Are Suits Still Suitable for Job Interviews?

While casual dress codes are gaining ground in the workplace, job applicants shouldn’t put away their power suits just yet, according to new research from global staffing firm Accountemps.

In a survey of senior managers, 37% of respondents said candidates should always wear a formal suit when interviewing for a job. A similar percentage (36%) felt proper interview attire depends on the position or department at the company.

Almost all respondents agreed how someone dresses for the job interview is significant: 52% reported it’s very important, and 42% said it’s at least somewhat important.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the research also shows recommended job interview attire varies by industry: Suits are more often preferred in finance, insurance and real estate (46%) than construction (28%) or retail (26%).

“Know your audience before going into an interview to ensure you not only look your best, but also look the part,” said Michael Steinitz, senior executive director of Accountemps, a division of Robert Half. “It can be uncomfortable if you’re underdressed – or extremely overdressed – for an interview. Whether the office environment is jeans and T-shirts or suits, ensure your outfit is one step above the hiring company’s usual protocol in formality.”

Steinitz added, “Ask your professional network, HR contact or recruiter, if you have one, for tips on what to wear. Staffing experts can provide coaching on creating a great first impression.”

Additional findings

Cities where you should suit up: Miami, New York and Washington, D.C. (54% each) have the highest percentage of managers who said a suit should always be worn to job interviews.

Smart casual cities: Phoenix (45%), Minneapolis (43%) and Charlotte (42%) have the most managers who said whether a suit should be worn to a job interview depends on the position or department at the company. Austin and Seattle (32% each) are the top markets where a suit may not be necessary if the candidate looks professional.

Size matters in suiting up: At least 40% of managers at companies with more than 250 employees prefer candidates wear a suit to job interviews. In comparison, 31% of managers at organizations with 20 to 99 employees expect to see applicants don formal wear.

Steinitz noted, “Managers can improve the interview experience by removing the guesswork and letting candidates know the recommended attire ahead of time. That way, everyone around the table can concentrate on the substance of the interview, including whether the applicant’s knowledge, experience and personality are a match for the role and company.”

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