress nicely and then focus on other things.


SCJP1.4, SCWCD
Kyle Brown
author
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Joined: Aug 10, 2001
Posts: 3892
    
    5
Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Probably, but maybe that's just me.
You obviously don't have a family to support.
I would remind you that most of the people on this site and in this particular forum are people without a lot of experience. I would also remind you that many of them are either interviewing with consulting firms or large corporations. Following your advice would be suicidal on most job interviews. Mark might have been right about interviewing in 1998 but the market is very different today. In fact, many companies are doing away with dress down days.


Actually, I hate to say it, Thomas, but like Norman, I also tend to downgrade people I interview who dress too formally (and remember, I interview for one of the biggest corporations of them all...). I think the best thing a person can do is to gauge the dress code by asking prior to the interview. That shows they do their homework and care about little details -- which reflects well on them.
Kyle
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Kyle Brown:
Actually, I hate to say it, Thomas, but like Norman, I also tend to downgrade people I interview who dress too formally

So I guess you don't get the job
Kyle Brown:

[ December 09, 2003: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Joined: May 05, 2000
Posts: 13974
Originally posted by Simon Lee:
Whats your logic behind that?
What is my logic behind what?
Al Newman
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Joined: Mar 30, 2003
Posts: 716
Originally posted by Kyle Brown:

Actually, I hate to say it, Thomas, but like Norman, I also tend to downgrade people I interview who dress too formally (and remember, I interview for one of the biggest corporations of them all...). I think the best thing a person can do is to gauge the dress code by asking prior to the interview. That shows they do their homework and care about little details -- which reflects well on them.

Perhaps so, Kyle, but you can also get downgraded if you ask. Think about those games-players from PWC in your company these days. I interviewed with them a few years ago (pre buyout) and was marked down for all kinds of unlikely reasons. I suspect they haven't changed much since then....
Scuse me, but since I spent time with KPMG I have even less of a positive opinion of the Big 5 than I did before.
Chad McGowan
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Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 265
It is hard to believe that wearing a suit to an interview with IBM would actually work against you. Honestly, Kyle, don't you think that is a bit unfair to the candidate? Wearing a suit, IMO, shows that you have great respect for the company and that you are making the extra effort to be your best.
When I am interviewing at a small shop, I usually ask them what the dress code is, so I can make sure that I 'fit in'. It is uncomfortable to wear a suit and be interviewed by a guy wearing shorts and a t-shirt and a three day old beard.
However, for larger corportations, IBM included, I probably wouldn't ask. I would just assume a suit would help my chances at making a good first impression.
Kyle Brown
author
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Joined: Aug 10, 2001
Posts: 3892
    
    5
Originally posted by Alfred Neumann:

Perhaps so, Kyle, but you can also get downgraded if you ask. Think about those games-players from PWC in your company these days. I interviewed with them a few years ago (pre buyout) and was marked down for all kinds of unlikely reasons. I suspect they haven't changed much since then....
Scuse me, but since I spent time with KPMG I have even less of a positive opinion of the Big 5 than I did before.


That's a bit too much game playing, IMHO ... That's certainly not the IBM culture. Asking should not be an issue...
Kyle
Michael Matola
whippersnapper
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Joined: Mar 25, 2001
Posts: 1746
    
    2
Kyle Brown:
Actually, I hate to say it, Thomas, but like Norman, I also tend to downgrade people I interview who dress too formally.

Do you also downgrade those with too recent or stylish haircuts? Those who've had a professional manicure? Who've shaved on the day of the interview?
Matt Cao
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Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Originally posted by Simon Lee:
The financial industry (brokerage, banking) usually wears suits. Would you trust your life savings to a guy in ratty old jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt?
Whats your logic behind that?

Hi Simon,
I think Thomas P trying to point out that financial industry is a conservative industry; therefore, their employees dress conservatively aka. suits. It also creates an "image in the client heads" that the employees are well taken care off not some deadbeats aka. ratty old jeans and t-shirt try to take their money as soon as they see them.
I am not so sure is he trying to point out daily dress-code or interview dress-code which the original poster addressed.
Regards,
MCao
 
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