Professional Presence

Dress for Success

People typically take time to prepare what they’re going to say during an interview, which is critical. But they may not take enough time to think about what they’re going to wear. What you wear sends a message about who you are. It is a component of the first impression you make on others, so it’s worth it to take your wardrobe choices seriously.

Here’s a checklist of basic rules to consider and pitfalls to avoid.

Dress a step up for the industry:

Look into the typical dress for the industry, and then dress just a step above it. Some industries, like financial services, are more formal – so a suit is the safest bet. Other industries, like web developers, may work in a casual environment – so crisp business casual attire might be better. Think about dressing for the job you want versus the job you have. 

Do not go too far off the reservation. If you are interviewing for a job in a very casual or creative industry, showing up in a three piece suit or your prom dress might actually do more harm than good. The people you’re meeting with will try to envision you in the job you’re interviewing for, so make sure what you choose fits the culture and adds a little extra professional polish. When in doubt, you can always carry a jacket to dress your outfit up or down.

Pay attention to fit:

Clothes that are too tight can make you physically uncomfortable; clothes that are too revealing can make others uncomfortable. On the other side of the coin, clothes that are too loose can make you look sloppy. Try to pick something that makes you look and feel good. It will do wonders for boosting your confidence and getting you to focus on the meat of your interview.

Do not lose site of the details:

Accessories matter. You can use them wisely to infuse some of your personality in your appearance, but do not go over the top. For women – avoid clunky jewelry, excessively high heels, bright nail polish, evening wear makeup, and cluttered purses. To play it safe, you may want to avoid open toed-shoes. For men, make sure your shoes and belts are good quality and do not have any scuffs. Pay attention to your cell phone, tablet cover, and carrying bag to make sure they are work appropriate. And even pay attention to the pen you carry. There is no need to be an advertisement for the bar you were at last night!

Do a dry run: 

You may have the perfect outfit hanging in your closet, but just because it looks good on the hanger does not mean it will look good on you. Try on the whole ensemble a few days in advance and walk around a bit to see if any adjustments are needed. The goal is to look good and feel comfortable. 

Keep it clean

This goes for clothes, shoes, and bags. Make sure your outfit is dry cleaned and pressed before you walk out the door. Check your shoes and accessories to make sure they are not dirty or scuffed. 

Keep it fresh:

To play it safe, avoid perfume, cologne, lotions or other products with a heavy scent. You do not want a big scented cloud to follow you into an office, nor do you want to aggravate anyone’s allergies. 

Keep it real:

Remember to be yourself – in what you wear and how you act. Good posture, a warm smile, eye contact, and a good handshake can be other “accessories” that complete the picture of you.