Dress for success (and what not to wear to your interview)

Consider the environment in which you’ll be working when going on your interview

Paula S. Katz | April 22, 2015

Consider the job candidate who showed up in a rural community in a suit and tie even though he was told dress would be casual. Before a word was spoken, there was already a red flag.

“The employer worried that this candidate would never fit in because there’s no Nordstrom’s and had concern he would not relate to the patients,” says Regina Levison, vice president, client development, Jordan Search Consultants, St. Louis.

Dress misses are not just about a glaring Hawaiian shirt and flip flops—although Ms. Levison points out the one candidate who showed up in a sweat suit. “That showed lack of judgment,” she says.

Instead, it’s more common that what you’re wearing shows you don’t understand the environment in which you’ll be working or how the practice wants to represent itself.

Tommy Bohannon, divisional vice president, Merritt Hawkins, Irving, Texas, talks about the candidate who showed up in a wrinkled, untucked shirt and scuffed shoes. The employer noticed. He also knew that the candidate had plenty of time to straighten up. “That candidate had gotten in early the previous day and had had plenty of time to plug in an iron at the hotel,” Mr. Bohannon says. How he presented himself became an integral part of how he was evaluated.

How you dress matters because physicians are an increasingly key part of hospitals’ customer service and marketing efforts. “It takes a significant investment in time and capital to get someone who’ll be a good representation of your organization,” Mr. Bohannon explains.

Appropriate attire for men is most often slacks, a long-sleeved shirt (no tie), and a sport coat, perhaps a suit for an academic setting. Women should wear a pantsuit or skirt suit or a nice skirt and top—no denim or halter tops. Also avoid loud prints and stilettos, Ms. Levison says.

To get it right, remember to dress appropriately for the job’s culture, asking ahead of time if you’re unsure. “You want to be in tune,” says Steve Look, executive vice president of recruiting, The Medicus Firm, Dallas. “Some places are very remote and tell us not to come out in a full suit, that you’ll look ridiculous. Elsewhere you might be underdressed and not make a good impression. So don’t guess. Know beforehand.”

For example, if you’re going to Colorado, that means you’ll likely be expected to dress more casually, Mr. Bohannon says. That can translate into a sporty Northface jacket, hiking boots, and khakis.

Grooming appropriately is also important, says Ms. Levison. For example, she tells women to use “daytime makeup.” She’s also asked some women with full curly hair to pull it back for the interview.

“What you want is for the employer to see your eyes, face, and reactions,” she explains. “The goal is to look professional.”

And if you have a tattoo? If it can’t be covered up, let it go. Otherwise, wear a long sleeve shirt, she says.

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4 Comments

  1. Rich Gehrke says:

    I believe that this is still a suit and tie and female business attire country regardless of where or who you are meeting with. Dressing for success is still a key to success.
    I was told by a colleague one time not to wear a suit and tie to an Indian Health Care meeting. I wore a suit and tie any way and coincidentally the CEO and staff were wearing suits and ties also. If I am in a rural setting with my suit and tie on. I make it clear to my prospect/client that I was born and raised in the country and please excuse the way I’m dressed. I have never received any flack as to being over-dressed.

  2. It is never incorrect to wear a suit and tie.

    If a candidate is not offered because s/he wore a suit and tie, it means that the group or hospital doesn’t really need a physician. I bet the group or hospital down the road will offer the job!

    It is always a mistake to under-dress for an interview. Err on the side of over-dressing; it will never be held against you.

    -Retained recruiter with 10 years’ experience at the largest physician recruiting firm in the industry

  3. Gurusidda says:

    This is an unnecessary article. I mean if people are smart enough to get thorugh med school and resideny, I would imagine they’d know how to dress up.

    • Sometimes we take knowledge for granted. If the article can help at least one person think twice about what he or she wears for an interview, then it is worth it.

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