You Are What You Wear: How To Dress For Management Consulting Interviews

You are what you wear, and the clothes make the man, so they say. While you got your management consulting interview based on your hard work and credentials, you cannot discount the impact that visual impressions contribute to the overall picture. How you appear and the attire you wear will convey a serious message to your hiring committee. There are some simple ways to guarantee that you will look professional. Just follow some basic rules on what to and what not to wear.

Human resources executives at McKinsey and BCG, among others, widely concur that simplicity is key in choosing your interview wardrobe. You should avoid wearing anything flashy or over the top. You want to look smart and put together, which means you need to pay attention to the details, such as pressing your suit the night before. You don’t want to show up for your management consulting interview looking like you gathered your clothing from the bottom of the laundry hamper or a suitcase. All of this may seem basic in terms of interviewing etiquette, but according to current employees at Booz, they have seen it all. Wrinkles, among other little visual details, may leave a lasting – and negative – impression in the minds of the hiring committee.

Men should appoint themselves conservatively in a suit and tie. Press your shirt and steam your suit before the interview. A crease that arises from sitting during the waiting period is fine, as long as the suit was professionally ironed before the interview.

Dress shoes for men should be clean and dusted off or polished. You don’t want to arrive with mud on the bottoms of your shoe. You will be sure to leave an unpleasant and lasting impression on the secretary who is forced to clean up your mess.

Women should comply with similar wardrobe expectations. Wrinkled pantsuits or skirts and low-cut blouses are terrible for a job interview. Women should stick to neutral colors and avoid too much jewelry. A simple navy or charcoal blue pantsuit with a crisp white or cream blouse and silver chain is a nice touch. Likewise, conservative, comfortable but businesslike footwear is favored.

For men and women both, avoid overdressing for your management consulting interview. Understatement and flying “under the radar” visually is preferable to overdressing or wearing too little (dressing in a revealing manner). Wearing a European style suit with vest and handkerchief will scream fashionista rather than management consultant. Stick with muted colors, such as blue tones, browns, grays and white. Avoid loud and flashy colors, such as red, orange or green. It is important not to push the envelope when choosing your interviewing wardrobe. You want to make a lasting impression and stand out from the pack, but achieving it with your clothing is not the way to go.

It is important to avoid strong scented perfume or cologne at your management consulting interview. A Bain consultant reported a story about a woman who showed up for her consulting interview smelling as if she just left the perfume factory. Members of the interviewing committee actually had to step outside for fresh air once she left because of the lingering aroma. A light spray of deodorant is necessary but overdoing the perfume is an interviewing faux pas.

AT Kearney consultants recommend, as most management consulting teams do, that the key to dressing appropriately for your interview is to keep it simple and comfortable. You don’t want to wear restrictive clothing that cuts off the circulation mid-meeting or trip over your own feet because you insisted on wearing impractically high four-inch high heels.

Dress for success and never overdo it. The last thing you want to do during your management consulting interview is worry about a wardrobe malfunction or whether your outfit is costing you the job. By focusing less on the wardrobe, and paying attention to the overall impression you are making, you will be able to spend more time honing your interviewing skills and researching the company.

Take the route of least resistance when it comes to selecting your wardrobe. Think business attire, and don’t deviate from the plan. It is better to be a little understated than over the top.

What to Wear to Job Interviews on Casual Fridays

Your attire for job interviews is the first thing to be judged and scrutinized. You only get one chance to make a great first impression. The interviewer may not remember what you are wearing but they should remember that your appearance is polished and professional.

In a job interview, you are being judged on absolutely everything including your image and appearance. It is imperative that you make the right decision on what to wear to job interviews so you look professional and can be taken seriously.

Regardless of what the company dress code is, the default standard for job interview clothes is always conservative attire. When in doubt, go ahead and wear a suit or business attire.

But what if the Hiring Managers tells you in advance that the dress code is casual since the interview is on a Friday? They probably gave you that tip so you can dress appropriately for the job interview.

So what do you do?

The rule of thumb you should use when selecting your interview clothes is to dress 1-step above the dress code. Here’s what I mean. If it’s business casual, your interview outfit is business attire. If it’s casual, your attire for the job interview should be business casual.

So, if it’s a casual Friday, and you have specifically been told what the dress code is, don’t make the mistake of dressing like all the other employees. It’s fine for them to wear jeans, sandals and shorts but they already work there. You also don’t want to be overly conservative and overdressed (especially if you have been informed that it’s a casual day at the office). So, focus on business casual attire.

Here’s a quick checklist for you to follow:

Clothes – Wear dress pants or a dress skirt and stick to neutral colors like navy, brown, gray and black. Wear a blouse or dress shirt, again in nice neutral colors or pastel colors. Stick to white or light pink, blue and green. Stay away from bold colors like red that can be distracting.

Shoes – Everyone else may be wearing sandals and flip-flops but you should always wear closed shoes like pumps to give you that business look. Stay away from the six-inch heels that you would wear on a Friday night to hang with the ladies. There’s nothing worse than tripping in the hallway at the interview.

Jewelry – Even though it’s a Friday, wear minimal jewelry that works with your overall look. Nothing fancy and nothing that dangles or makes noise when you move your head to speak.

Hair – Your hairstyle can make or break your entire interview outfit. Again, you want it to be conservative and polished, not messy and casual. Opt to pull your hair back in a ponytail instead of a casual, free spirited “hanging out at the beach” look.

Purse – A casual and trendy bag isn’t going to cut it for a business casual look. Bring along a small purse or handbag or a briefcase or portfolio with your resumé, references and other important documents that still conveys a conservative and professional look.

Choosing what to wear to job interviews on Fridays doesn’t mean you have to look less professional, right?