Breaking Job Interview Rules and Still Getting Hired.

Well, one of the ideas of this blog has been validated.    Getting canned can often result in putting you in a better situation in the long run.   It took less than three weeks from my termination date, but I’ve now got a contract with a new employer that on first appearances seems to be better.  But what’s interesting is that I’ve broken a few of the supposed rules of interviewing and still go the job.

Rule #1 You Need A High- Quality Well fitting tailored suit.

Our consumer culture would have us believe that we ought to spend probably somewhere between $500 to $1,500 for a quality suit and have it tailored to present an excellent fit in order to showcase our best selves.   My theory was that the value of expensive suiting up is WAY overstated.   In reality, I believe you need only to present as well groomed, clean, and basically not stick out with any egregious fashion mistakes.   Don’t show up to an interview with khakis and short sleeve dress shirt for example.

So what did I wear?   Well…unfortunately, my previous years of sitting in the office caused some weight gain and I no longer fit in the fancy tailored suit I bought just about 5 years ago.    I didn’t really have the time nor the inclination to drop $700 on a new suit and wait for the fitting.   So I went to my local JC Penny’s.   I found a plain black suit jacket and pants for around $160.   The fit was…ummm…not horrible.  But definitely not ideal.   The material was ok.    It was just good enough to not stick out and be embarrassing but I’m sure a super in the know fashionista could rip me to shreds.  But that’s the point.  I’m not trying to impress someone from GQ.  I’m trying to have a conversation about my skillset.

waking up
Getting up early for an interview after not working was difficult.  Disclaimer:  I’m not this pretty.

The Shoes

If you’re going to invest somewhere, shoes might be the place.   A good quality pair of dress shoes are worth spending on and maintaining.  It occurred to me when putting on my shoes, that I’ve used these shoes for previous interviews and just a few formal events going back all the way to 2004.   Yeah.   I guess that makes these shoes 14 years old.  And they’ve held up well (not wearing too often will help with that).   If you’re curious these shoes are a pair of Cole Haan’s.

The Tie

The Tie is your chance to shine and another place where you might want to invest a little.   I think it makes more sense to have a nice pair of shoes that last and a quality tie for maybe $65 than to spend a grand on a suit.   Make sure it matches your shirt well.

Rule #2 Have a Well Prepared Story about How it Ended with Past Job.

Truthfully it didn’t really even come up.  I glossed over it at one point.   After four years at my previous employer, it was time to move on.    The reality is, an intelligent manager knows that sometimes employees get fired for reasons that aren’t entirely their own fault.    They were a whistleblower and called out bad behavior at a previous employer, they stood up to inept management, they rocked the boat politically and their behavior highlighted revealed another employee’s inefficient process.   It needn’t be a death sentence for the career.  It could just be the universes pushing you along to where you should be next.

Rule #3 Bring in a Fancy Notepad Portfolio

I actually forgot a notepad and borrowed a simple notepad from the contracting consultant that presented me to the client.   Wasn’t an issue.

 Knowing your field well is going to help you out a lot more than your choice of pinstripe or solid suit color.

The bottom line here is that for most positions that aren’t image sensitive (sales, modeling, politics) content trumps treating the interview like a fashion show.   Knowing your field well is going to help you out a lot more than your choice of pinstripe or solid suit color.  Whether to tie a traditional or Windsor knot.   But yeah these things don’t hurt.