Beyond the blazer: a salute to power suits everywhere

Raina DeBrouwer

Two years ago, I decided to pursue my own job for my first co-op in the Mount BPR program. I wanted to live at home for the summer, so when I saw a job posting that caught my interest I decided to go for it. The interview was to be conducted via phone call. Unsurprisingly, the interviewers in southern Ontario didn’t feel as though my potential employment quite warranted the flight to Halifax.

The prospect of a phone call interview made me nervous. How would the experience differ from an in-person interview? How would I convey key body language without the benefit of face-to-face contact? I desperately sought advice from the co-op office, recruiters, and HR professionals I’d worked with in the past. The single most common suggestion I received? Wear a blazer.

This surprised me. Of all the ways to prepare for an interview where I wouldn’t be seen, my outfit choice was considered to be important? In-person interview attire was important to make a good impression with new people, but that’s where the effect ended. Right?

Wrong. As it turns out, sentiment behind the phrase “dress to impress” goes beyond first impressions. Clothes certainly impact how others see you, but they may also have the power to impact how you see yourself. A study done in 2015 on undergraduate students in California and New York showed that psychological consequences of formal clothing can include abstract and long-term thinking, ideal mental processes for leaders. This study also found that wearing formal clothing can invoke a sense of power over others, particularly if your counterparts aren’t as well-dressed.

While it may be unsettling to learn that your subconscious is slightly judgmental, reassurance can be found in your ability to trick yourself into feeling powerful with a simple step. Next time you’re presented with a professional challenge and need a boost of confidence, throw on a blazer and fake it till you make it. The approach certainly worked for me, because two months after the interview I was showing up for my first day (wearing my blazer, of course!).