Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dressing For Sell Day

A few days ago I received the following e-mail from my friend Eliza, who just received a job offer from a fantastic economic consulting company:

Hi, my fashion-conscious friend!

I had a question that I need your help with. I'm going to visit the company that offered me a job tomorrow for a "Sell Day." I'll get a tour of the office, meet a few somewhat senior people, go out to lunch with a bunch of the more junior people, and then briefly meet with HR.
So, my question for you is what style of dress should I wear--a suit? Dressy business casual? I emailed someone in HR, but she never got back to me. Also factoring into this decision is that they told me to wear business casual to my second-round interview with them (weird, right?). Thanks for your help! You are a life saver!


My first question for you is how the people at the company normally dress, which I'm sure you observed during your interview. I would mimic whatever level of dressiness they had (if a suit is de rigeur, wear a suit, etc). It can be difficult if people at various levels or departments dress differently, but a good rule is to mimic the most senior people you met. That usually means leaning a little on the formal side, since execs tend to be more buttoned-up than junior level employees. You can always take off a jacket for the lunch with the younger people, switching over to business casual mode.

My instinct tells me that your company is probably business casual, especially since that's what they asked you to wear for your second round of interviews. Because consulting isn't a "creative" industry, I'd wear a conservative combo of black pencil skirt or dress pants with a colored sweater or button-down shirt. Closed-toe heels are a must and don't forget to wear hose and accessories that match. Don't wear anything too funky or fashion-forward.

Luckily, you have the job, so it's not like your outfit will make or break this meeting, but you of course still want to look professional and put-together. And importantly, your look should convey that you're a good fit for the company.

I'm jealous that you're getting wined and dined while the rest of us slave away at school, I hope you have a great time!

Anyone else have tips for Eliza for dressing for a "Sell Day" event?


Elisabeth said...

You've given perfect advice, there's not much else I can add apart from feel confident and you'll shine!

laura said...

I work in HR and place employees with a variety of workplaces. We start with phone screening and testing, and then have an interview. I routinely ask the candidate to come in business casual because that is a very good test of how well someone understands workplaces in general. I am looking for a conservative interpretation of the term, but a lot of the time I actually get women showing up in velour sweatsuits or jean skirts with leggings-- and then I know that they either haven't worked anywhere in a professional setting before, or that they might not have even worked before! (Getting references back on candidates can take a really long time and often they are interviewing with me before I have been able to verify the employment history on the resume.) So, I discover that maybe they were in call center for a Fortune 500 co, NOT a true "admin asst" because honestly-- they would know better than to show up in a Juicy sweatsuit as business casual. Also, it is a screen for how seriuously they are taking their job search. My best recent placement told me, after I had hired her for our staff, that she had no IDEA what to wear for business casual and had actually gone to Brooks Bros and asked a sales consultant! That took some effort and gumption on her part and, sure enough, she did put together a great business casual look for our interview AND has shown that her personal initiative is an asset to our staff.
From talking to all of my clients (where I place these workers) the WORST offense with misinterpreting business casual is being sexy. Dirty/ unkept clothing comes in a very close second, of course. The fundamental misunderstanding of workplace conduct that you show in wearing that sheer blouse with a contrasting colored cami, or that skin tight "Body by Victoria" skirt suit with super high peep-tor pumps... well... that will sink you fast!