How to dress for an informal interview

There are first interviews, second interviews, phone, Skype, Google hangout interviews, lunch interviews, and group panel interviews and informal interviews.But all of these sessions have a purposes and most even have some kind of “best practices.” So what do you do, when you get invited to the bedrock interview of job searching:

The Informal Interview

In the world of small business and start-ups, dress codes seem to be lost or completely ignored. The classic suit is no longer the rule, and a suit and tie may leave you feeling a bit out of place. Before you get the chance to scope out your company during the interview, it’s hard to tell if casual or formal is the code du jour.

For someone who is enter or re-entering the job market or starting their career, there are no hard and fast rules. Of all the Google searches and “Interviews for Dummies,” there is very likely nothing specific enough out there to assure you of what’s acceptable to wear to that all important first interview.

If you have never worked in a small business or a start-up, then you likely don’t have a clue as to how your interview attire could fit into the casual environment you regularly read or hear about.

What is an Informal Interview Anyway?!

There’s a chance that your interviewer might hint at appropriate attire when scheduling your meeting, however there’s a larger chance they won’t. Sometimes, a hiring manager will tell you it’s an informal interview, but they are not referring to the dress code. Rather, it may have more to do with the style of the interview. It may not be a question-and-answer format or it may be more of a company tour. Usually, it is a bit of a fact-finding mission for yourself and the company. Hiring Managers and particularly recruiters like to “check you out”, before they present you to their client or the decision maker. You get to see if you want to work for them, and they’ll check you out to see if it’s worth interviewing you. This means you still need to put your best foot forward.

Definite Interview Dress No-No’s

  • Going to the first interview in casual-wear: It shows that you are not taking things seriously, and you will likely reduce your chances to get to the next interview stage.
  • Hair styles that are obviously inappropriate. So this means no Mohawks unless your job specifically requires it.
  • Wearing outrageous accessories. This includes massive earrings or bracelets, ridiculous necklaces or anything else that’s distracting… unless you’re going for a fashion job at ‘Totes Cray Accessories Inc.”

If you’re nervous about being over/under dressed, layer up. As for my first interview with the guys at FOSSLR, I ended up deciding on a smart semi -formal dress shirt and dress pants and some good shoes. I also wore a tie which I quickly asked to take off once things were underway – it was pretty obvious that a tie was too formal. Sure, when I walked in the office and saw nerdy shirts, jeans and sneakers and hipster gear and shoes flooding rows of desks I felt a little bit like a fish out of water.

I had a blazer thrown on over my shirt that I quickly took off during my interview so I felt a little less flashy. I also suggest that you add a watch or simple necklace for a sophisticated touch, and don’t be afraid to reflect yourself in your outfit. I never leave the house without my cool watch! Also remember, dress pants can never hurt.

The important thing was that I felt comfortable in my outfit and was able to focus on nailing the interview. It is always better to be a little overdressed than the alternative. Show up sporting a gym bag and you may soon be back on the jobs board at looking for another job.

As always, remember to Keep It Simple Sunshine.