Dress for Success – Presenting a Professional Image
In your job campaign you are marketing your skills, abilities and interests. It is also crucial that you make your physical appearance an important part of your marketing strategy. Your appearance is the first thing a prospective employer will notice about you, regardless of your talents.
People who are well dressed and well groomed are often better liked than their counterparts who are not concerned about their appearance. They may also be considered more intelligent, successful and competent, and earn more money. We have all been guilty of judging a book by its cover, but it is often that critical first impression that makes the difference.
In a job interview, appearance is important. Human Resources directors admit that they use visual cues to narrow down their group of applicants. Job interviewing studies show that when the decision not to hire an applicant is made very early in the interview, it is made primarily on the basis of unsuitable appearance.
During your job campaign, you should look professional at all times. You never know whom you may meet and where. Looking professional does not mean you have to look like everyone else. It is critical, however, to dress for your audience. Every style sends a message, and that message should be addressing the industry you are targeting, as well as reflecting your personal taste. For example, there is a great difference between, how a banker should dress for an interview and how a software programmer might.
The basic rule is very simple: find out as much as you can about the style of the people or company who will be interviewing you, so that you can fit in with it or at least not clash with it. (This makes sense in more ways than one, since it can give you a small extra clue as to how you might fit in if you do wind up working with them.) If you are interviewing for a job in an industry you know, then you already have an extra advantage on your side. But if in doubt, or if venturing into unknown territory, consider the following well-tried guidelines:
- For a professional position in most industries, opt for a conservatively tailored, well-made suit. Quality is the key - the suit should be made of wool or good wool blend and fit you perfectly.
- Shirt color preferences are white or light blue. Pink or pin-striped shirts are generally not good selections for a first interview, although in more casual or fashion-conscious industries, they would be acceptable choices. A man's tie is the most important part of his outfit. It is his only chance to add contrast and his own sense of style. A good silk tie can totally upgrade a man's suit, so it is well worth the investment. Ideally, your tie should contrast with your suit. Avoid wearing a solid tie with a solid color suit.
- Accessories are an important part of your total look. Shoes and belts should be good quality leather and should match in color. Black, cordovan, or brown are the best color choices. Either laced shoes or slip-ons are appropriate. Socks should be worn high enough so that your legs don't show when you sit or cross them. Interviewers react negatively to flashy buckles and ornaments on shoes, so these should be kept as simple as possible. Follow the same rule with belts. Briefcases and portfolios should be leather.
- Jewelry should be kept simple, and limited to either a wedding or signet ring. Although tie clips and cufflinks may be appropriate after you have the job, they are sometimes found to be inappropriate, as are pocket handkerchiefs. Watches should also be simple - just a dial face and leather band. Heavy watches with a lot of functions should be left at home.
- Your grooming must be impeccable. There is no question that the clean-shaven look is safest for a businessman. It makes most men look younger, cleaner, and more efficient. In addition, many people have negative reactions to mustaches and full beards. There are always exceptions, of course. A neat, well-trimmed mustache may make a man look more mature and in control. A full beard still falls into the high-risk area in corporate America. In more creative professions, such as college teaching, architecture, psychology and advertising, beards are acceptable.
- Your hairstyle should be kept neat and up-to-date.
- Finally, avoid after-shave and male colognes. Fragrance and whether to wear it at all is an intensely personal choice, and you should not risk imposing yours on a complete stranger you are trying to impress.
- The best choice of dress for a woman interviewing for a professional position is a good-quality suit. Wear a stylish but conservative suit in a style that is complimentary to your figure. Neutral solid colors, such as taupe, navy, gray or black, are safe. Other appropriate colors are acceptable; however, stay away from bright colors.
- Blouses can be worn in almost any color that is flattering to your skin tone. Silk, cotton and silk look-alikes are good fabric choices. Choose collars that compliment your jacket lapel and face shape. For example, if you have a long, thin face, avoid a neckline that repeats the shape of your face. Try to express your own sense of style in blouses.
- Accessories are very important and can easily upgrade an outfit. Choose leather pumps in classic styles for interviewing. Heel heights vary with fashion, but a moderate heel height is always a good bet. Flats may be too informal and an excessively high heel is not businesslike. Belts should generally match your shoes and, again, should be conservative in style. Belts are good finishing pieces and serve to tie your outfit together, although scarves used as belts can be too informal.
- Handbags and briefcases are items people always notice. Quality is imperative, so pay attention to craftsmanship and materials. One word of caution - don't carry both a handbag and a briefcase to an interview. It looks clumsy and requires too much juggling. Make sure whatever you are carrying closes easily and is not overly full. Better yet, save the briefcase until you have the job.
- Jewelry should be kept simple. Fine jewelry is always acceptable, but good quality costume jewelry can also add versatility to your wardrobe. Appropriate jewelry might include simple earrings (no dangles), a string of pearls, a chain or conservative necklace, a watch, and no more than two rings. Any bracelet or necklace that tends to jangle is distracting and should be avoided.
- Watches should be simple, with a dial face. Rings should be conservative and suitable for business wear. School rings and dinner or evening rings are not appropriate.
- Hosiery colors should be limited to neutral tones. Colored hose can be attractive in other business settings, but should be avoided in an interview. The same holds true for textured hosiery.
- Obviously, grooming is critical. Hair should be neatly styled and no longer than shoulder length. If your hair is longer, wear it up for interviews and other business situations. Makeup should definitely be worn and carefully applied for a natural look. Research on the subject of makeup indicates that women who are naturally and professionally made-up are seen by others as being more successful and more likely to be in charge. Again, select cosmetic colors that best suit your skin tone.
A Final Word on Dressing for Both Men and Women
Be prepared for your interview. Your shoes should be polished and your suit freshly pressed. Carry a needle and thread in your pocket or purse in case a button pops or a hem falls.
Once again, because many people are either allergic to or offended by certain fragrances, it is best to avoid perfume, aftershave or cologne.