If you want to be successful, dress the part


It’s an old adage, and it’s true: there are no second chances when it comes to first impressions. Your interviewer will make on-the-spot judgments about your capabilities within the first few minutes of meeting you, based almost entirely on your personal appearance. Negative initial impressions will be difficult if not impossible to reverse during the interview, even if it goes well. The clothes you wear to the interview say so much to your potential employer: how well you’ll fit in, if you pay attention to little details, and whether you understand professionalism, to name a few.

Many of these recommendations can be summed up as common sense (hopefully)– wear clean, tidy looking clothes, dress professionally and conservative, go for understated over bold. The right clothes might not guarantee you a spot with the company, but the wrong clothes almost certainly will disqualify you. The way you dress for your interview should send a loud message that you will fit in with the company culture and that you understand what it means to be a team player. When planning your interview outfit (preferably days in advance in case repairs need to be made or items professionally cleaned), reference this checklist to ensure that you are dressed for success.

Yes, we know all of this, but lately I’ve had questions from clients that make me think a refresher course is needed.

  • Go with a simple, well fitted suit every time. For men, wear a dark suit with a light shirt and silk tie; for women, a suit or a dress and jacket combination work. Even if the corporate culture is laid back, you still need to dress for the interview as if you really are going to an interview.
  • Consider wearing blue, preferably navy. To many, blue symbolizes calm, trustworthiness, and confidence. Otherwise, stick to the business neutrals: black, gray, beige, brown.
  • Dark dress shoes are best. Ideally, men should wear black lace ups with dark socks. Women should wear low heeled, close toed pumps. Ladies, this is not the place to try out your new stilettos.
  • Wear something you’ve worn before and you know you look great in. You want to exude confidence and know you’ll be comfortable.
  • Go easy on perfume, cologne, or aftershave. It can seem obnoxious and in a worst case scenario (your interviewer is sensitive or allergic) they can derail the interview altogether. You don’t want to leave your scent on the person’s hand when you leave. Ick.
  • Trimmed, styled hair and groomed nails. If you can, get a professional cut before the interview. A fresh cut will also make you feel more confident and put together. Men, make sure your 5 O’clock shadow isn’t showing.
  • Go easy on the jewelry. Less is more.
  • Pay attention to detail. Everything should be clean, hemmed, ironed, and look well put together.
  • Bring a light briefcase or small portfolio; make sure it is in good condition and does not clash with the rest of your outfit.
  • Lose the gum, cell phone, MP3 player, and other distracting items. Do not bring a drink, even coffee. Nothing says,”Please don’t hire me”  like slurping your non-fat, Caramel Macchiato while texting your BFF. Keep pockets empty to avoid the sound of jingling keys and change; this will also keep pockets from unattractively bulging.
  • Cover tattoos and take out piercings, even if you are already aware that workplace policy allows them.

Stick with these simple tips and you’ll do just fine.

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Written by Erin Kennedy, MCD, CMRW, CPRW - Visit the website to hire executive resume writer Erin Kennedy, CERW, CPRW

Erin is an internationally renowned certified resume writer specializing in professional and executive level resumes and career services.


8 Responses to “If you want to be successful, dress the part”
  1. Dr. Kal says:

    Great post!

    I only have two differences of opinion. I would say instead of a light color shirt, just stick to white shirts. There are still some older people who believe that everyone should wear a white shirt. A non-white shirt might offend them. But, a white shirt offends no one.

    I would also wear no perfume, cologne, or body spray for that same reason. Unless of course your natural body odor is really offensive. 😉
    .-= Dr. Kal´s last blog ..Obesity In America =-.

  2. Hi Dr. Kal…

    Very true. Offensive body odor must be eliminated for the job interview (and job). 😉

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Absolutely correct. Nice dress is crucial when it comes to job interview. I work at fortune 500 company and we turn people down just for not looking professional even though their resume tells us that the person is well qualified…

  4. Looking fit for the job one choses is really so important for jobseekers out there. It’s like how one is worth the pay for . .. And maintaining that positive aura of what you chose.
    .-= C’est La Mode´s last blog ..Free Bonus #1: Designer Handbag Wholesalers ThatDrop-Ship! =-.


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