Dear Bev: Should I wear a tie and suit or blue jeans with my shirt out? What's up with business dress codes for guys?
Joe Abruzzese, president of media sales and marketing at Discovery Networks, always considered one of advertising best-dressed execs, didn't disappoint. He was garbed in an elegant dark suit, perfect tie and coordinating pocket square. Sitting next to him was Jon Nesvig, president of Fox Broadcasting Company, looking dapper in an open collared shirt, slacks and a sport coat. And so it went .
One agency exec made his fashion statement in a pair of blue jeans. The closing speaker was Al Gore, dressed in a traditional suit and tie, but his company's CEO, Mark Rosenthal, opted for the open-collared look.
So what's appropriate and what's not?
It would be a mistake to think that anything goes, especially if you're talking about your first meeting with a potential employer. Even though they may show up in jeans, it's a bad idea for you to do the same and risk making the wrong first impression. At the same time, a traditional suit and tie may send the wrong signal.
A senior level digital executive, who had early professional roots in the magazine business, met with an old friend from the print side eager for advice on how to break into digital. The print guy showed up in a conservative suit and tie. The exec's comment: "This guy just doesn't get it. He looks like he's living in some other era."
Don't make a mistake and assume all digital dress code is more casual. One of my clients at a digital start-up described his ideal job candidate as someone who wore a suit and tie to see clients. "I think it lets our customers know we're serious, we're professional and we're grown-ups," he said.
A former TV exec working in a downtown digital portal announced in no uncertain terms, "If someone shows up in jeans to an interview, they're automatically out."
So how do you decide? The key to knowing how to dress is knowing your audience. Do some research on the company and the company's culture. Google the executive you're meeting with and look at press photos, try the company Web site, and check out their LinkedIn and Facebook photos. Are they wearing ties in these shots? If so, wear one when you meet them.
What do you do if you find them in a variety of looks? My advice is to stay on the safe side. At the very least, carry the tie in your jacket pocket.