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Job Interview Dressing for Success

I want your resumePerfect grooming is your first assignment when you interview for a job, whether you want to be a top manager or an entry-level factory worker. Clothes may not say everything about you but they sure are a big part of making a first impression.

There is a large group of people who believe in the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” lie but, let’s face it, we all judge each other by our outer appearances.  When you’re applying for a job, it’s smart to bear in mind that you may only get to make a first impression, and that most people hiring you will not spend enough time with you to see past your appearance. Studies show that many interviewers make up their minds about you after the first 10 seconds. It’s therefore important to carefully consider what you should wear to impress your interviewer.

When you are dressing up for a job interview, don’t wear anything too distracting. Don’t dress too casually or wear flashy clothes. And, most important, be neat and clean. Wearing ill-fitting or unpressed clothes sends the message that you are slovenly and don’t pay attention to detail - not what most employers want.

Appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed. Even if you are aware that employees of an organization dress casually on the job, dress up for the interview unless you are specifically told otherwise by the employer. You also need to think about your face, hair, the amount of jewelry you have on, the strength of your perfume or aftershave, the bag you carry and so on.

There are a few main rules to keep in mind when dressing for a job interview:
  • Shoes should be clean and conservative. Scuffed shoes are an indication of lack of attention to detail. Dirty shoes are one of the most detrimental dress mistakes.
  • Hair should be neat and clean. If it needs cut, get it cut several days before the job interview so you are comfortable with it. Avoid a hair style that requires you to constantly brush or flick your hair back during the job interview. Sunglasses pushed up in your hair look messy.
  • Smell nice, but don’t knock out the interviewer. Cologne or perfume should be minimal.
  • Fingernails should be cleaned and trimmed. You’ll shake hands several times and your hands are in full view on your lap during your job interview, so make sure they are clean.
  • Have fresh breath. You may be closer to the interviewer than you think if it’s a small room.
  • Jewelry should be kept to a minimum. Big, dangling earrings and jangling bracelets are particularly distracting as they bounce about as you talk and move your hands. Iron your clothes for interview. You want the interviewer to concentrate on your face and what you have to say.
  • Before your job interview cover up tattoos as much as possible and take out body piercings including earrings if you are a man until you know whether they are acceptable at that particular workplace.
  • No missing buttons, no lint; and don’t forget to remove external tags and tacking stitches from new clothes.
  • Don’t bring gum, candy, cool drinks or sodas into the interview. All these send the message that you are not taking the interview process seriously.
What Should Women Wear to a Job Interview
  • The classic two-piece matched business suit is a good option for your interview attire. Navy, dark gray, brown and black are safe colors. It always looks professional.
  • The suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably. A skirt that ends at the knee when you’re standing looks chic and professional. Longer skirts are professional too. A shorter skirt often results in having to tug it down during the interview!
  • Tailored pants suits are appropriate for women. If you wear pants, they should be creased and tailored, not tight or flowing.
  • Underneath the suit jacket, wear a tailored basic white blouse or a colored blouse if you prefer that coordinates nicely with your suit.
  • Limited jewelry. Wear a conservative watch and simple jewelry. Whatever jewelry you select, remember it should be understated and not distracting for the interviewer. So avoid big, dangling necklaces that make clanking sounds every time you move!
  • Light make-up and perfume. Keep makeup conservative. A little is usually better than none for a polished look.
  • Conservative shoes. Regardless of what is in style, avoid extremes. Make certain you can walk comfortably in your shoes.
  • Hosiery should be plainly styled (no patterns), sheer (not opaque), and in neutral colors complementing your suit. Avoid high contrast between your suit and hosiery color.
What Should Men Wear to a Job Interview
  • The safe standard interview dress for men is the classic dark business suit. Navy and gray have evolved since they look good with the hair, eye, and skin tones of most men, and dark clothing is slimming. Traditionally black suits have been acceptable only for social events such as funerals, and evening (after 6 pm) functions. They were not deemed appropriate for business because they were “too” powerful.
  • Long sleeve shirt. Short-sleeved shirts are never as professional as long-sleeved shirts.  A white color is a good choice; a white shirt gives the impression of authority. If you prefer a colored shirt rather choose a light color that co-ordinates with the suit and is not overpowering.
  • Tie. Your tie should coordinate with the colors you are wearing and be relatively conservative. The primary color of a patterned tie should complement your suit and the secondary color should pick up the color of your shirt.
  • Belt. Always wear a belt in trousers with loops.
  • Dark socks, mid-calf length so no skin is visible when you sit down. Socks should match the color of your trousers.  They can be slightly darker.  This gives an uninterrupted visual line from your waist to your shoes.
  • Conservative leather business shoes.
One area where job interview clothes are different is in the creative field. If you showed up in a creative, individualistic workplace like a fashion designer, you would want to look like someone who belonged in that environment instead of in an investment bank. If you are in any doubt about what to wear, do some research. Either ask someone setting you up for the interview, or spend a little time learning what you can about the target company to get a sense of what people expect in the workplace.
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Tags: job-interview, job-search, interview-tips, career-advice
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  • I agree that dressing for the interview is important but so is dressing appropriately once you have the job. If anyone is in need of a consultant to present a workshop on Professional Image or Business Etiquette, please contact me. I have a great vendor you can use. Sue ~

  • Heather Jones

    The safe business suit is not always the way to make the best first impression. A candidate needs to know the industry and company they are applying to and dress appropriately. Within the creative design industry, a graphic designer who walked into their interview with a business suit and tie, would not fit the cool, hip, creative work environment. They would look stuffy and conservative which is not the right culture fit. Definitely over dressing is better, but in this situation, nice slacks a colored hip button down and maybe a tie would be best. Dressing for your industry in a way that fits the company culture is the best way to make a good first impression.

  • Well put. First impressions are key, and many first time job seekers make many of these subtle mistakes that doom their chances. I can remember an instance when I was conducting on campus interviews, and one of my first candidates of the day doused herself with perfume seconds before she entered my rather small interviewing room. She literally left a bad taste in my mouth the whole day!

  • Paul

    Great article couldn't agree more, I have had several people who have been great on paper only to turn up in either in apporiate clothes or with a mouth full of breakfast muffin.

    The other thing I would add for the younger guys is, if you have never been a suit wearer.. put the suit on (it wont bite) and wear it for a few days before the interview or untill your comfortable in it including the tie!

    It is one thing to look good standing still all pressed and clean but like a good pair of shoes you need to look like you own the suit not the other way around.

  • Lou Ortega

    I disagree with the white shirt power analogy. If there is something that spells lack of creativity is a white shirt. My goodness, there are so many professional, elegant and stylish combination of ties and pink/blue/green shirts that I can never understand how many candidates opt to be another brick on the white shirt wall.

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