Having been through the interview process several times ourselves and now also having sat on both sides of the table, we think it would be helpful to identify what the acceptable dress codes should be and take a look at what should be worn to an architectural interview.
You would be surprised at how obvious this may be to some people and how completely oblivious others are. We’ve seen it all; on one side there has been flip-flops, shorts and unbuttoned shirts and on the other, dinner suits and cravat and scarf combinations.
So here are a few snippets of advice and tips on how to plan your outfit and what to correctly wear to your architecture interview …or any interview for that matter
First impressions matter
First impressions are without any doubt one of the most important areas you want to get right for a job interview.
It’s said to take roughly three seconds (just a glance) for someone to self-evaluate the type of person you are through how you appear before any form of contact is made. So with this in mind your interviewer will form an opinion of you based on your general appearance, body language, demeanor, mannerisms, and most importantly how you are dressed, before you have even sat down!
Hence the theme of this article …you should always attend an interview looking smart and well presented, and this also means working on your posture and making sure you don’t have bad breath and/or smell like what you had lunch!
Architecture for the most part is a creative industry, and a lot of practices have a fairly relaxed dress code for its employees attending a normal working day, and for this a smart casual appearance is a good starting point.
However, in an interview situation, it is much easier to get away with being too smart, than it is for being too casual, and so always aim for the former. Underdressing speaks volumes about the type of person you are and reflects the level of research and attention you have put into the interview itself, heavily influencing that first impression.
That’s not to say that you should be suited and booted or wearing your finest dress, as at one of the past practices we have worked at, if a candidate turned up in a suite they often would not get the job, due to the (too) formal image they would portray.
You must do your research. Especially with today’s high level of social media exposure, it’s incredibly easy to find out how a practices employees are expected to dress and therefore what they would expect from you in an interview situation. (You should obviously aim to arrive smarter, than the averagely dressed employee)
This also applies to a Skype or even a phone call interview, a Skype interview should be treated in exactly the same way as a face to face interview and everything we have discussed above is still very appropriate and vitally important.
…put some trousers on, and don’t risk it!
For phone interviews, you obviously don’t need to be in your Sunday best, but getting out of your pajama’s and having a shower will put you in the right frame of mind and help you to bring your A-game.
What to wear to an architecture interview – for men
You may read some posts on interview advice recommending you should wear a suit at all costs, loosely based on it being better to be over dressed than under.
“With a suite you can’t go wrong” …they’ll say
However, as creatives we regard this as the safe and somewhat un-imaginative approach, which as discussed above can have detrimental results to your success, with its potential lack character and to an extent lack of style and design (suite dependent obviously).
That said for some of the big corporate architecture firms out there, a suit is all they will accept, and if that’s your bag, then it’s likely you’ll also be wearing one Monday to Friday.
So if you’re going down this road, then go for a muted pallet of black, grey or blue and make sure its fitted. There’s nothing worse than a suit that doesn’t fit properly.
If you plan to wear to a suite that you already own, then make sure it’s clean and that it still fits. Most creatives perhaps wear a suit once a year, in which case take yours to the dry cleaner and ensure you arrive to your interview clean and smelling fresh.
For most however, we think it’s safe to say that no one wants to wear a suit, nor work somewhere where they have to every day, so again the smart casual route should take preference. Wear a smart jacket, smart shirt with/without a jumper, a pair of fitted dark jeans and a pair of clean and smart shoes.
You can choose to add a tie to this combination should you want to smarten and formalize it further, but stay with a muted solid color, not dots, strips or patterns. You are selling yourself as someone who cares and knows about design.
Beards and hair
This hopefully goes without saying, but if you have a beard that is long, medium or short, or even just stubble, then make sure it is trimmed and neat. There is nothing worse than a beard at random and patchy lengths.
Equally, try to get a haircut before your interview and make yourself look as well-groomed as possible.
This is all about make yourself look presentable, and ultimately selling yourself as the perfect employee!
What to wear to an architecture interview for women
There is a lot more information readily available regarding this than there is for men, however in short, keep it classy and professional.
As mentioned above its important to do your research into the how your potential practice expects its employees to dress, however we still feel that a suite for most design led studios is too formal. That said, if it is a must, then brighten it up and add some character to it with some color and accompanied with some selective (modest) jewelry.
Suits for women can be either trouser/pants or skirt, and this is ultimately down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable in, but we think a skirt suite add’s a bit more flair.
You should stay away from thin strapped tops where possible, though if this really is your only option, then ensure you have a smart jacket/blazer or cardigan to sit over it.
Strapless tops should be avoided at all costs, as should low cut ones …you need to portray professionalism and experience.
You can tell a lot about someone from their shoes, more so than any other item of clothing. Again, this is a judgment call on the type of practice (so do your research), but we don’t think you need to be too conservative, add some style to your outfit via your shoe wear.
But, please don’t wear very high heels (especially if you struggle to walk in them), and don’t wear high boots. Keep it elegant and classy, with even a little color if necessary.
Either for guys or girls, the details matter.
For guys this means:
- A sensible and neat haircut.
- Neatly shaved/trimmed.
- A nice watch with a leather band.
- No change in pockets.
- Try to avoid piercings.
For the girls:
- Manicured nails that are not too long.
- Neutral nail polish.
- Conservative make up.
- Well-groomed hair that doesn’t sit over your face.
- Simple ear piercings.
- Modest jewelry.
- Try to stay away from facial piercings.
- Try to cover up tattoos.
- Clean and polished shoes.
- A smart and sensible bag.
- No chewing gum.
- Clean breath.
It’s best to cover up tattoos and remove any visible piercings that are not in your ears (men should avoid them altogether). The interview process is all about portraying yourself in the best possible professional light, and unfortunately this may mean temporarily covering up the means in which you express yourself.
With the above in mind, ultimately you need to dress in the most comfortable and professional manner you can, both are important in the build-up and during the interview to help make it as successful as possible.
Good Luck! …and don’t forget your portfolio!