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.

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