• wear to informational interviewsDress guidelines for informational interviewers:

    Choosing what to wear to informational interviews can be perplexing. You need to walk a delicate line between looking professional and looking relaxed; being respectful and being independent; and most importantly between being a researcher and being a job seeker.  It’s always best to err on the side of looking nice.  But go too far with your formality and you start looking like a job seeker – which often gets you a quick ticket to HR – not a good thing. Here are some important things to consider:

    • How will your contact be dressed? If you can, find out about the work dress “level” of your contact and imitate it. Clearly if you’ll be meeting someone at an investment bank on Wall Street, a suit will be the norm – and likely expected. But if you show up in a suit for a conversation with someone who works for a startup company, your suit is likely to paint you as a job candidate. (Remember, you want to shed the role of job seeker.) Sometimes…
    • A little casualness in appearance is a good thing. Looking nice doesn’t necessarily mean looking formal. You can dress down a bit to show that this is a research conversation, but still shave or take out the nose ring (for example) to demonstrate that you’re taking the conversation seriously.
    • Maintain a minimum standard. Even if you know that your contact will be showing up in shorts and flip flops, I don’t recommend ever dressing below the standard “business casual” level for an informational interview – at least for interviews arranged on a work day. In fact, if you have no idea what your contact will be wearing, I recommend you stick with business casual. (I’m no fashion expert, as my wife will tell you, but you can find details on what business casual means here.)

    You want to look like someone this person can trust to refer to others.  And you want to maintain your distance from being a job seeker. A little confusing, yes!  But putting some thought into what to wear to informational interviews will help set the proper tone for the relationship.