Workzone: To tie, or not to tie?

Deciding whether to don formal neckwear has become a difficult choice for job seekers

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For men, the necktie is as much a staple on interviews as the resume. But with many business leaders opting to forego formal neckwear, tying one is starting to present a difficult choice for job seekers.

While the technology field is famous for its casual approach, the "no-tie" look is popping up in the energy, education and medical fields as well. Even President Barack Obama and other world leaders skipped the neckwear at the June G-8 summit.

Leaving the tie at home on the job interview might not be the best idea, though.

"The world has changed, but I still think you can't be overdressed. You can't go wrong with a tie, so why take the chance?" said David Fagiano, chief operating officer at Dale Carnegie Training, a New York-based training company with offices worldwide.

Mr. Fagiano recommends male job candidates pay attention to their grooming and put on a suit or at least a blue blazer and a tie, whether on an interview or at a career fair. It says, "I'm honoring the opportunity by the way I'm dressed," he said.

Lois Fenton, contributing writer for, an online employment resource and Post-Gazette partner, says men need a minimum of two suits, a solid navy and a solid dark gray.

And she thinks a tie is extremely important -- noting that a small dot or a classic stripe works well. She urges job candidates to avoid anything wild or statement-making, such as a bow tie.

"Bow ties have made something of a comeback," Mr. Fagiano said, noting they can show more personality than a regular necktie. Still, he doesn't recommend them for the first interview.

If you're not sure that showing up in a tie is appropriate, what should you do?

Get some information about the company's corporate culture and dress code. Just don't make those inquiries directly. In the technology and creative sectors, a necktie is not likely to be considered necessary, "but I would expect professionals to wear a tie," Mr. Fagiano said.

Rather than sticking your neck out, he said, wearing a tie is always the safe decision. "You can't go wrong because you always can take it off."

Once you get the job though, if your boss or senior executives do not wear ties, it probably is time to leave the neckties at home.

"Follow the corporate pattern," Mr. Fagiano said. "Otherwise, what message are you sending?"

Meet face-to-face with recruiters from the technology, energy, education and medical fields at the T.E.E.M. Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel. The Post-Gazette is a sponsor of the event.

Brian Hyslop: or 412-263-1936.

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