First off I have to thank you guys for the great podcast. I'm almost caught up through all the back-issues now. And Mark I've listened to your talk at Kellogg a couple of times and am going to try and follow your advice the best I can (smile, handshake, prepared and close).

Here's where I need your help though:

I have an interview for an internal position in a couple weeks on a Friday. The dress code for most of the building on most days is shirts and ties, no suits. On Fridays jeans and sneakers are accepted. The dress code for the group that I'm interviewing with is business casual every day, no ties (no sneakers/no jeans). Being that it is a casual Friday, and the group I am interviewing with is always business casual, what is the appropriate attire? If it was an external company I would wear a suit. But considering that it is an internal position and I'm aware of the dress code and how the VP I'm interviewing with typically dresses (bus casual), should I dress casually? And by casual, I was planning on a nice button down shirt and khakis (no ties no sneakers, etc). Is this appropriate?

The position is an internal software development position in a retail company in the Boston area.

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

bflynn's picture

You're asking if its ok not to wear a suit. Can you "get away" with dressing down because you already know who the interviews are?

I assume this is an office job - wear a navy suit. You don't get a pass just because you already know their names. Unless you have recieved specific instructions from the interviewer, follow the normal protocol. Look at it this way - you'll feel very comfortable saying "Yes, its casual Friday, but this IS an interview" as opposed to "Oh, its casual Friday, so I didn't dress fancy."


Mark's picture
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This question is a classic. I'm going to blog on it, because I get it so frequently. And...

Brian's right.

Navy suit. Black shoes, black belt, white shirt, red or blue or other simple straightforward tie. Black socks that go over the calf. Undershirt. Try it on in advance.

The way Brian puts it is accurate: "yes, but this IS an interview." Or you could also say, "It's an interview, and I wanted there to be no doubt about my interest."

Knock 'em dead!


coleca's picture

Thanks for the replies.

I guess what I was getting at is not that I wanted to get away with something, but that I was more worried that over-dressing could be as bad as under-dressing (hence why I wanted the expert opinions). More because I know the interviewer would be casual and I would not be and I was thinking I'd want to fit in with the style of the organization I'm trying to get into. I'm guessing Mark would say that there's nothing to fit into until you're in.

But I think your points outweigh my concerns...

Thanks again!

Mark's picture
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I didn't see your question as wanting to get away with anything at all. Rather, you were trying to balance, as you say, "fitting in" with "impressing".

The fact is, you CAN'T fit in. The whole point of the interview is that you're NOT part of them yet. Believe me, they want you to feel that you have to EARN getting in. If you dress the way they are, they MIGHT think you're not putting your best foot forward.

Flattering the interviewer by showing them that this interview and their opportunity justify you sending a message with professional attire far outweigh the dangers of being overdressed.

There is ALWAYS the chance in ANY interview of either possible negative outcome, over- or under-dressed. Under-dressed is FAR more likely (most folks never think about the above rationale) and FAR more deadly. That doesn't eliminate the possibility of over-dressing, but it makes the choice easy.


Torch's picture

For what this is worth,

I am a truckdriver, I ALWAYS dress for an interview. It's what got me out of the pile on more than one occasion. You are trying to show the people interviewing you that you are ready to step yourself up to the new challenges.


DavidB's picture

To add my own .02 cents.

You never ever get a second chance at a first impression. Even when it is people you know, it is a very different situation when you are on the job interview. You are trying to sell yourself (and your past work) to them. You need every advantage you can in order to be better than the pack.