By Marky Stein
Now that you’re wearing that beautiful, warm smile, let’s look at the rest of what you’re wearing. Guess what? You don’t necessarily have to go out and buy a $400 outfit to be dressed appropriately for an interview (unless you want to, of course). Maybe all you need to do is invest $5 in getting those dress slacks pressed or having that attractive blazer dry cleaned.
Let’s keep it simple.
Dressing up is not only a way to make you attractive; it is one of the many signals of respect you will send to the interviewer during this first 20 seconds. It says, “I respect your time enough to think carefully about my wardrobe.”
Many of my clients object to dressing up for an interview.
They may complain the vice president of the company is wearing shorts and sandals and has an untrimmed beard. Or the CEO is wearing Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and cowboy boots. The difference between you and the interviewer is you don’t have an office with your name on the door (yet).
Before you get the job, take the time to be more formal and more conservative than you would normally be. (Then, when you’re hired, you can don your army boots, expose your tattoos, and get down to work with the best of them!)
Remember, it is not the price of your clothes or how well they match the latest fashion. What makes the difference is you give the distinct appearance of having taken some time to put yourself together. A few guidelines to achieve that image follow.
Shoes Hard-soled, hard-toed. The best colors are black or brown.
Ties Conservative: black, brown, navy, or red. A solid color or a simple pattern is best. Avoid ties that are too wide or too narrow. No potentially distracting artsy or modern patterns. No pastels or flashy colors. No bow ties.
Suits Matching business suits are best. If you do not have a tailored, well-fitting business suit in gray, black, navy blue, or brown, you may, as a second choice, wear pants (other than jeans) with a shirt, tie, and complementary jacket.
Shirts The only type of shirt acceptable for men at a job interview, in my opinion, is a button-down shirt with a collar. White or light blue, or a shirt with very narrow and light pinstripes is best. T-shirts and turtlenecks are too casual, however tempting it may be to wear them.
Jewelry Avoid wearing more than one ring per hand. Don’t wear a pinky ring.
Scents Other than the soap from your shower and (preferably) unscented deodorant, do not wear any colognes or aftershaves. It’s surprising what a strong reaction people have to scents! They either love them or hate them. Don’t take the chance you might be wearing the same cologne as her ex-husband!
Hair Again, the rule of thumb is conservative. No matter what the length or style of your hair, it’s worth investing a few bucks for a haircut before stepping into the competitive world of interviewing. Do not wear a hat. If you have long hair, tie it back neatly, or consider, for now, having it cut.
Interviewers prefer less rather than more hair on both your head and your face. I had a client who had absolutely no job offers until he shaved off his shaggy beard. When he got a job (soon after shaving), he sure missed his beard, but he didn’t complain about earning $80,000 a year!
Shoes Wear pumps with a medium-sized heel. Do not wear high, excessively spiky heels or boots. Black, brown, taupe, or navy is fine. Avoid flashy shoes with bright colors like red or glittery gold. No tennis shoes, open toes, or sandals. Flats may be OK for an extremely casual workplace, but low pumps are preferred.
Dresses or Suits In the workshops I teach, I always have at least one woman who says, “I wore pants to the interview and I got the job!” That’s usually the case, these days if you are wearing a nicely tailored pant suit with an attractive blouse, but if you feel comfortable in a skirt and matching jacket, I recommend it!
Hair and Makeup Keep it simple! Don’t allow long or wavy hair to hide your face. Consider having a touch-up color, wave, or trim. Wear lighter or less makeup than usual. Do not apply too much foundation or eye makeup. If you use hair spray, you might consider an unscented brand. Any sort of perfume-like smell from hair spray, body lotions, cologne, or perfume can be disturbing to some interviewers.
When you can look in the mirror and say, “Okay, I’m ready!” you’ll know you’ve found a good combination of businesslike attire.
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Marky Stein has been a career coach and public speaker for 20 years, working with professionals from more than 75 Fortune 500 companies. She currently runs a private career coaching practice in Northern California. Author of Fearless Career Change, Fearless Resumes, the career classic Fearless Interviewing, and the career compendium Get a Great Job When You Don’t Have a Job, Stein is the online job-search career and interview expert at Monster.com and has written numerous articles for www.careerjournal.com. Her website is www.markystein.com.