Dress for Success

It’s the day of your interview. What should you wear? You’ve heard it again and again, but it’s worth repeating: first impressions count. Wearing clothes that are appropriate to the kind of job you’re seeking is crucial.

Your appearance tells your future employer a lot: your attitude toward the company and the job, whether you care about yourself (and, by extension, the work you’ll be doing), whether you’ll fit in at the new job or in the culture of that corporation, even whether the person interviewing you takes you seriously. How you dress won’t get you the job, but it could lose it for you. And, all things being equal, the right choices could give you an edge over other applicants.

Every company has what’s known as a corporate culture. The corporate culture is how that business does things. Take Apple and IBM, for example. Both are big computer companies, but the corporate culture is quite different. At IBM, navy blue suits are the norm. At Apple, the style is much more casual. Industries have their own cultures, as well. Bankers, for example, are very conservative in their dress, while people in advertising dress with a creative flair. Even within a single company, there may be several styles of dress, depending on the job you do. Take that advertising agency, for example. The people in the creative department will probably be dressed very casually, but account executives, who interact with clients on a daily basis, will wear suits. Those in administration will be somewhere between.

It pays to check out what is the proper dress for the company and/or industry you’re applying to. One way to do this is to go down to the place you’re applying to at lunch time and watch what people coming in and out of the building are wearing. Eliminate any extremes of dress. That person may work there, but among the other employees, his or her dress will be seen as a fluke, an eccentricity that’s tolerated because that person has a lot of other things to offer. If you’re still not sure, call the Human Resources department and ask what’s appropriate.

When you’re putting together your outfit, go for the conservative side. Sure, you’re an individual with your own unique personality, but save that for after you get the job. The interview is not the place to “express yourself.”


What should you wear?

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on clothes, at the start, but you should have one or two professional outfits. If you’re going for a job that requires more skill than working in a grocery store or at McDonald’s, a lot of companies call people back for a second interview. So it doesn’t hurt to have a second outfit for that second interview. Make sure that the clothes are neat, clean and fit well. Ultra-loose may be in now, but not on the job application scene. Here are some tips for making a good impression:

  • Wear clean and polished conservative dress shoes — not sandals or athletic shoes.
  • Make sure your hair has been cut recently and you look well-groomed. Just before you go in, stop in a restroom and comb your hair.
  • Clean and trim your fingernails. If you wear nail polish, the length of your nails and the color should be conservative.
  • If you wear cologne or perfume, put on just a trace. Large amounts makes you seem cheap and could be a real problem for a potential employer with an allergy — or who just doesn’t like that particular scent.
  • Put away the body jewelry for now. The only exception is conservative pierced earrings for women.
  • Check that your teeth are clean and your breath fresh. Just before the interview, if necessary, chew on a breath freshener — but remember, don’t go into the interview checking gum or sucking on a candy.
  • Keep any jewelry you wear conservative and to a minimum. The job interview is not the place for big, dangling earrings.
  • You’re going to be nervous, so you’ll probably perspire a lot. Don’t forget the deodorant!
  • Before you go into the interview, give your appearance a final check — comb your hair, reapply lipstick, straighten your tie.

Smile as you walk into that interview. It’s your greatest asset!