If you don’t know how to win the interview dress code game yet, this article is for you!
The General Rules
Do your research! I suppose I don’t need to tell you the importance of “doing your homework” before coming to ANY interview. If you end up wearing a conservative suit for a creative agency interview, or anything with tribal patterns to a McKinsey interview, it’s like coming to the battle without the “right” armor. You get defeated!
Down below is much more detailed information. But if you can only get one or two takeaways from this article, here they are.
Rule 1: Don’t stand out.
It is best when the interviewer doesn’t notice anything weird about the way you dress. At first, this sounds strange. Yet it is the hard truth. Instead, you want to stand out in the way you talk, the energy you bring to the table, and how you solve problems; not the way you dress. The appearance, on the other hand, should be as conservative as possible, especially in consulting interviews.
Rule 2: Be comfortable.
At the end of the day, your performance in the interview will be the most important factor. You can be off a little bit in dressing and appearance, but you must nail the content part. So the way you dress should be something you feel absolutely confident and comfortable with. The best way to do this is to try it way early on. Make changes, do adjustments, until it becomes perfect! Then wear it as often as you can, even in your practice mock cases.
The Specific Rules
Now here come details. Every tiny part MUST be as polished as possible. And, here’s how!
- Body’s odor: Take a good shower in the morning before you leave. After that, wear deodorant. This may sound trivial but believe me, so many people forget that simple act. Avoid wearing perfume on that day, because no matter how much you adore your signature perfume scent, you never know if the interviewer likes it or not. Don’t give him/her any excuse to be uncomfortable and end the interview early, just because he/she doesn’t like how you smell.
- Hair grooming: If you are a man, my advice is to cut or trim your hair 3 days or 1 week prior to the interview. Do not overdo anything: either cut it too short or style it with too much hair gel that it looks greasy and spikey. Your hair just needs to look neat and clean. Something like this:
For women, being neat in your hairstyles is the most important thing. You can put your hair up in an updo, or down in a low ponytail. It’s fine if you prefer to put your hair down naturally like you are used to, but make sure it looks healthy with decent volume: not too flat, not too big, not too frizzy or shiny.
- Oral hygiene: Don’t forget to check your teeth before coming in the interview room. Some people these days still don’t get this right. Ideally, brush your teeth and rinse with mouthwash after breakfast.
- Other grooming tips: Consider removing all facial hair, especially for men. No matter how hard you grow your “perfect” moustache, seriously consider shaving it. You can grow it back after getting the offer! And ladies, you are unlikely to be accepted if hair from unwanted areas can be seen, such as armpits, legs (if you wear a skirt), or face. Also, if you have the habit of snacking on your cuticles, try to refrain it. Not only is it an unhealthy habit to own, but it is annoying to see any candidate with dirty and broken fingernails (especially when you have a female interviewer). Finally, use some lip balm. Sometimes, it is so distracting to see someone with cracked lips.
- Outfit: You are wearing a suit. End of story! Wear a crisp, clean and well-ironed suit that fits you like a glove. Color option? Black will do! Remember the conservative rule. Sometimes, navy blue, gray or warm brown will do you just fine but why risking it? One more important rule to remember is how to button your suit. If you go for the two-button suit, you should not have both buttons fastened, just seal the top one. The three-button suit, on the other hand, goes with the simple golden rule: “sometimes, always, never” (from top to bottom). For the shirt, wear no loud color, or bold patterns whatsoever. Just go with the boring plain white. You should make sure there is no stain or hole in your outfit as well.
- Footwear: The safest choice for you is the traditional black pair of shoes. In some cases, you can wear a brown belt with brown shoes. (just make sure they match). Go back to rule #1, just go for black. The more important thing than color is to make sure your shoes are polished and shiny. No one likes dirty shoes. Also, an outfit mistake I have seen so many gentlemen made is their choice of socks. Please wear dark-colored (black preferred) socks with your shoes. Nothing is more unappealing than seeing white or cartoon-patterned socks popping out of your feet. My boss actually rejected a candidate because of that sole reason.
- Accessories: One of the most critical elements for any professional male outfit is the tie. Your tie should be solid or in subtle stripes, with the color that is neutral and goes well with your skin color or your eyes. The knot should be neat and symmetrical as well. Another element of a perfect male suit is the belt. Make sure you choose one with simple metal buckle and color that matches your suit. Besides, wearing a watch is always a bonus point.
- Outfit: It is also appropriate for ladies to wear a suit to a formal management consulting interview. You can wear either a pantsuit or skirt suit, your choice. However, if you decide to go for a skirt suit, pick something that is just above your knees, or 3cm higher maximum. For the blouse, pick one that fits your silhouette. See-through, lacy, or any kind of top that shows too much of your skin (i.e. cleavage) must be avoided as well. White, button-up top is a no-brainer for everybody. When in doubt, go with that. Finally, put on a touch of professionalism with a well-tailored jacket or blazer and you are good to go!
- Footwear: I cannot stress enough how important it is NOT to wear open-toe or open-back shoes to a conservative work environment. No one needs to see such parts of your body. Instead, opt for well-polished black shoes, with no crazy patterns on it. Also, you should not wear heels that are too high, because you may lose the image of an active, smart and dynamic candidate by trying too hard to walk on those heels. Something like this will do you just fine:
- Accessories: Again, you can leave all your statement pieces of jewelry at home. It is best wearing no accessories at all, especially colorful hair bands or chunky necklaces that make a lot of tingling noise. However, if you have a sentimental piece, something you consider your “lucky charm”, you can definitely wear it. Just make sure that it does not grasp too much attention or make any unwanted sound during your interview.
- Makeup: I have seen a lot of women wondering how to look the most “appealing” when having a special occasion, whether it’s a date or a job interview. My advice to you is: you don’t need to be. You don’t need to put on so much makeup for others to like you. Let makeup enhance the best features of you, which is quite enough! Therefore, I suggest you go for neutral makeup. Use a concealer to cover any blemishes you may have, draw your eyebrows naturally so it can frame your face, and put on some my-lips-but-better lipstick. Trust me, you feel way more confident but not too overpowering so that the interviewer gets bad impression.
…AND NAIL IT!
Now you have put on your perfect “armor”, let’s go and kill it. All is left now is your capabilities and personalities that win the heart of the interviewer. Click to see more tips and techniques for management consulting case interview.