Question: I have some upcoming interviews, all at major firms with year-round casual dress. What do I wear?
Answer: This is a very timely question - and one that I think many people are asking these days.
So many of the firms - if not just about all of them - have gone casual dress year round. Even the bastions of conservative business dressing - the investment banks - have dropped their strict dress codes and now allow a casual dress code.
So what does one wear to an interview at a firm that has a casual dress code? Believe it or not, and I expect to hear some criticism about my answer, you still need to dress in business clothes for an interview, no matter what the dress code may be at the firm where you will be interviewing.
Before we get into the specifics, let's talk about the bigger problem. If your firm is casual, and more than likely it is, how do you show up at work in full business attire without drawing a lot of attention to yourself?
If you are working with a recruiter, the solution is easy. Simply drop your interviewing outfit off at the headhunter's office and, prior to the interview, go back to this office to change into your business clothes. If your house or apartment is nearby, you might want to leave your office 30 minutes earlier than you normally would and go home to quickly change.
Now, back to the question at hand. Why do I believe that you need to dress in business clothes for an interview even if the firm where you are going to interview allows a very relaxed dress code? First of all, they know nothing about you except what they have read on your resume. Since I have always preached that first impressions are critical, you need to let the interviewer see you in your business mode rather than laid back casual. The first impression that the interviewer has of you should be one of an appropriately dressed attorney, one who knows how to dress for court or for a meeting with the firm's best client.
You see, if you show up in casual dress, even though you may be dressed exactly like the person conducting the interview, no one can tell if you know how to dress properly for a court appearance or for a visit to a potential client for what is known as a "beauty contest" (trying to get a potential client to sign up with you and your firm).
The bottom line is you need to show the interviewer that you know how to dress in business attire for certain types of meetings and/or events.
I know that this may seem to be a big inconvenience for you, particularly if you are working at a firm that expects to see you in casual dress each day, however, a little bit of inconvenience in one or two days of your life may result in a job offer that will bring you much happiness for the rest of your work lifetime. It might be this one little noticeable difference when you are compared to a candidate of equal qualifications that may turn the tide in your favor. I hope this advice helps.
Summary: This is a very timely question - and one that I think many people are asking these days.