A lot of jobs to which I've applied recently have a "general exam" that you have to go in and take before even starting interviewing processes, etc. These exams usually take 2 - 4 hours, so the thought of wearing formal clothes while sitting there in a chair for 4 hours is very unappealing. These tests are also generally conducted in very large groups of around 40 - 50 people, where the only real contact you have with the conductor is during sign-in.

Does it matter what I wear? Is there any dress code to this type of pre-interview exam or is it just personal preference - whatever you feel comfortable wearing? What I'm really wondering is if the conductors really pay attention, take notes, etc on how potential candidates conduct themselves during these exams or if it's strictly for test scores and nothing else.

  • 1
    You need to wear business formal you can be uncomfortable for a few hours. I wear a suite and tie every single day. I am not some office worker, I have to go into a workshop and get by hands dirty at times, I simply leave the suite and tie upstairs when that happens. If you are a women then find a formal dress that is confortable. For a man wearing a suite and tie should be required until you are told otherwise. – Donald May 25 '12 at 13:13

I think that you have to assume that the person who is going to make a decision on who to call to interview could be watching at any time during the exam. That means that you should probably treat an exam just as you would treat an interview.

For technical positions, there is some great advice in the answers to the question How to select interview attire for a technical job interview? Basically, for many technical positions, business casual is the norm (depending on your country and industry sector) and dressing more or less formally could hurt your chances.

As I suggest in my answer though, if you can't feel comfortable working for half a day in a suit, then you probably don't want to spend every working day in a suit either.

  • 2
    To add to the last paragraph: even if the job won't call for you to wear a suit every day, if you can't get through half a day in a suit then how are you going to do on a day-long client visit? – Monica Cellio May 23 '12 at 14:33
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio - You wear a suit to client visits? I don't think I've ever worn anything more formal than business casual to a client visit. Some of us haven't even bought a decent suit in over 20 years, and intend to keep it that way. *8') – Mark Booth May 23 '12 at 15:03
  • 1
    It depends on the client and the nature of the trip. If I'm going to meet with my fellow software folks, business casual or lower is fine. If I'm the technical person being brought along to convince the higher-ups in a finance-sector company that they should buy our software? You betcha. I can count the number of times this has mattered (in over 25 years) on the fingers of one hand, but it's important to be able to do it if called on. – Monica Cellio May 23 '12 at 18:42
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio - Sorry, I was being flippant, trying to reinforce the point that some of us have made the decision not to ever work anywhere that would require us to wear a suit, which is why I'll never work in the city. – Mark Booth May 24 '12 at 11:49
  • 1
    Mark, believe me, it's my preference too (she says, while wearing jeans, a polo shirt, and Birkenstocks). But every now and then, in an otherwise-decent job, I draw the short straw on something like this. – Monica Cellio May 24 '12 at 13:05

It is best to assume that every contact with a potential employer is being judged. People have been not hired on the basis of how they treat the receptionist. In the case you described above, you probably should wear at least business casual. Be neat and clean (yes we had someone show up at our offices once looking for a job barefoot and with visible dirt on her legs, she wasn't hired!). Don't wear shorts, flip flops, t-shirts.

  • +1 for the receptionist treatment. Always behave nicely to everyone in a potential employment situation (and well, all other times too, if possible) ;) – Reinstate Monica Apr 4 '14 at 19:59


Some employers might expect you to wear a suit and tie, some might want "business casual", some might not care.

Just ask the person making the arrangements what you should wear.

  • -1 Don't try and impress folks with your dress. It's like "lieing" about who you are ;) – Michael Durrant Jul 26 '12 at 17:23
  • @MichaelDurrant: If you have a serious reason for your downvote, I'd like to hear it so I can improve my answer. – Keith Thompson Jul 27 '12 at 23:29
  • This. The reason is that dressing as required is an ability that employers care about. Knowing by yourself how to dress, such that you never have to ask, is all very impressive and might be important in a few jobs (James Bond), but otherwise employers don't need it. – Steve Jessop Jun 12 '14 at 8:18

Of course you should pay careful attention to your clothes. If it is a hot summer day, you might be tempted to wear shorts and a T-shirt. But if they blast the A/C, then you are in trouble. The best bet is to wear layers and have a few extra layers just in case you get cold.

If it is as you say, then formal clothes won't help you much. Make sure you don't wear anything memorable. Leave your "F*CK Y*U" t-shirt at home. Scrape the mud off your pants. If you are interviewing for a job with Coke, don't arrive wearing a Pepsi t-shirt.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.