Enough with the ties already

By Felix Salmon
August 19, 2009
this story, and the anonymous female friend: never wear a tie to a job interview at a startup. And in general, don't wear a tie to a job interview where you won't be wearing a tie day-to-day.

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I’m with the CEO in this story, and the anonymous female friend: never wear a tie to a job interview at a startup. And in general, don’t wear a tie to a job interview where you won’t be wearing a tie day-to-day.

There’s a syndrome I’ve seen quite often and has never made sense to me: manager A, who rarely wears a suit, interviews candidate B, who would rarely if ever wear a suit on the job. Yet for the interview, and only because it’s a job interview, both of them wear suits and ties. Not exactly Pareto-optimal.

As for me, I haven’t had much experience interviewing job-seekers (thankfully), but I always feel a bit uncomfortable if they’re wearing a suit and tie. Conversely, my best journalistic interviews with CEOs and finance ministers and the like have been when neither of us have been wearing a tie.

My conclusion? Tying yourself up isn’t conducive to unfettered communication. Which is one reason why I haven’t worn a tie in over a decade. That and the fact that I hate how it feels.


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Several of my friends are in positions where they have to interview people, and I’ve heard numerous stories about people not getting the job because of sloppy dress or visible tattoos/body piercings.

Counselors in both high school and college always encouraged dressing slightly better for the interview than you would for the position. It’s worked pretty well for me.

Hmmm, I guess if you are taking dress code advice from a professional blogger then you fail the first interview round.

Posted by Phil | Report as abusive

I usually ask beforehand, “What would be appropriate attire?” Usually whoever is giving you directions can tell you this. Also I think when in doubt, dressing up a little is better than dressing down.

Posted by SelenesMom | Report as abusive

Phil +1

Posted by ab | Report as abusive

Formal dresscode is a signposter to the interviewer that you are willing to make an effort in order to get hired. Not everyone wants to make an effort, some people think they are God’s gift to humanity and you should gracefully accept what you are given. That will spell trouble down the road. Dresscode is just an early warning system.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

The comment from the CEO at the end of the interview was about power. Chest-beating agression: me CEO, you peon, I laugh at you.

Funny though, why have ties persisted for so long? Social pressure? Is there something about the colours that stimulates the brain?

Posted by BB | Report as abusive

They usually want to see you at your best to see how presentable you are to their customers, even if you rarely see them.

Posted by Lord | Report as abusive

I recently recieved an email about a orientation session for a professional degree that specified business casual attire for the most serious part of the orientation (meeting current practitioners in the field) and was very emphatic that business casual meant no jacket, no tie. I suppose that this email is from someone trying to avoid the over-formal discomfort that Felix talks about, but it’s unusual here because people in the field typically do wear jacket and tie to work. I’ve also never before recieved an invitation that specified maximum dress code rather than minimum dress code. Maybe the tides are turning?

Posted by cgaros | Report as abusive