Although we’ve been taught not to judge a book by its cover, the truth is, first impressions matter. So when you meet that hiring manager, it’s important to put your very best foot forward. But if you’re unsure about all of the rules and what’s appropriate to wear and when, you’re not alone. So read on, because we’ve got you covered (from head to toe).

Research the company dress code

Showing up in a three-piece-suit might work for a law firm, but would raise an eyebrow or two at a tech start-up. Do your research. Find out what the office culture is like, and what current employees might wear to a meeting. Think outside the box for this! You could walk by the office and take a peek inside. Or ask around, reach out to friends and family for anyone in the same industry you’re applying to. Does the company have a social media platform (most do!) scroll through their office Instagram account or Facebook page to see what employees are wearing.

Dress codes 

Typically, job industries fall into business formal, business casual, or smart casual. Here’s the breakdown but when in doubt, dress up, rather than down.

1. Business formal

For business formal you’ll want to wear a tailored business suit in a dark colour (black or navy or grey) for both men and women, with men in ties, and women wearing tights and close-toed shoes. Men should probably consider going clean-shaven (or very neatly groomed), and women should ease up on the makeup and accessories.

Business formal industries: Law, finance

2. Business casual

You can forget the tie and power suit but “business casual” is still more business, than casual. Women will want to wear a pencil skirt or dress pants and blouse or blazer. Men will want to wear dress pants or slacks and a button-down collared shirt.

Business formal industries: Law, finance

3. Smart casual

Smart casual is less formal than business casual, but jeans or athleisure are still not ideal. For men, chinos or slacks and a polo shirt are acceptable, and for women, a tailored dress, or dress pants and blouse or sweater can work. This dress code is more amenable to accessorizing and personal-flair like a statement necklace or prints and patterns.

Business formal industries: Law, finance

Don’t be distracting

This means every stitch of clothing should be clean (shoes-included), pressed and wrinkle-free. This also means no overwhelming perfume or makeup, anything political or obscene or ill-fitting. You want your keen preparation and eager personality to speak for themselves; the last thing you want is to be nailing an interview question and the hiring manager thrown off by your loud outfit.

Be yourself

This may seem counterintuitive with all of the rules, but adding personality, or a bit of you, will help you stand out and make you feel more confident during the interview. Don’t forget, employers aren’t just looking at your cover letter and your experience, they’re inevitably going to be hiring, you. (Just you without scuffed shoes or lettuce in your teeth.) Love jewellery? Wear your favourite bracelet. Feeling extra nervous? Wear those favourite striped socks for good luck.

Build your personal brand 

Finally, landing on the right thing to wear is part of your personal branding, and essential to making a great first impression, but of course there’s more to you than just clothes. Prepped can help you identify and build your personal brand so you can use it during your job search and interviewing process.

Sign-up for Prepped to help prepare you for the job market and embark on a career path you’re passionate about!

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