Architects are known to be creative catch-alls. As a young architect who takes fashion seriously, during my recent job hunt I noticed that there is a lot of uncertainty about how to dress for creative job interviews. So I’m writing this to help guide other creative-job seekers in the right direction.
Just as the cover letter is specific to the job you apply to, the outfit you wear to the interview will also be specific to the job and sometimes even the interviewer. There are tried and true job interview dress rules that cross both creative and corporate job industries that I’ve included a link to below in the notes area. However, these days more and more companies like Google, Facebook and tech/startups ran by young and hip professionals, are adopting casual dress codes. This might be a curve ball for some Detroiters seeking their creative-dream-job.
Detroit has recently become the destination city for young professionals to launch their startups. Some have even gone so far as to call Detroit the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. If you’re a creative and your dream job is to work for a company like Shinola, ChalkFly or just about any business in the M@dison building, but you’re confused about what to wear to the interview, this is for you!
So how do you dress for the interview at the company where everyone wears t-shirts, jeans, Ecco shoes and where every day is casual Friday? Jason Warner, Director of Recruiting for Starbucks, Google and founder of RecruitingDash.com, says “Don’t dress for the job you want to have, dress 30% above your level. More than that and it will look like you’re trying too hard.”
That means the old adage “it’s better to overdress than underdress” for a job interview just isn’t safe anymore. If you over dress “people in creative firms might see you as less creative, a little uptight, not someone who will roll up their sleeves and get dirty.” Says Frank Dahill, an expert creative industry senior recruiter for Sam & Lori Associates of New York City. “Dress half a step up from everyone else.” Nowadays you have to learn the company culture for each job to find out what dressing 30-50% better than everyone else looks like, but here are some guidelines…
Become a private investigator
By now you’ve already done research about the company in order to write an awesome cover letter. Now you just need to research the dress code a bit more. If you know someone who works there, don’t be afraid to ask them about the day to day standards. They’ll likely just offer to tell you what they wore to their interview. Try not to directly ask them what they wore unless you know them really well. Also, try using a search engine to find images of company/office events, décor and other indicators. If the décor of the office is fun, laid-back and colorful, the dress code will likely be the same.
The rules creatives can break!
No unusual piercings. Creatives can break this rule, but there are still some exceptions. I’ve seen women in their 20’s-40’s in the creative field with nose piercings and I even had a male architecture instructor that wore a tongue ring to class every week! I doubt if he actually wore it to the job interview, but you get my drift. The key is to keep it very simple. If you have a lot of odd piercings, take out the majority of them for the interview.
No visible tattoos. After you found that perfect interview outfit, you noticed that your Vitruvian Man tattoo is still showing! Don’t sweat it. Most creative employers either want or have a tat’ and won’t judge you for it. However, if the tattoo is inappropriate, you’ll want to do your best to cover it up and not offend anyone.
Conservative hair. If your hair is more on the unconventional side, like wild colors or a shaved Mohawk, don’t worry. You don’t have to find a wig for the interview. Just make sure your hair looks its best. Creative employers are usually out of the box thinkers, if you are qualified for the job your hair color or texture shouldn’t matter much. Not long ago natural Afrocentric hair was thought to be a no-no for the interview, but now all you natural ladies can rest easy; you don’t have to whip out the straightening comb.
Muted tones. You can wear a bit of color to the interview, but keep it conservative, nothing too bright or distracting. Don’t try to prove how creative you are through your interview outfit. Follow the “tried and true rules” below as much as possible but you get to break one small rule and substitute it for something a little creative. Try not to break a big rule or too many little rules, you don’t want to push your luck!
For the fashion industry it is extremely dependent upon the specific job you interview for and who’s interviewing you. Keep the clothes classic and simple and let the accessories, like stylish shoes, a sharp bag or briefcase and modern jewelry display your great taste (StyleCaster.com).
Ladies, take a gander at some appropriate and fashionable options to wear after you get the job here! What to Wear to Work Guide - Vogue
Tried and True Rules! These rules apply to all job industry interviews:
How To Dress For Your Next Job Interview- Forbes
Overall, don’t try to fool the employer into thinking you’re someone that you’re not. If you think to yourself “I’ll just dye my hair a natural color and then two weeks after I get the job I’ll dye it back Hot-thunder Red!” you’re on the wrong track. Artists, designers, architects, etc., have the freedom and right to be their eclectic, unique selves. Your dream job should be a place where you feel free to be your best professional-self.
General tips for everyone
Wear clothes that fit! If you feel confined and uncomfortable or notice that the button around your bust or your belly is slightly being pulled in both directions or is holding on for dear life, don’t wear that item! Every clothing item you wear should fit perfectly and not be too loose or tight. When you reach to shake the hand of your interviewer, you don’t want any surprises!
DON’T wear any fragrance and shy away from using heavily scented creams and lotions. Fragrances are such a subjective preference that it’s much safer not to wear any at all. You don’t want to risk the job because you smell like the interviewer’s ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend!
Don’t forget to groom yourself. Ladies, make sure your hair looks nice. Men, make sure you’re clean shaven or groom your beard and get a haircut.
Never apologize. If you find yourself in a pickle and you can’t follow all the rules above, don’t apologize to your interviewer in an effort to smooth things over. They may not even notice the error. Remember that having confidence is more important than the small details of your clothing. Let your best character shine through and focus on rocking the interview!
Rebecca Bucky Willis
StyleCaster.com: What to (Really) Wear to the Job Interview: Expert Tips for Every Industry
Wired.com: How to Dress for Your Google Interview
Forbes.com: How To Dress For Your Next Job Interview