iTnews asks: Dress up or down for an IT job interview?

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iTnews asks: Dress up or down for an IT job interview?

Suit and tie versus shorts and t-shirt.

One issue that still confuses a lot of IT candidates is how they should dress for a job interview.

Are the days of suit, tie and polished shoes outdated? How much stock do recruiters put in the clothes you wear to an interview with them or their client?

This week iTnews pulled together some of the leading IT recruiters for their thoughts. The response was mixed, although there appeared to be some common ‘rules'.

While many claimed appearance was well down the list of things they looked for, when push came to shove most wanted candidates to appear "professional".

That meant different things to different recruiters but the first rule of thumb was if in doubt, ask.

"Ask the recruiter ‘how do you want me presented'?" said Peter Noblet, regional director at Hays IT.

"I remember going to see a client back in the dotcom boom era. A colleague and I were in full suit regalia, the client in board shorts and a t-shirt.

"I said to the client, ‘We're really overdressed', to which he replied, ‘I don't want my professional services suppliers to dress like me. I want people to represent me in a professional way'."

Noblet believed the same rules applied even when meeting with a recruiter for a screening interview.

"Just because we're recruiting for a client who is an online media company, doesn't mean we'd expect the person to come dressed like they worked at an online media company," he said.

"It should be a more formal affair."

Others disagreed. "It's very important that candidates are dressed appropriately - in a manner that's consistent with what the client's wearing," said Peoplebank's new chief executive Peter Acheson.

"We actually say to a candidate, if it's a casual dress environment, don't wear a tie, just wear a nice pair of trousers and a nice shirt because turning up in a tie would be a disadvantage."

For Duncan Thompson, general manager of Finite IT, it was about not raising suspicions at the candidate's existing workplace.

"We don't place a great deal of emphasis on appearance because some of the scrappiest looking people can turn out to be the best quality candidates," Thompson said.

"We'd be disappointed if someone walked in wearing boardies but a lot of dress codes are semi-casual.

"[But casual dress at an interview] is often necessary because if the candidate went to their current workplace and wore a suit it would be an obvious giveaway [to their current employer] that they were going for a job interview."

Not all agreed that informal dress was a good idea or that candidates would be placed at a disadvantage by over-dressing for the occasion.

"I've never heard of someone being turned down for a job because they looked too smart," Noblet said.

"I think it would be shallow thinking to preclude someone from getting a job because they're smartly dressed but that's something you should get advice on."

"The advice we give jobseekers is it's better to err on the side of being too formal than too informal," said Ben Wood, managing director of Clicks IT Recruitment.

"Come in under-dressed and you could be perceived as complacent or disrespectful, even though you didn't intend to create that perception."

What do you think? Have you been turned down for a role because you were over-dressed for the occasion?

Read our other advice column: Why are salaries left out of job ads? here.

To find out what you're really worth, download a copy of the iTnews 2010 Jobs Survey results here.

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