26.10.2011
There is an unwritten dress code for every occasion; when in doubt, overdress

This is a topic that I really have not written about because I think it is self-explanatory and most people would feel that the subject is a waste of time. Primarily because it seems rather simplistic and there are other worthwhile subjects to discuss. Is it really necessary to tell people they should not wear light color socks with a dark suit?

I know of very few people who need to be told how to dress themselves, and they would not allow themselves to be seen wearing clothes that are wrinkled, sweat stained or covered in dog or cat hair. So I have never addressed the subject although there is one aspect about what to wear which is worthy of mentioning.

Overdressing or under dressing for the interview leaves an impression and can influence an outcome. Most of us already know to wear professional attire, a suit and tie or an appropriate dress or skirt. For a recent example, last year I represented a candidate whom I introduced to a law firm. He was qualified and very interested in the position available. He prepared himself adequately for his interview, and although he interviewed well, it was assumed he was not serious because he arrived wearing a suit jacket, an open collared shirt and blue jeans. It might seem trivial but it killed his chances of moving forward in the process because he was not taken seriously. One candidate’s casual dress killed his chances of moving forward in the process because he was not taken seriously.

I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that dressing appropriately for an interview is an expression of respect and professional courtesy, and that applies to both job seekers and interviewers – which reminds me of a senior hiring official from a Fortune 500 company, who met one of my candidates and was hung over smelling of alcohol, sweating and wearing the same clothes as the evening before. Needless to say, after that meeting no matter how good the company was, the candidate felt rightfully insulted and was no longer interested in continuing in the hiring process. But that is an article for another day.

Prague is no different than any other professional business environment around the world, and I think most people would agree if you are going to a law office for an interview, wearing a suit would be a good idea. But what about other work environments? Legal firms are one end of the spectrum and very casual IT environments are sometimes the other side. One exception might be creative jobs such as advertising or media related jobs but those are the only exceptions I can think of. I have a simple rule and suggestion. When in doubt, overdress (for the meeting).

For the rest of us, I have a simple rule and suggestion. When in doubt, overdress (for the meeting). If you find that you arrive looking very different than the others, okay, the next time you can arrive dressed business casual. But those are your choices, formal or business casual, and if you are already researching the company you will be meeting with, this is just another aspect of that preparation. And for the record, jeans are never considered business casual – just casual.

With this simple rule you never have to worry about the dress code. But lowering standards to anything less is okay only if you have been previously instructed by the hiring official you will meet orif you are meeting someone who for example wants to meet for a coffee and you have confirmed it is not a formal interview and primarily a casual business conversation.

As with anything else involved in the interview process, if you are trying to improve your situation or elevate your professional status, why only make a half-hearted effort.