How to Dress for the Job You Want

When you send your resume out and receive the call for an onsite interview you have a lot to think about and prepare for: Printing copies of your resume on your good stationary, doing your research on the company, reviewing the job description word for word, line by line, and picking out the perfect outfit for your interview.  Now, make no mistake, I’m not just referring to the ladies, because I know a few guys that will go out and buy a brand new suit for the interview with his dream company!  So here are a few tips for the ladies and gentlemen out there preparing for an onsite interview.

My number one rule comes straight from Coco Chanel herself, “I’m for style.  Fashions change too quickly.”  Whatever you choose to wear, make sure it is classic, and timeless.  Trendy looks are great for your weekends and nights out with friends, or a weekend in Las Vegas, NOT for a job interview.

Ladies first!  Ladies, especially younger girls, those super cute hi-low dresses and skirts are great for weekend brunch with your girls, but not for an interview.  Here are four tried and true tips to follow when dressing for your interview, and remember, less really IS more!

  1. Let’s talk colors first. You can never go wrong with the basic three – black, navy blue and dark grey.  Now, I’m not suggesting you raid mom’s closet for her ‘80s-football pad sized-shoulder pads suit, but you should have at least one proper fitting dark suit.  I love the outlet mall or Ross, Marshall’s or TJ Maxx for a good, appropriate “LBD” aka Little Black Dress.  This is a standard must have for every girl!  This is also great for interviews if you don’t have a suit.  You can put a jacket or sweater over it, depending on the climate, or even just a nice scarf or pashmina.  My personal favorite is Calvin Klein which is always in abundance at Ross.  Regularly priced in the boutiques these dress go from $150 up to $300, but at Ross I have found them as low as $20 ranging up to $40.  Not bad for a brand name and they suit pretty much any body type.  You can also check out your local thrift stores and consignment boutiques.  No shame in the fashion game!  I’ve paired a great $20 consignment dress with my Michael Kors strappy heels (also on discount at DSW).  The goal is to dress for the environment, your age and your body type.  You don’t want to show too much cleavage, leg or the dress or suit fit too tight.  “Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady.” ~ Marilyn Monroe
  2. Dress the part.  You want to show the interviewer that you are the perfect fit for this position, not only on paper, but in person as well.  You have done your research and you know what the company does, and this could be your dream job come true, but if you don’t “look” the part, then back to square one we go.  As you are choosing the perfect outfit for this interview, remember this is the only chance you have to make that valuable first impression.  You want to show them that you are about the job, your experience, and that you should be taken seriously.  Say this with your clothes.  I am on the short side (5”3’ to be exact) and I am addicted to high heels, but when interviewing, I made it a point to go out and buy kitten heels, one in black and one in nude (they will go with everything).  Let me tell you why:  If a woman is interviewing you, she may be very conservative and your five inch platform wedge shoes may not win her over.  If a man is interviewing you, high heels may give him the wrong impression of what type of girl you are, or he may be on the shorter side and a woman towering over him may damage his ego, and he does not want that every day, so you may not get the job.  On weekends, wear whatever size heel you’re comfortable in, but my rule of thumb for work is, “Would I be able to wear this to church?”  If I can wear it for church, then it’s good for work.  When dressing for the interview (and hopefully the job) you want to be more on the conservative side, show that you are serious about the position and that you respect the company and interviewer enough to dress appropriately.  Trust me, this really will make a difference, and don’t misunderstand me, I am NOT judging, but the way you dress and present yourself at the interview really can determine if you will get the job or not, sometimes just based on whether or not you will fit into the culture and environment of the office.  So dress wisely!
  3. Your hair and makeup should be natural and fresh. If you have long hair, try to put it in a ponytail or a bun, definitely off your face, half up – half down, whatever suits you best, just make sure that you will not fuss with it during your interview.  That is my biggest problem; I fuss with my hair constantly.  I have almost always had long hair, so I just naturally fuss with my hair.  During an interview, your interviewer may take it as nervous energy, uneasiness or even just plain old vanity.  When applying your makeup for an interview, keep it light and natural.  You don’t want to look like you’re trying out for a spot in a drag queen show!  Light foundation, no pancake stage makeup, natural colors, and either, a natural lipstick, or a soft shade of gloss.  While you’re discussing your experience and skills with the interviewer, you want him or her focusing on your words, and NOT the bright red lipstick you chose that morning.  Also, if you wear perfume, then chose a very soft, light fragrance, or simply a scented lotion.  The last thing you want to do is take over the room with Chanel No. 5.  Some people have very sensitive noses.  I know for myself, when my allergies are acting up, the slightest scent will give me a migraine.  When it comes to nails, I say, you can never go wrong with a classic French manicure, but don’t overdo it – keep them a shorter, natural length.  If you prefer color, again, keep it classic and simple.  Soft shades of pink or nude are best, and avoid nail art designs and bling.  You want the interviewer to remember you for your amazing resume and stunning personality.  This, along with the perfect outfit, will really say a lot about you, and we want it to say that you are serious about this job!

Now for the gentlemen!  I know you think all you have to do is throw on a suit and head out the door, but it is not that simple!  Keep these tips in the back of your minds when dressing for success boys!

  1. Make sure your favorite power suit is dry cleaned, pressed and ready to go. Remember the color choices for the ladies?  Black, navy blue and dark grey – this rule applies to you, as well.  I am a huge fan of the basic black suit, white dress shirt and a neutral tie, maybe a soft grey, light blue or a simple pattern.  I know the true “power suit” is black suit, with a white dress shirt and red tie, but as I mentioned to the ladies about the red lipstick, I will say the same for the red tie for you, gentlemen.  You want the interviewer to be focused on what you are saying and NOT what you are wearing!  Ties in bright colors or with crazy patterns or pictures will only distract your interviewer and they will be thinking, “What was this guy thinking, wearing a dinosaur tie to an interview?”  Instead of listening to you explain how you saved your company $100 million dollars last year.
  2. Remember to get a haircut a few days before your interview; you want to look the part, too! If you have facial hair and refuse to shave it off, be sure it is properly groomed, you are not applying for a job with Duck Dynasty!  Please remember to wear deodorant, go easy on the cologne!  As I mentioned earlier, regarding perfumes for the ladies, don’t go heavy on your scent.  One spray is more than enough.  If you are tempted to bathe in your cologne, then I would suggest a light aftershave instead.  Gentlemen, please remember to have clean hands and fingernails.  You don’t need to get a manicure, although that is a great thing to treat yourself to every once in a while.  But do make sure that your hands are handshake ready!  Trim your nails, be sure to scrub under your nails, especially if you are in a hands-on field, and it is absolutely ok (in fact, advised) to use hand lotion.
  3. Just before your interview, run a lint roller over your suit (especially if you have pets), make sure your hands are clean and dry (if you naturally have sweaty palms when you are nervous or under pressure, keep a handkerchief to dry them prior to walking in, or spray your hands with deodorant, too) and be sure you have minty-fresh breath. If you are a smoker, please, try to refrain from smoking before going to your interview, if you absolutely cannot go without smoking, be sure your suit does not smell like smoke, and keep your mints close at hand.  Remember, your first impression is as important as the ladies’ and you want to shine in your interview!

 

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