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Appropriate Dress for the Interview

Suit coat with shirt and tie

There is something to be said for first impressions. Appearance is the first thing you communicate to others. Before you have a chance to speak, others notice how you dress and draw conclusions about you accordingly. Appropriate dress is one of the most important factors in your job search. Your dress creates an impression that can complement your credentials and give you an extra edge over a field of other qualified competent individuals.

There are standards of professional dress in all career fields. Some industries are more traditional, such as banking, consulting and business. Let the dress standards in the field(s) in which you are interviewing be a guide to what you wear for your interview. Attire in fields such as advertising, the arts, fashion, communications and entertainment is generally less conservative, so the rules are a bit more relaxed. Their dress code may be one of Business Casual Dress.

Business Dress-Professional Attire for Interviews/Job Fairs-  Back to top

Men's Interview Attire

  • Suit-(solid color - Black for men was once considered severe or overly formal, and may still be considered so in very conservative industries, although it is commonly worn by many. Other color trends may come and go; avoid the extremes. Choose a solid or very subtle weave pattern or plaid (the kind that look solid across a room). Wool, wool blends, or very high quality blends with natural fiber, are the only acceptable fabrics for a conservative men's suit)
  • Long sleeve shirt- (Choose white or light blue solid, or conservative stripes or coordinated with the suit)
  • Belt-Black or cordovan leather, to match your shoes.
  • Tie-(Tie styles come and go. Select good quality silk ties. Avoid fashion extremes, like character ties, in interviews. Notice what men in your industry wear on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, when they meet with clients.)
  • Dark socks, conservative leather shoes-Dark socks, mid-calf length so no skin is visible when you sit down.
  • Jewelry-Wear a conservative watch. If you choose to wear other jewelry, be conservative. Removing earrings is safest. For conservative industries, don't wear earrings. Observe other men in your industry to see what is acceptable.
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Facial hair-If worn, should be well-groomed. Observe men in your industry if you are unsure what's appropriate or are considering changing your look
  • Limit the aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase
  • Details-Everything should be clean and well pressed. Suits typically have tacking stitches to hold vents — on the jacket back and on sleeves — in place before the garment is purchased. Cut them off if your retailer / tailor doesn't. And that tag stitched on the outside of your sleeve is not meant to stay there like a Tommy Hilfiger label — cut it off! Carefully inspect clothes dangling threads, etc.

Women's Interview Attire

  • Suit - (navy, black or dark grey)-Wear a two-piece matched suit. Tailored pants suits are appropriate for women. Pants suits can be an excellent choice for site visits, particularly if the visit involves getting in and out of vehicles and/or the site is (or includes) a manufacturing plant or industrial facility. If you wear pants, they should be creased and tailored, not tight or flowing. If you are pursuing a conservative industry and are in doubt, observe well dressed women in your industry on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, etc.
  • Skirt lengths - Much of what you see on television shows that masquerades for professional attire is actually inappropriate for a work environment. Your skirt should cover your thighs when you are seated. Showing a lot of thigh makes you look naive at best, foolish at worst. A skirt that ends at the knee when you're standing looks chic and professional. Longer skirts are professional too; just make sure they are narrow enough not to be billowing, but not so narrow that you can't climb stairs comfortably. Don't purchase a skirt or decide on a hem length until you sit in the skirt facing a mirror. That's what your interviewer will see. Ask yourself whether it will be distracting or reinforce your image as a person who looks appropriate for a business environment or gathering. High slits in skirts are not appropriate. A small back, center slit in a knee-length skirt is appropriate. On a calf length skirt, a slit to the knee to facilitate walking and stair climbing is appropriate. The suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably
  • Coordinated blouse - Underneath the suit jacket, wear a tailored blouse in a color or small print that coordinates nicely with your suit. A fine gauge, good quality knit shell is also appropriate underneath your suit jacket. Don't show cleavage.
  • Conservative shoes - Should be leather or fabric / micro fiber. Shoe styles and heel heights come and go. Choose closed-toe pumps. Regardless of what is in style, avoid extremes; no stilettos or chunky platforms. Make certain you can walk comfortably in your shoes; hobbling in uncomfortable shoes does not convey a professional appearance.
  • Limited jewelry/accessories - (no dangling earrings or arms full of bracelets) No jewelry is better than cheap jewelry. Wear a conservative watch. Jewelry and scarf styles come and go. Keep your choices simple and leaning toward conservative. Avoid extremes of style and color
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Neutral pantyhose - Should be plainly styled (no patterns), sheer (not opaque), and in neutral colors complementing your suit. Avoid high contrast between your suit and hosiery color.
  • Light on the perfume
  • Cosmetics - Keep makeup conservative. A little is usually better than none for a polished look. Nails should be clean and well groomed. Avoid extremes of nail length and polish color, especially in conservative industries.
  • Neatly manicured clean nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase - Pad folios - Preferred over a bulky briefcase. A small briefcase is also appropriate. But if you have no reason to carry a briefcase, don't; you risk looking silly.
  • Purse / bag - If you carry a purse, keep it small and simple, especially if you also carry a briefcase. Purse color should coordinate with your shoes. You may choose to carry a small briefcase or business-like tote bag in place of a purse. Leather is the best choice for briefcases; micro fiber or fine woven's are also acceptable.

What Not to Bring to the Interview

  • Gum
  • Cell phone
  • iPod
  • Coffee or soda
  • Backpack

Grooming tips for everyone

  • Hair:
    Should be clean and neat.
  • Shoes:
    Should be in polished condition. Make sure heels are not worn.
  • Details:
    No missing buttons, no lint; and don't forget to remove external tags and tacking stitches from new clothes.
  • Hands:
    Clean fingernails.
  • Fit:
    Clothes should be clean, neatly pressed, and fit properly.
  • Smell:
    Perfume or cologne should be used sparingly or not at all. No odors in clothes. Don't smell like smoke.
  • Pad folios:
    Preferred over a bulky briefcase. A small briefcase is also appropriate. But if you have no reason to carry a briefcase, don't; you risk looking silly.
  • Book bags:
    Leave it at home for an on-site interview. For an on-campus interview, you can leave it in the waiting area.

A suit for both women and men is almost always appropriate for all types of interviews. Buy the best quality business suit you can afford. Make sure it fits well, is comfortable, and is pressed before you wear it.

Examples:Back to top

For Men:

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For Women:

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Top 20 Wardrobe MalfunctionsBack to top

What is the worst outfit ever worn to a job interview? For a career services director at the University of Chicago, it was the applicant who sported a Madras tie as a belt and a patterned cotton hat. Other contenders, according to a survey of hiring managers, include candidates with dirty fingernails, micro-miniskirts, t-shirts with offensive slogans and even bare feet!

  1. Carrying a backpack or fannypack instead of a briefcase or portfolio: Some image consultants suggest women ditch their purse, too!
  2. Sunglasses on top of your head or headphones around your neck: Be sure to remove all your "transit gear" and tuck it in your briefcase before entering the lobby.
  3. Too-short skirts: Forget what some of those gals on 'The Apprentice' are wearing. Your skirt should cover your thighs when you are seated.
  4. The wrong tie: Ties should be made of silk, no less than three and a quarter inches wide with a conservative pattern. Image consultants say the best colors are red or burgundy.
  5. Overly bright or large-patterned clothing: With the possible exception of creative fields like advertising or computer programming, it's best to stick with navy, black or gray.
  6. Heavy makeup on women (or any makeup on a man)
  7. Earrings on men: In fact, men should avoid wearing any jewelry unless it is a wedding ring, class ring or metal watch.
  8. More than one set of earrings on women
  9. Facial piercings, tongue jewelry or visible tattoos
  10. Ill-fitting clothes. Few people can wear things straight off the rack. Spending a little extra to have your garments tailored is a worthwhile investment.
  11. Long fingernails, especially with bright or specialty polishes. Nails should look clean and be trimmed to a length that doesn't leave an observer wondering how you keep from stabbing yourself.
  12. Unnatural hair colors or styles. Remember, Donald Trump was a billionaire well before he began wearing a comb-over. If you're balding, try a close-cropped cut like Bruce Willis or Matt Lauer.
  13. Short-sleeved shirts, even worse when worn with a tie
  14. Fishnets, patterned hosiery or bare legs (no matter how tan you are): Women should stick with neutral color hosiery that complements their suit.
  15. Men whose socks don't match their shoes, or whose socks are too short and leave a gap of flesh when they are seated
  16. Rumpled or stained clothing: If interviewing late in the day, try to change to a fresh suit beforehand.
  17. Scuffed or inappropriate footwear, including sneakers, stilettos, open-toed shoes and sandals
  18. Strong aftershaves, perfumes or colognes: Many people are allergic to certain scents. For a subtle fragrance, use a good quality bath soap.
  19. Belts and shoes that don't match: Shoes and belts should be made of leather or leather-like materials and the best colors for men are black or cordovan.
  20. Telltale signs that your wearing a new suit. Remove all tags and extra buttons -- and remember to cut off the zigzag thread that keeps pockets and slits closed!

What to Wear When??Back to top

For most interviews, business dress is the best choice. Remember that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression! Even the best clothes in the perfect color will not look good if they are wrinkled or dirty. Make sure your suit and shirt/blouse are freshly pressed and your shoes are polished.

More Information On When to Wear Business Casual:

Traveling to an On-Site Interview

While traveling to an on-site interview, semi-casual attire or business dress (see above), is best. You may meet someone when traveling or be met upon arrival by someone who will have a part in the hiring process.

Evening Events

If you are attending an evening reception or dinner as part of your interview process, business dress is most suitable unless otherwise specified in the invitation.

Employer Presentation/Receptions

For employer presentations/receptions on-campus, semi-casual or casual dress is acceptable, while business dress is most appropriate for presentations or receptions off-campus unless otherwise stated by the employer.

Career Fairs

For career fairs, business dress is best if you are prospecting for job leads. If you are looking for internship leads, semi-casual or casual attire is suitable.

Picking Up / Dropping Off Resumes/Applications

For picking up or dropping off a resume or application at an employer's office, it is suggested that you wear semi-casual dress.

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