Most job candidates know that it's better to err on the side of formal when choosing clothes for an interview. Showing up in shorts and a T-shirt instead of interview-appropriate attire is a fairly easy mistake to avoid, but that's not the only fashion faux pas job seekers need to worry about.
"Poor fashion choices can actually steal your confidence, which is one of the most important things you can bring to an interview," said Jaden Lam, founder of a menswear brand specifically designed for men 5 foot 9 inches (175 centimeters) and shorter. "[The wrong clothes] can create a sloppy appearance and actually detract from rather than enhance who you are."
Lam noted that, for men specifically, one of the biggest appearance-related mistakes a job candidate can make is wearing ill-fitting clothes, whether they're too big or too small. [What Leadership Looks Like (and Why It Matters)]
"Clothes that are oversized can make a shorter, athletic guy look shorter than he is and out of shape," Lam told Business News Daily. "Clothes that are too tight can be constricting and make someone move and feel awkward. If you aren't confident and comfortable in the clothes you are wearing, that will come across in an interview."
"It's not just what you're wearing, but how it fits you," added Sloane Barbour, director of recruitment and placement agency Jobspring Partners. "It's worth spending the extra money and effort to get something that fits properly. Someone in jeans [that fit] looks better than someone in an oversized suit."
Both men and women may wonder about the definition of "business casual," and whether it's appropriate to wear such an outfit to your first meeting with a potential employer.
"Business casual has become the new normal at many workplaces throughout the country, but sometimes job seekers take the casual part too far and the business part too lightly," Lam said. "Someone who comes in with an oversized shirt, scruffy shoes or pants that aren't hemmed properly is sending the wrong message no matter what he says in the interview."
Wearing an outfit that is too casual may tell the hiring manager that you don't take this job opportunity seriously enough, don't understand their business culture, aren't detail-oriented, aren't respectful, or lack polish or professionalism, Lam said. For that reason, Barbour recommended sporting a more traditional, conservative look for your first interview.
"Business casual runs the gamut, and it's up to each individual person," Barbour said. "If [the hiring manager] says business casual and you perceive it as jeans and a polo shirt, you may be better off wearing slacks and a button down unless it's communicated to you that jeans are appropriate. Always overdress if you're not sure."
If you're comfortable doing so, you can ask someone connected to the company about the dress code beforehand, or even research the company's website and social networks to see if there are photos of employees in the office to get an idea of their everyday attire.
"It used to be the corporate uniform was a suit," Lam said. "Today, there is much more latitude for us to express ourselves. But with that latitude is the potential for mistakes that could be costly. We all have many looks, but those looks should fit the occasion.Dress for success and don't let the 'casual' of 'business casual' throw you off."
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Originally published on Business News Daily