Two weeks ago, we posted a blog including a handful of interview-attire don'ts that were geared toward women. Today, we shift our focus to men. Here, below, are two handfuls of things men should never wear to an interview.
1. Unusual-color suits
Gone are the days when men 100-percent absolutely have to interview in a blue or gray suit with a blue or white shirt, conservative tie, and black or brown leather shoes. In the past decade, many companies have embraced a casual or business casual dress code, and this new code extends to interviews. Which is not to say that a suit is a bad choice when interviewing with a casual firm, but there now can be instances when you're overdressed, just as in the past there were instances when you could've been underdressed. So, you should always do some sleuthing before your interview to try to find out what's appropriate and what's not at the firm you're interviewing with. That said, even in the hellish heat at the height of summer, there's never going to be a good time to wear a white suit. Or a light blue suit. And come rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine, there's never going to be a reason for a red, purple, mustard, or teal suit. White and other unusual suit colors might look okay on the red carpet, but they're not going to look good on the gray carpet or modern industrial concrete floor of an office. And so, if you do go the suit route, make it dark blue, gray, or brown (in the summer, though, a light color like tan can work).
2. Ill-fitting suits
No matter if you're interviewing in a historically conservative industry like law or banking, or in a more forward-thinking industry like software or social media, you don't want to come across as a slouch. And that's exactly what a bad-fitting suit will imply. Today, it's not all that expensive to buy a suit that fits. There are low-priced retailers that offer passable choices to even the most tight-budgeted of consumers. There are also great inexpensive suits to be found at second-hand and vintage stores, suits that can then be tailored to fit for a reasonable price. The key to interview attire is to not call attention to it. You want you and your answers and your experience and resume to be front and center, not your size 46 Long suit draped over your size 40 Short torso.
3. Bow ties
In theory, I have nothing against bow ties. They look great with a tuxedo. And there are some guys who can pull them off and look quite dandy. However, there are some people (men and women) who are not so forgiving when it comes to bow ties and men. Which brings me to another rule about interviewing attire: You never know who you're interviewing with. That is, you never know what someone might think about an atypical piece of clothing, like the bow tie. So it's better to keep it not-so-extreme and not-unusual during your first impression (your interview). If you're "a bow-tie guy," save the bow tie for week three of your new job. In the meantime, if you must wear a tie to your interview, make sure it's one that can be Half Windsor-ed.
4. Open-toe shoes
There was a lot of discussion (probably too much) in the media this past summer about whether men should be able to wear open-toe shoes to work when it's hotter than Death Valley in the city. It seemed that the consensus was that it's not all that appropriate for men to sport even Birkenstock-like sandals. While I don't necessarily agree (have you ever worn shoes and socks white waiting 35 minutes for the Manhattan-bound L Train to come and the temp on the track is 115 degrees and the humidity must be pushing 99 percent?), I do think open-toe shoes should never be worn to an interview. If you must go open toe (if it's 100+ out), wear your Birkenstocks on your commute, and then take them off two or three blocks away from the office building you're interviewing in and replace them with socks and your wingtips. As soon as your interview's over, and you're again a few blocks away from said office, change back and free your feet.
Although I admit that sneakers and a suit is a look I admire, I don't think there's going to be anything that can dress up a pair of sneakers enough to make them suitable enough for an interview. Even if they're close cousins to a boot or shoe (say, a dark color and suede), they're probably going to be not unlike a bow tie and draw unwanted attention. I'm guessing there might be some dissenters out there; after all, the sneaker is the preferred choice of footwear of some prominent CEOs these days, and companies that go the casual route allow sneakers to be worn pretty much at all times. However, during an interview, they send a message that you might not be serious enough (to hold a job). Also, if you're worried about comfort and support, there are plenty of interview-appropriate shoes out there that are almost as comfortable as sneakers. For example, I once played an entire pickup soccer match in these and had no problems passing, shooting, dribbling, and tackling (if not scoring and winning).
6. Light-blue jeans
When it comes to jeans, color matters. Which is to say, I believe there's a time and place for wearing black jeans, dark-gray jeans, even dark-blue jeans to an interview. For example, if you're interviewing with a tech startup that has a very casual atmosphere, you might wear dark jeans, a blazer, a collared shirt, and not-sneaker shoes (again, do your research and make sure this would be okay; don't just take my word for it). However, there are no instances when you're interviewing for an office/professional job in which light-blue jeans would be the way to go. They're just too informal and imply a too-laid-back of an aesthetic. Which is not something you ever want to go for. Laid-back might be good on a first date, but it's not going to work on a first (or second or third) interview.
7. Graphic T-shirts
Like jeans, T-shirts are not out of the realm of possibility now when it comes to interview attire. A T-shirt with a suit can be a rather formal look, albeit one that only few guys in a few certain professions would be able to pull off well in an interview (I'm thinking of top creative positions in creative fields, in particular). However, wearing words, whether across your chest or elsewhere, is too informal, takes attention away from the words you speak, and could contain a message your interviewer doesn't love. And so, keep your T-shirt, if you must wear one, free of letters, words, and phrases. This also goes for brand names, designer names, and labels. Don't wear them.
Baseball hats, top hats, fedoras, berets, beanies, boaters, flat caps, fishermen caps, peaked caps, and bucket hats. Whatever your hat obsession might be, leave your hat outside the room you're interviewing in (or deep within the bag you're carrying to your interview). Of course, this doesn't include hats worn for religious purposes; those are certainly fine. The point here is that unnecessary hats are, well, unnecessary, and there's a good chance that if you wear one to an interview, you'll be forever known, during the internal discussion of your job candidacy, as the "guy with the hat" and not by your actual name. Which, to say the least, is "not a good thing."
There's not really a good reason (none I can think of) to wear necklaces, bracelets, rings (aside from wedding bands), piercings, or any other types of jewelry adorning your body to an interview. Jewelry will, like a few of the items mentioned above, draw attention to themselves, and so draw attention away from your candidacy. Jewelry is something you can certainly sport once you start work (if it seems appropriate and it's part of your daily attire) but it's not something you can sport to an interview. I'm also thinking of fancy watches here. Put the gold Rolex in your top drawer, not on your wrist, while you're interviewing.
For the 10th interview faux pas, rather than pick one, I thought it might be helpful to list all of the things I think are obvious but might not be so obvious to some of you male interviewees out there. So, here goes, in no particular order, more things that you should never wear to an interview: shorts, tie dye, sales tags, political buttons, neon colors, torn clothing, wrinkled clothing, too-tight clothing, dirty clothing, and loud clothing (crazy-bright colors and wild-and-crazy patterns).
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