Interviews 101: Clothes

March 2, 2009

Clothes make the man (or woman). Have you ever heard that statement? In most cases this is not true-we are not who we are because of the clothes we wear, but in the interview it is the case. When meeting the employer for the first time our clothes convey an unspoken statement about ourselves. With the right clothes you can say a lot of positive things to your employer, but with the wrong clothes you can say goodbye to your dream job. Martin Yate, writer of “Knock ‘em Dead” a great book to guide you in the job search, sums it up perfectly. “When you dress like a professional, you are likely to be treated as one, and that’s a good head start to give yourself without saying a word” (Knock ‘em Dead, p120). Here are some simple rules to help you decide what to wear for the interview.

Rule 1: Be Conservative (everyone). While at heart you may be the most liberal minded person, you are trying to get a job-not speak out about your personal beliefs through you style of dress. When thinking conservative clothing, think about neutral colors like black, navy, gray, or white, though I would suggest avoiding the white leisure suit. No bright colors, so no hot pinks or teals or purples. You do not want the employer to focus so much on your suit that they are not even listening to you because you chose to wear that purple suit with the black wing tip shoes. Not a good choice.

Rule 2: For the Men When choosing your interview attire remember to keep a professional image in mind. This includes a suit (2 or 3 button), a nice tie, matching shoes (preferably in leather), and a solid or small patterned shirt. Always make sure that your suit fits and does not sag or is to tight. If you do not have a suit you can buy an reasonably priced one from any of the local department stores. Make sure your tie and shirt match your suit. No animal or art inspired ties. Remember to stay conservative.

Rule 3: For the Women Ladies your rules are very similar to the men’s but with a few additions. Women should try to go with skirted suits versus a pant suit. Skirts are the most conservative for women, but if you only have a pant suit do not panic, it is not the end of the world or your job prospect. The skirt of your suit should rest at or just above your knee. It is a nice length that allows you movement but does not show too much leg. Also check the length when you sit down. If it crawls to far up your legs go for another suit.

Rule 4: Jewelry (for everyone)

Again keep it conservative. Only women should wear earrings. Sorry guys leave them at home. For women the earrings should be small and not flashy. No other body piercing should be visible. Rings: only one per hand. And women if you wear a necklace keep it simple. If you have a question about a piece of jewelry better to err on the side of caution and not wear it.

There are a lot of other rules written and unwritten that you should consider when dressing for your interview. Click here for more information about Interview attire at the Virginia Tech’s Career Services. For more tips please go to the Career Center website or visit our office and peruse our reading material.

Do you have any interview clothing stories or tips?

Reference: Yate, Martin. Knock ‘em Dead. Avon, MA: Adams Media. 2006. (This book and others are located in the Career Center library).


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