During these sticky, sweltering days that are becoming more common all over the nation this summer, one key question more job candidates are asking more and more is whether it’s really so important to don dark suits and pantyhose for women when they head out for job interviews.
The short answer, unfortunately, is yes—at least for those of us in finance.
No lighter than charcoal
Men should opt for darker suits when possible—no lighter than charcoal, says Janice Detta Colli, managing director with Boyden Toronto, and even women should go for a dark-hued skirt suit with hose in the summer if they want to maximize their chances of getting hired.
And whereas women are more likely to own suits in pale pastels, wearing one for an interview presents the risk that you will be viewed as too feminine for the job.
Personally, Detta Colli says, “I have one stunning pale blue suit, but it may make me come across as more feminine than I’d want to be perceived.”
Beige, peach or white judged as less assertive
It may sound like something out of the Dark Ages, but “Women choosing colors such as beige, peach or white are apt to be judged as less assertive or powerful” than someone in a dark neutral color.
“I’ve actually had clients comment that someone has come across as too feminine” as compared to other job candidates they talked to, she observes, with the assumption that a woman who appears too frilly and feminine might not be able to play on the same team with a group of men.
Richard Lipstein, managing director with Gilbert Tweed International on Madison Avenue, agrees that almost always, men and women should choose a suit for an job interview at a bank or financial concern, and darker is definitely better, he says.
Learn how managers dress
Beyond that, try and learn how company managers dress, both recruiters suggest. “You have to dress as though you were already on the job,” says Lipstein, and that means having a sense of what the people in this particular company wear.
This isn’t as challenging as you might think, says Detta Colli. Clearly, if you know people working for the firm, you can ask them about the dress code and how job applicants are expected to show up for interviews.
View the company's Web site
But even if you don’t know a single person at the firm, in many cases—at the larger companies at least—you may be able to simply go online and find something on YouTube where the company president or CEO has appeared to discuss earnings or offer an industry outlook. That will give you an idea of what the higher-ups are wearing, at least. Given that the top brass have more leeway to don bright colors like red, you may decide to mimic their look while toning it down some.
Leave perfume and cologne at home
One of the worst possible mistakes you can make is to wear too much perfume or cologne to a job interview, experts agree. Jobs managers may be allergic to your scent or just feel overwhelmed by it, especially with the heat to intensify things. When in doubt, leave it out, or consider that "just a dab will do you."
Whereas Detta Colli says she is quite comfortable wearing a skirt suit to work in the summer, she draws the line at having to wear skirts in the winter, preferring well-tailored pantsuits when the Toronto winds are howling. “If the company [managers] are annoyed because I’m wearing a pant suit in the middle of a snowstorm, maybe this isn’t the right place for me,” she says.
Lipstein—who is based on Madison Avenue— feels there’s nothing like a Brooks Brother suit for a man or a woman who is in doubt about appearing professional during a job interview in financial services.