Careers & Education

How to dress for a job interview

By Matt Williamson
Info Guru,

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Young business man ready to shake hands
In job-hunting, first impressions are critical
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Learn how to dress for a job interview and you may be on your way to a new and exciting career

Remember, you are marketing a product - yourself - to a potential employer, and the first thing the employer sees when greeting you is your attire; so you must make every effort to have the proper dress for the type of job you are seeking. Will dressing properly get you the job? Of course not, but it will give you a competitive edge and a positive first impression.

How should you dress? Dressing conservatively is always the safest route, but you should also try and do a little investigating of your prospective employer so that what you wear to the interview makes you look as though you fit in with the organization. If you overdress (which is rare but can happen) or under dress (more likely), the potential employer may feel that you don't care enough about the job.

How do you find out about the dress code? If you know someone that works there, ask. If not, call call the Human Resources office or check when you're there to pick up a job application.

Here are some tips for women in the job market:
  • Basically, with all the differences in dress codes at different organizations, it would be impossible to come up with 'the outfit' for all employers. One rule of thumb would be to dress as if you worked there already - -but slightly better.

  • Go for the more business-like attire. Avoid flashy colors, bold prints or clanking jewelry; don't look fussy.

  • Pick something that you are comfortable in; no tugging or re-adjusting when you sit. Try it out by sitting in different types of chairs, for example.

  • Keep shirts to a modest length...just above the knee or longer. You want the employer to look at you, not your legs.

  • Carry a professional looking briefcase instead of a purse.

  • Low heels (not those killer spikes). Low-cut and tight shirts are for after-hours. Be neatly presented in any case.

  • Jewelry should be kept to a minimum. Flashy pieces are fun, but are best saved for other days.

  • Fingernails should be cleaned and trimmed. Make sure your polish is fresh and free from chips.

  • Cologne or perfume should be minimal or non-existent.

  • Hair should be neat and clean. Take a comb or small brush with you to make last minute adjustments if necessary.

  • Make up is essential. Be sure it is well applied and understated. Avoid bright lipsticks, heavy eye makeup or excessive blush.

  • Unless you are applying for a job in the music or film industry, remove jewelry from extraneous piercings such as tongue, lip, nose or brow.

  • Pick your outfit ahead of time then forget about it - -think about selling your skills, not your wardrobe.

  • And don't forget to smile! That is the best fashion accessory - -looking like you are happy to be there and proud to talk about the value YOU can bring to their company.

  • Look good and your confidence will shine through.
    How to dress for a job interview—tips for men:

    Before you go, be sure you really know the company you will be interviewing with, and research the industry that it's a part of to familiarize yourself with the universal dress code. Ask a friend at the company or stake out the front door to find out what current employees wear on the job.
    • Go in a suit and tie to any company that's part of a more formal industry, such as banking or law. Choose a basic black, dark gray or dark navy suit, a matching tie and black leather lace-up shoes. Borrow anything that you may be leery of investing in well in advance to ensure that it's clean and fits well.

    • Opt for dressy casual attire for a company that you know doesn't expect suits. Pressed khakis or slacks, a clean, ironed button-down shirt, a belt and a leather loafer will serve you well.

    • Match the belt to the color of your shoes. Choose black if your outfit consists of dark grays, navy, browns or black. Opt for dark brown if you'll be wearing tans, muted pastels or medium toned colors.

    • Polish or clean your shoes with a good quality shoe polish the night before your interview. Scuff marks on your shoes reveal a lack of forethought and attention to detail.

    • Keep interview accessories professional. Take a briefcase or nice leather- or vinyl-bound portfolio to carry résumé, references or other pertinent documents. Leave tattered manila folders or college logo folders at home.

    • Avoid cologne or aftershave that may overpower the interviewer. Place your watch in your pocket once you make it to the front door so that you're not tempted to look at it during the interview.

    • Check your appearance before heading into an interview. Make sure your tie is straight, your teeth are clean and your hair is groomed.
    Now that you know how to dress appropriately for a job interview, you might want to brush up your resume to really impress your soon-to-be employer!

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