Appearance Matters

Posted: 07/08/12 | Category: Interviewing

In job-hunting, first impressions are critical. Remember, you are marketing yourself to a potential employer, and the first thing the employer sees when greeting you is your attire; thus, 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. Contrary to popular belief, during the interviewing process your Appearance actually DOES matter. This is not to say that the "best looking" candidate will be selected, but it does mean that the most technically talented candidate may NOT be hired because of an unprofessional image presented on an interview.

Presenting a clean and professional image during the interview process and at work is critical for several reasons, not the least of which is to instill a sense of confidence in your ability to complete the necessary tasks in a professional manner. 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 are overdressed (which is rare but can happen) or underdressed (the more likely scenario), the potential employer may feel that you don't care enough about the job. Because "professionalism" can be pretty confusing these days, here's a general guideline of what you should consider wearing to an interview, from head to toe...

Attention to details is crucial, so here are some tips for both men and women. Make sure you have:

  • clean and polished conservative dress shoes
  • well-groomed hairstyle
  • cleaned and trimmed fingernails
  • minimal cologne or perfume
  • no visible body piercing beyond conservative ear piercing for women
  • no gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth
  • minimal jewelry (watch, ring or bracelet)
  • well-brushed teeth and fresh breath
  • good personal hygiene

Dress for Success for Women

Appearance Tips:

You don't need to spend two weeks salary on an interview suit, but your suit should be professional, clean and pressed. You have a lot of choices in suits and either a pant suit or skirted suit (or even a dress under a jacket) is perfectly acceptable. Moderate height heels or flats should be worn as well as hosiery in a neutral color, tan, neutral, black; keep the white nylons for your nursing job. Please check your clothing for holes, rips, missing buttons and scuffs on your shoes. Make the necessary repairs, polish you shoes. Skirt length should be a respectable length, not above the knee if possible. Remember, a blouse is acceptable under a suit for an interview, not a camisole.

The standard job interviewing attire for women is a conservative black, dark navy or gray skirted wool blend suit. Job experts and employers seem split on the notion of pants suits, so a skirted suit is a safer choice. Other conservative colors - such as neutral colors: beige or brown or even red - are also acceptable. A blazer with blouse and skirt is a possible second choice to a suit. Skirt length should be a little below the knee and never shorter than above the knee. Avoid wearing a dress. Blouses should be cotton or silk and should be white, or some other light color. Shoes should be low-heeled. Pantyhose should be flawless (no runs) and conservative in color. You should opt for a briefcase rather than a purse.

Dress for Success for Women Dress for Success for Women

Sample Business Professional Attire

Hair, Makeup and Nails:

Your hair should be done in a stylish, yet conservative manner. Considering an interview is a chance at a brand new job, one might consider a visit to the salon in preparation of the interview. For those of you with "problem" hair, investing in a trip to the salon might just be the ticket to an offer of employment. At a minimum, tone down the funky "clubbing" hair for your interview. Take a critical look at what your hair style says about you and make sure it says "professional".

Fingernails should also be kept professional looking. Forget graphics and jewels on your nails for an interview. Forget extra long talons as well. Nails should be moderate in length, not so long that a potential manager would question your ability to function at work. Nail color should also be moderate: clear, French manicure or any other pale traditional, non-glittery color. Basically, your nails should not be attracting more attention during an interview than your skills.

Makeup is a necessity for most of us, but makeup applied with a heavy hand does not work for an interview. Make-up should be minimal, with lipstick and nail polish conservative tones. Leave the glitter eye shadow, mascara and lip gloss at home for the time being along with the vamp lipstick and death rocker face powder. Do go with neutral tones and just enough makeup to look fresh faced, not over made. As with your nails, your makeup should not be drawing attention to itself.

Perfume:

Perfumes and colognes should be applied very lightly. What smells like heaven to you, might just be enough to set off an allergic reaction for one of the interviewers. Remember, your perfume should be discernable only at an inappropriate distance for an interview (i.e. too darned close to be professional). Better yet, why not skip a scent all together for an interview. Better safe than sorry.

Jewelry:

Jewelry, while beautiful, should be kept on the conservative side as well. Choose no more than 2 rings per hand, although one is better. Choose one set of earrings, one necklace and one bracelet, no more. Facial piercings are best left out for an interview as well as tongue piercings.

Purse/ Briefcase:

Like the rest of your clothing, your purse, briefcase or both should coordinate with your shoes and each other. Remember a more conservative style is best.

The Business Casual Dress Code for Women

Even if a company is considered business casual, you should in most cases dress in Business Professional attire for the interview. Here are some guidelines for the Business Casual Dress Code, once you have joined the company.

Skirts, Dresses, Pant Suits and Skirted Suits

Casual dresses and skirts, and skirts that are split at or below the knee are acceptable. Dress and skirt length should be no shorter than a couple of inches above the knee, or a length at which you can sit comfortably in public. Pant suits or dress slacks, Khakis are acceptable as well. Short, tight skirts that ride halfway up the thigh are inappropriate for work. Mini-skirts, skorts, sun dresses, beach dresses, and spaghetti-strap dresses are inappropriate for the office.

Shirts, Tops, Blouses, and Jackets

Casual shirts, golf shirts, dress shirts, sweaters, tops, and turtlenecks are acceptable. Most suit jackets or sport jackets are also acceptable attire for the office, if they violate none of the listed guidelines. Inappropriate attire includes tank tops; sweatshirts; midriff tops, shirts with potentially offensive words, terms, logos, pictures, cartoons, or slogans; halter-tops; tops with bare shoulders; and t-shirts unless worn under another blouse, shirt, jacket, or jumper.

Shoes and Footwear

Loafers, boots, flats, clogs, conservative athletic shoes, sneakers, dress heels, and leather deck shoes are acceptable. Wearing no stockings is acceptable if the look is appropriate to the outfit. Flashy athletic shoes, thongs, flip-flops, slippers, and any shoe with an open toe are not acceptable in the office. Closed toe and closed heel shoes are required in the manufacturing operation area.

Jewelry, Makeup, Perfume, and Cologne

As with business professional attire, Jewelry, makeup, perfume and cologne should be in good taste, with no visible body piercing other than pierced ears.

Business casual dress for women Business casual dress

Dress for Success for Men

Appearance Tips:

Business Professional Clothing:

The BEST job interviewing attire for men is a conservative black, dark navy or gray two-piece business suit (of natural fibers, such as wool, if possible), a white long-sleeved button-down dress shirt, a conservative silk tie (that matches the colors in your suit), and nicely polished dress shoes. If you do not own a suit, or the company is a bit more informal, then you should wear a conservative sports coat (no plaids or wild patterns and preferably a dark color), nicely pressed dress slacks, a white long-sleeved button-down shirt, a conservative silk tie, and nicely polished dress shoes. Your belt should match your shoes.

Interview attire

The Interview Suit

 

Here are some excellent examples:

 

Samples of Business Professional Attire

Men's interview outfit.

Sample Business Professional Attire

Men's business attireMen's business attire tips

Appearance Tips:

 

The Business Casual Dress Code for Men

 

As we discussed, even if a company is considered business casual, you should in most cases dress in Business Professional attire for the interview. According to a recent survey many companies have established the "Business Casual" dress code, to enable employees to project a professional, business-like image while experiencing the comfort advantages of more casual and relaxed clothing. Business casual dress is the standard for this dress code. Because all casual clothing is not suitable for the office, these guidelines will help you determine what is appropriate to wear to work. Clothing that works well for the beach, yard work, dance clubs, exercise sessions, and sports contests are not appropriate for a professional appearance at work.

Even in a business casual work environment, clothing should be pressed and never wrinkled. Torn, dirty, or frayed clothing is unacceptable. All seams must be finished. Any clothing that has words, terms, or pictures that may be offensive to other employees is unacceptable. Clothing that has the company logo is encouraged. Sports team, university, and fashion brand names on clothing are generally acceptable. Certain days can be declared dress down days. On these days, jeans and a more casual approach to dressing, although never potentially offensive to others, is allowed. Here are some examples of "Business Casual" Attire... .

Business casual for men

Corporate Casual
No jacket
Tailored slacks
Long sleeve shirt (in a color other then the usual white or blue)
Tie - optional
Business Casual
Khakis, black, blue or gray slacks
Long sleeve shirt in white, blue or conservative stripe
*Some companies have shirts with their logo embroidered on the shirt - this would be acceptable and is sometimes the 'uniform' for business casual workdays.
3 button polo style shirt w/or w/o sweater Denim shirt is also acceptable
Casual Day
Jeans or casual slacks
Polo style shirts or collared sport shirt
Casual Shoes / Belt
Casual leather shoe and matching belt.
Some offices will allow sneakers, many won't.

Below is a general overview of acceptable business casual attire. Items that are not appropriate for the office are listed, too. These are good examples of what is generally acceptable as business casual attire and what is generally not acceptable as business casual attire. If you experience uncertainty about acceptable, professional business causal attire for work, please ask your supervisor or your Human Resources staff.

Slacks, Pants, and Suit Pants Slacks that are similar to Dockers or Khakis from other makers of cotton or synthetic material pants, wool pants, flannel pants, and nice looking dress synthetic pants are acceptable. Inappropriate slacks or pants include jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants, short shorts, shorts, Bermuda shorts, bib overalls, leggings, and any spandex or other form-fitting pants such as bike clothing.

Shirts and Jackets Casual shirts, golf shirts, dress shirts, sweaters, tops, and turtlenecks are acceptable. Most suit jackets or sport jackets are also acceptable attire for the office, if they violate none of the listed guidelines. Inappropriate attire includes: tank tops; sweatshirts; shirts with potentially offensive words, terms, logos, pictures, cartoons, or slogans; and t-shirts unless worn under another shirt or jacket.

Shoes and Footwear Loafers, boots, flats, clogs, conservative athletic shoes, sneakers, dress heels, and leather deck shoes are acceptable. Wearing no stockings is acceptable if the look is appropriate to the outfit. Flashy athletic shoes, thongs, flip-flops, slippers, and any shoe with an open toe are not acceptable in the office. Closed toe and closed heel shoes are required in the manufacturing operation area.

Jewelry and Cologne Jewelry and cologne should be in good taste, with no visible body piercing, other than pierced ears. In fact it is better to remove your earring for the interview.

Hats and Head Covering Hats (Athletic or others) are not appropriate in the office. Head Covers that are required for religious purposes or to honor cultural tradition are allowed.

Remember to "Dress for Success"

Now you are ready for the interview

Good Luck!