How to Dress for the Interview

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How to Dress for the Interview


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The popular saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is not always followed in the search for a candidate to a job opening. While a candidate’s capabilities and experience play a large factor in an employer’s hiring decision, there are other factors that matter.

People will form an impression of you in the first 120 seconds so the way you dress is very important during job interviews. Are you neatly groomed, too revealing or simply unprepared, looking as if you just jumped out of bed and put on whatever you could find off the floor?

What you wear will immediately affect the employer’s impression of whether you are the right fit for their company. For instance, your black tailored suit may go great for an interview at a large management consulting firm where you are applying for an account management position, but if you are interviewing at a start-up dot-com company where everyone is dressed casually, like the CEO often does at public events, it may make you appear a bit overdressed and simply the wrong fit for its environment.

I know of one candidate who was disqualified because his double-breasted suite, expensive tie and matching handkerchief was just too over the top for their workplace.

There are various ways to get suited up and to maintain a professional presence. Here are some tips to get your wardrobe ready for an interview:

  • Work with colors
    In the start-up dot-com scenario mentioned above, rather than the traditional black, blue or gray suit, select a lighter colored suit like khaki. You can also diverge from the traditional white shirt or blouse and select other flattering colors that are modern and professional.
  • Beware of your accessories
    Accessories can help bring out your personality, but too much can be a negative. You want your interviewer to remain focused on what you have to say, not be overwhelmed by the view of accessories. At the same time, watch out for “noisy” accessories that can distract. You don’t want accessories that will jingle excessively each time you make natural hand gestures during conversation.
  • Groom your hair
    Regardless of how professionally dressed you are, if your hair is not properly groomed it can create an opposite effect. For instance, in a sales position where you may have a lot of face-to-face interaction, a clean shaven look works best for an interview. You may also decide to pull your hair back for a more polished appearance.
  • Call HR or the receptionist
    One of the best ways to prepare your attire for an interview is to simply call HR or the receptionist and ask. You don’t have to indicate who you are. Simply state you have a meeting and want to make sure you are appropriately dressed. Ask them if they could shed some light on the company’s culture/dress code. Most will understand and be more than willing to offer you information.

People hire people they like so dressing appropriately reflects your personality and demonstrates that you would fit it with an organization’s culture. Whenever you are unsure, however, it is always best to err on the conservative side.