Q. Jordan, I’m really hoping you can help me.
I have a second-round interview on Wednesday for a job that I really, really want.
Before my last interview, the owner emailed me and said, “FYI, we’re VERY casual here.” I came straight from work at my stuffy corporate job, so I was wearing a jacket, black top and tan dress pants. His comment to me, in a joking way, was, “THAT is what you call casual?” (To give you an idea of just how casual they are, 60% of the interview was conducted on the patio over beers. The owner was in jeans, a t-shirt and flip-flops, and the other girl who interviewed me was in a cute top, jeans and sandals.)
So for my second interview, I was thinking about wearing this shirt in slate grey with dark skinny jeans and peep-toe pumps. And of course a pop of color with the accessories.
One of my friends about dropped dead from shock when I said that I’m going to wear jeans to the interview, so now I’m second-guessing it. I want to seem like I would fit in with them as much as possible, and that includes my appearance — plus, he went out of his way the last time to tell me that they dress casually, which made me feel like there was no expectation for me to show up there wearing business professional attire (and truthfully, I felt like an idiot in the outfit I chose).
I’d really love your opinion. Is it a major faux pas to wear jeans to an interview even if I would wear jeans every day if I got the job? Or even better, what would YOU wear in this kind if situation?
Thanks — I love your site!
A. I think you know what I’m going to say here.
There are those who hold “never wear jeans to an interview” as a hard-and-fast rule, and I think that yes, that’s a good general guideline to go by, especially if you’re not sure what kind of situation you’re walking into.
But to me this is a no-brainer.
Are there some interviews to which it would be more than OK – desirable, even – to wear jeans? Yes. And I’ll give you one example: if I was your potential employer, and the one interviewing you. I actually interviewed a potential JITH production assistant a couple of weeks back, and he showed up wearing a neat shirt, jeans, and sneakers. I was wearing a tank top and shorts. The interview was held sitting in the grass in my backyard, because we didn’t have outdoor furniture yet.
An extreme example? Sort of. But I use it to illustrate the point that there are all kinds of jobs, and all kinds of people, and that even with interviews, where a certain amount of decorum is expected (and important), you still have to take into account individual circumstances. Wearing a suit to an interview at a punk-rock clothing store makes about as much sense as wearing flip-flops to an interview at a conservative law firm.
Yes, it’s important to treat an interview with respect, and it’s important to err on the side of formality (especially if you’re coming into a situation where you’re not sure who you’re meeting with or what the company is like). BUT (and this is a big but): it’s also important to show your potential employer that you fit in with the corporate culture, and by conducting the interview on a patio over beers while wearing flip-flops (and directly commenting on the “formality” of your not-so-formal attire) he gave you not one, but several major cues that I think it would benefit you to pick up on, if only to show him that you understand and are interested in acclimating to his company’s ideology.
That said, I wouldn’t dress as casually as your potential employer or his colleague did: no matter how informal the interview, it’s still important to look neat and presentable. This means no rips, tears, stains, or extra skin showing (you never know where people draw the line when it comes to workplace propriety, and you don’t want an exposed inch of skin to be the deal breaker).
I think you’re right on the ball with your idea of pairing dark jeans with a nice top and shoes (I put together a suggested look for you above, though you may prefer a lower heel; I just really loved that pair of Sergio Rossis and wanted to throw them into the mix); the only other thing that I think you should make sure to do is style your makeup and hair so that you look subtly polished and professional.
Very excited for you – good luck, and please let me know how it goes!
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