Dress AppropriatelyBy Christiane Soto, Snelling.com

The advice is all around you.

  • How to Dress for an Interview
  • Dress to Land the Job
  • Dress for Success on your Next Job Interview

Catchy titles…lots of advice….are you overwhelmed yet?  If so, you are not alone.  Everyone has (at one time or another) obsessively focused on their clothing choices for certain interviews.  It is easy to do, because (let’s face it) your appearance is the one thing that you can control during this process.  You will not know which questions will be asked or what answers will be acceptable or if you are being judged.  However, you can control the color of your shirt.

Now, I do not think that any job candidate should spend 3 ½ days agonizing over whether or not to wear the blue button down or the yellow silk shirt to an interview (as I once did…many, many years ago). That level of fastidiousness is probably unwarranted.  If you are truly in doubt, ask your recruiter, staffing manager, or contact at the firm.  Within 5 minutes, you should know whether or not you have an appropriate outfit for that particular interview.

That being said…                                                                                          

There are really only a couple of things that you should focus on:

1)        Be clean.  I really hope that there are not too many people out there who need to hear this, but if you are dirty and/or smelly, you will probably not get the job.  People do not like funky odors; if they did, perfume would smell like skunk.  Focus on your grooming basics….wash yourself, brush your teeth, brush your hair…everything your mother told you to do when you were a child.  As an added (and perhaps a personal) note, try to look polished.  Nothing says “hot mess” to me more than chipped nail polish, stained clothes, dirty nail beds,  scuffed shoes, missing socks (yes, I have seen that) or lipstick on teeth.

2)       Be conservative.   I will be honest; 5-inch fingernails scare me. Piercings anywhere except on the ears distract me, because I am too focused on whether or not the process of getting your cheeks pierced hurt.   I do understand and respect the fact that everyone is an individual and has his/her own tastes, unique values and ways of expressing those tastes and values.  However, if you present an extreme level of uniqueness to a person first-off in a make-or-break situation (such as a job interview), you will probably “break” your chance. The interviewer will be focused too much on the physics behind your ear plugs.

3)       Use common sense.  I cannot think of any situation where it would be appropriate to wear the $5 flip flops from Old Navy, or jeggings or ripped jeans (even if tastefully ripped direct from the factory) or a “gimme hat” from John Deere .  In addition, stay current.  If you entire wardrobe makes it possible for you to be a stand-in on Saved by the Bell, then it is time to update.  This does not mean you have to spend a ton of money on the newest styles and trends.  Remember, those kids on Saved by the Bell were wearing trendy clothes too.  For some ideas on how to spend very little money on new, classic clothes, check out this “10 Tips” column from NBC’s Today show.

4)       Have a good fit.  Make sure that your clothes fit.  The interviewer is not going to be pleased (or even impressed) that you are fitting into the same outfit you wore 10 years ago.  Seams should not pull, buttons should not strain, pants should not end above the ankle.

If you are a job seeker, and you feel that this advice is unfair…that you are the person you are and that your appearance should make no difference on whether or not you are capable…you might be right.  However, this is a fact of hiring life.  First meetings are of paramount importance.  Researchers from NYU found that we make 11 major decisions about one another in the first 7 seconds of meeting.  Your interviewer is going to miss everything that makes you the perfect fit for the job if he/she cannot move past your overpowering cologne or perfume.

Everyone makes snap decisions and judgments.  Use this knowledge to your advantage.  Everyone has different facets to their personality, regardless of how we dress and present ourselves to the world. During the interview, we do not want snap judgments made about us that would prevent us from proving how well we can perform a job. Therefore, dress and present yourself in a manner that forces the interviewer to only focus on your skills, capabilities and achievements.

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.