First impressions last. Perhaps never is this truer than with job interviews. How you dress and present yourself is crucial to whether or not you get the job or even move forward in the interview process. Here are some pointers to help you make the best first impression:
Context is key
When deciding what to wear, always dress for context. Take into consideration the culture of the company you are interviewing with and dress accordingly. Is it a formal company where employees typically wear suits everyday? Or is it a casual, creative environment where everyone wears jeans and a T-shirt?
While it is never okay to show up for an interview in jeans OR a T-shirt, a suit may look out of place where everyone else is casual. Do your research. Try to scope out how employees – or people in the same building – dress regularly and pick your outfit accordingly. The rule of thumb is to dress a step up from the job you want: a full suit for a business environment, a sports coat and slacks for a creative environment.
Dos and don’ts for women
•A two-piece matched pants suit or skirt suit is a classy, timeless choice.
•Skirts should always hit at least at the knee, and cover your thighs when you’re seated. Test your outfit in front of a mirror. If the view is too revealing, don’t wear it.
•Never show cleavage.
•Wear conservative jewelry. Nothing jingly jangly.
•A little makeup is better than too much or none at all.
•No perfume is better than sending your interviewer into a sneezing fit.
•Choose closed-toed shoes that are comfortable.
Dos and don’ts for men
•You can almost never go wrong with a two-piece matched, tailored suit… unless it’s an ultra-casual environment.
•Shirts should be white or light-colored (preferably light blue). The darker the shirt, the less formal the look. Always choose long-sleeved, collared shirts.
•Your tie should be silk and should be darker than your shirt. Nothing too narrow or too wide.
•Socks should be dark and extend to mid-calf to avoid the hairy-leg look when you sit down.
•Shoes should be leather and lace-up or slip-on business shoes.
•Belts should match shoes.
•Jewelry should be limited to a conservative watch and a wedding ring, if applicable.
•Your facial hair, if any, should be well groomed.
Rules for everyone
•Clothes should always be clean, well pressed and not shabby or torn. Ideally you should take your outfit to the dry cleaners to have it looking its best.
•New wardrobes should have all telltale tags removed!
•Your shoes should be clean and polished.
•Your hair should be dry, clean, and neat.
•Fingernails should be well-manicured and not resemble talons.
•Padfolios and business bags add a touch of professionalism and are great for holding extra resumes.
•No visible tattoos.
Interview outfit colors and what they mean
•Navy blues and dark grays are the best colors for interviews. They convey an air of professionalism and class without being too severe.
•Blue: conveys responsibility, truth, confidence and stability.
•Gray: denotes sophistication and calm, and is non-distracting.
•Black: represents authority but can be overly dramatic or stark.
•Red: is so strong that it should only be used as an accent color. It denotes energy and passion.
•White: always safe, it conveys simplicity, cleanliness and precision.
•If you must err, err on the side of the conservative: a two-piece suit with moderate accessories.
•Whatever you wear, it should fit properly. If you buy a new outfit, take the time to ensure that it is not too loose or too tight and still looks good on you when you sit down.
•Pay attention to your grooming as much as your clothing. Hair and fingernails should always be neat and clean.
•A firm handshake and a confident smile are the perfect complement to a neat and professional attire.
•Continue to dress for success even after you get the job. Remember, you should “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
Keisha McDonnough is a research analyst and writer. A Jamaican native and South Florida resident, she is passionate about poetry and vow writing. Check out her website at www.everaftervows.com.