What To Wear To An Architecture Job Interview

“Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire”
—Dan Zevin

I always assumed that telling someone to put effort into what they wear to a job interview seemed extremely obvious and not worth mentioning.

However, after seeing some interviewees show up in shorts, I guess I was wrong. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for your next architecture job interview

To help you with your architecture job search, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

Employer first impression

When I spoke to the hiring manager at Zaha Hadid Architects the issue of clothing in interviews came up as an ongoing issue:

“Always attend interviews looking smart and well presented, there is nothing worse than a candidate turning up smelling of cigarettes or alcohol. Being prepared for your interview is imperative.”

Given the architecture profession is a creative field it does have a little leeway. Many firms have a somewhat laid back approach to dress code. While this may be the case on a regular Monday-Friday, don’t just blindly match the office attire.

The employees have already earned the right to dress down, you haven’t. Besides, no one will fault you for overdressing.

This advice also applies to the Skype or video conference interviews in addition to the traditional in-person interview. Even looking sharp for a phone interview can boost your confidence.

Men’s Attire

There is only one option for guys: a suit. Stick with a simple dark color. Gray, black or navy works best. No pinstripes please.

The big mistake I often see when men wear a suit is that it doesn’t fit. You are much better off having a cheaper suit that fits well than an expensive suit that fits like your overweight uncle’s blazer.

Test drive

If you already have a suit make sure you try it on ahead of time so you are not trying to squeeze into something that fit three years ago. If it doesn’t fit, take it to a tailor. They can often make alterations for a fraction of the cost of a new suit.

Get it dry cleaned

This will help give it a fresher look and won’t smell like your closet next to the kitchen. For a tie, just a simple solid color will do. Red and blue are always a good bet.

Beardville

As for facial hair it is always a good idea to be clean shaven. If you have a beard, as many architects do, just keep it neatly trimmed.

The same goes for hair, get a haircut a week or two before. Also, this isn’t the time to tryout a new style. Stick to what you know.

Women’s Attire

Disclosure: I know nothing about women’s fashion. I am sure the ladies reading this are already laughing at me.

I will say that whatever you decide to wear make sure that it is classy and not trashy. 

I will use this excerpt from the Huffington Post (“Suiting Up for Success: Job Interview Attire for Women,” Huffington Post, July 16, 2013) on women’s interview fashion I found to be quite informative.

A dark, two-piece, gray, navy or black suit is your best option when interviewing with a conservative company. Compliment it with a light colored blouse or cotton shirt. Steer
clear from strapless, spaghetti straps and well-worn tees under the jacket. 

Women can wear a black suit easier than men because they can lighten the look with soft colored blouse and accessories.

Pantsuit vs. skirt suit

A pantsuit is generally an acceptable choice for a job interview, although, there are still some exceptions depending on the company. A white or light colored, tailored shirt is an interview staple. Dress up your look with a necklace or other piece of conservative jewelry.

Shoes

A mid heel, closed-toe pump is a safe choice. Regardless of the current shoe trends, your shoe selection for a job interview should be professional and understated.

Details that matter

• Leather purse or briefcase; carry one or the other, not both (you will be carrying your
architecture portfolio)
• Manicured nails with a neutral polish
• Make up; even minimal makeup is an indicator that you value your professional
image
• Neatly groomed hair, worn away from the face
• Clean and polished shoes (Pay special attention to heels and soles)
• Conservative watch with a link or leather band
• Black or neutral colored trench coat (Inclement weather)

Tattoos and piercings

Certainly you should be allowed to express yourself but an interview isn’t the time. For now cover up your T-square tattoo and take out that nose ring.

Again, it is best to err on the side of conservative, odds are the person interviewing you will appreciate it.

As long as you dress in a professional, clean manner you shouldn’t have any issues.

Thanks for reading, I hope this helps with your next architecture job interview.

To help you with your architecture job search, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

For further reading on applications, portfolios, interview preparation and questions see The Complete Package.

Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:

How To Stay Motivated With The Architecture Job Search

The Top 5 Architecture Interview Questions

Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online

Good luck!

Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

Have a suggestion for a future blog post? Please let me know in the comments below.