Recently, I was made aware of a situation in which a candidate wore a t-shirt to an interview with the CEO of a company. Despite his credentials and abilities, his poor choice of attire cost him the position.  Your professional attire says more about you than your sense of fashion. What you choose to wear and how you present yourself in your professional life is a visual representation of your overall personal brand. Furthermore, how you dress not only reflects your personality but also your attitude toward your job and company. Selecting office attire should be a strategic process, so as not to over- or underdress for your position and company.

Whether you’re in an interview setting or dressing for routine day-to-day meetings and activities in the office, it’s important to consider your company culture and environment when choosing your apparel. Some industries call for a more casual approach to office attire. In the legal profession, suits and ties are an everyday part of business attire, and open toed shoes are generally a no-no.  In a sales and marketing career, however, a well put-together, yet stylish wardrobe is typically ideal. My peers and I, despite being more casual than other professionals, wear relaxed clothing while maintaining a polished, contemporary look.

Regardless of the formality of your office, there are a few guidelines I consider universal in terms of workplace attire:

Men should avoid wearing t-shirts, sandals and tank tops. Even in a casual office setting, these should not be considered acceptable office attire.

Women should be mindful of the length of their garments as well as the fit. While style and fashion should be of concern, it’s equally as important to wear respectful, professionally-appropriate clothing.

If you think your outfit could be potentially distracting to your peers, it probably is.  Don’t wear it to work.

Make sure your clothes are wrinkle-free, in good condition and are a positive representation of yourself.

As a sales and marketing recruiter, I coach candidates throughout the job search process to dress according to the office culture and for the position they are seeking. Dressing professionally and appropriately for your workplace demonstrates that you take pride in yourself, which translates into taking pride in your work.

Is your office environment casual or more buttoned up? What does your office attire say about your personal brand?

I invite you to share your thoughts on professional attire. Horror stories welcome.