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Career Directors International member

Career Article 166:
Appropriate Interview Attire

By Tamara Dowling, CPRW

It has become cliché. "Dress for success -- dress for the job you want -- you don't get a second chance to make a first impression." It is true, especially in your first interview. Your interview apparel is the part of the interview process over which you have the most control. The guidelines below are widely accepted and easy to follow.

Guidelines for Women

Two-piece business suit: Dark blue or gray; Dry cleaned and pressed; Tailored to fit well; Conservative in style, Not flashy; Skirt preferred over pants.

Closed toe shoes: Solid dark blue or black to match suit; Conservative; Heels 2.5" or less; Well polished; Not noisy; Leather; Avoid snakeskin or textures; Good fitting.

White or ivory shirt: Conservative style; Lines of shirt collar or neck complements or coordinates with lines of jacket lapel or shape; Quality, natural fabric like silk or cotton; Dry cleaned and pressed; No stains; Good fit - not too tight; Not sheer or revealing.

Sheer hosiery: Good fitting; No elephant ankles or snags; Skin color; Bring an extra, new pair in your briefcase; in case you run the hosiery, you can stop on the way to change.

Briefcase: Blue, black or taupe; Clean and polished; Conservative style; Solid leather - no prints or canvas; If you cannot afford leather, find a good leather-like material; Organized - no bulging bags of unnecessary content; Pack it with several quality printed resumes, pen and paper; An alternate to a briefcase is a leather portfolio; If you carry a briefcase, do not carry a purse.

Minimal jewelry: Conservative; Real gold or silver only; Pearls are suitable; No plastic or acrylic beads or earrings; Opt for smaller earrings not extending much beyond the lobe; Only one ring per hand; Only one earring per ear; No tongue, nose or eyebrow pierced jewelry.

Watch: Wear a conservative watch that is running and will not beep during the interview.

Simple make-up: Avoid bright or excessive make-up; Foundation close to natural skin tone; Soft shade of lipstick; Mascara - no false lashes; Subtle eye liner, if any; Natural toned eye shadow, if any; Subtle blush; Light powder.

Groomed nails: Clean, neatly groomed nails and cuticles; Sheer, pink or beige polish; No nail ornaments; Reasonable in length.

Attractive hairstyle: Well styled hair; Cut to complement face; Clean; No large hair clips or barrettes.

Outerwear: Clean, attractive, good fitting overcoat that covers hemline of skirt; Blue, Black or Beige; Conservative dry umbrella - shake it before you enter the office, if it is raining.

Personal: Very light or no perfume; Brush teeth and gargle just before the interview; Do not smoke 2 hours before the interview. Bring small mints (not mentholated cough drops) if you have problems with dry throat or coughing; Cover tattoos as much as possible.

Guidelines for Men

Two-piece business suit: Dark blue or gray; Dry cleaned and pressed; Tailored to fit well; Conservative in style, Not flashy; 100% Worsted Wool is the preferred fabric; Fully lined; Select a quality suit - you can purchase a high quality suit at a retailer like The Men's Wearhouse (www.menswearhouse.com) or King Size Direct.

Do not overstuff your pockets so they are bulging. If necessary, leave your wallet in your briefcase. Empty your pockets of keys and coins. Keep a lint brush in your car so you can dust off your jacket just prior to the interview.

Fit: Don't under estimate the importance of the fit of your clothes. Ask a Wardrobe Consultant or Tailor for advice on suit fit. If you are a tall or large-sized man, seek a retailer that specializes in men's tall clothing, such as King Size Direct. Make sure the fit is perfect. You not only will look like a true professional, you will be comfortable. During your interview, you want to focus on the questions, rather than being bothered by poorly-fitted clothing.

White dress shirt: 100% cotton; Button tabs or point collar, rather than button down; Dry cleaned and pressed; No stains or holes; Long-sleeved only; Button cuff preferred to French cuffs.

Dress shoes: Polished; Good condition or new; Black or cordovan; Lace-up shoes are preferred to slip-ons; No tassels; Never wear loafers; If new, wear for at least one day to break them in. If you are able, invest in a nice pair of shoes that won't squeak or look cheap.

Dark socks: Black over the calf socks that will not slide down.

Leather belt: Solid color matching shoes; metal buckle matching jewelry; Conservative buckle; If you wear braces, do not wear a belt.

Silk neck tie: Four in Hand Knot; Bottom of tie to touch top of belt buckle; Conservative design; 100% silk; New or in good condition.

Minimal jewelry: Wedding ring or college ring only; No tiepins or clips; No pierced jewelry or chains.

Watch: Wear a conservative watch that is running and will not beep during the interview.

Briefcase: Blue, black or taupe; Clean and polished; Conservative style; Solid leather - no prints or canvas; If you cannot afford leather, find a good leather-like material; Organized - not bulging with unnecessary content; Pack it with several quality printed resumes, pen and paper; An alternate to a briefcase is a leather portfolio.

Outerwear: Clean, attractive, good fitting overcoat; Blue, Black or Beige; Conservative dry umbrella - shake it before you enter the office, if it is raining.

Groomed nails: Clean, neatly trimmed nails and cuticles; Use non-fragrant hand lotion if your hands are dry and chafed; Ask a female friend if you are unsure if your hands need additional help.

Attractive hairstyle: Well styled hair; Short cuts are better; Clean; Light gel or no gel; Cut one week before interview rather than one day before; Beards and mustaches may be offensive to some employers.

Personal: Very light or no cologne; Brush teeth and gargle just before the interview; Do not smoke 2 hours before the interview. Bring small mints (not mentholated cough drops) if you have problems with dry throat or coughing; No make-up; Cover tattoos as much as possible.

Clothes should not distract from your professional image and should communicate that you are mature, organized and will be a suitable representative for the company. Rehearse your dress a few days before your interview. Just before the interview, perform a full mirror check, front, back and side view.

 
Copyright © 2000-14 Tamara Dowling