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Life After College: Dressing for Success

Dressing for Success
Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. 


Do Your Homework

Before choosing an interview outfit, research the company to determine how formal their workplace is. Also consider the role you are applying for and the industry as a whole. If you are interviewing for a position in finance or law (think Wall Street and business) wear formal business attire. If your position is less format (such as a basic office setting) business casual is almost always the best option. 

Err on the Side of Overdressing

A good rule of thumb is to dress one level above what those at the company wear on a day-to-day basis. If you don't know what the dress code should be, wear a business professional outfit. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. If you are hired, you can adjust your wardrobe as needed. 

Pay Attention to Details

Make sure you look polished. Don't show up in wrinkled, ripped, stained, or ill-fitting clothing. Comb or style your hair and make sure nothing is in your teeth! Consider brining a small kit with your grooming essentials for last minute touch-ups. 

Keep it Simple

You want the interviewer to focus on you, not what you are wearing. Go easy on the jewelry, makeup, hair, and clothing. Stay away from overly bold patterns as well as anything that shows off too much skin. This doesn't mean that you have to be boring. Let your personality shine through (just don't go too overboard in the interview). 

Put the Perfume Away

Refrain from bathing yourself in perfume or cologne. Apply any scents with a light hand (or just stick with a shower). Some people have very sensitive noses, and being shut into a small room with a powerful scent won't give a good impression. You want to be remembered for your skills, not your scent. 

Check Out These Resources

Here are some additional articles on how to dress for an interview.

How to Dress for a Job Interview

What to Wear: How to Dress for a Job Interview
by The Balance Careers

The New Dress Code: What To Wear In The Job Interview
by Forbes


Humans are Visual Creatures

We create first impressions based on what someone is wearing and how they come across (both in looks and in personality). That is why it is important to make a great first impression when you go into your interview. Dressing for success is an important key in succeeding in your interview. 

Decode the Dress Code

Dress codes can be confusing, and depending on where you grew up and live at, dress codes can mean different things. Here is a quick cheat sheet guide to understanding and breaking down the dress code. 

Business Professional 
In a business professional atmosphere, suits are the norm. Women might wear a skirt or pant suit with heels, while men may wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirt, suit pants, a tie and dress shoes.

Business Casual 
Forget the suit when interviewing at a business casual company. Men might opt to wear dress slacks or chinos, a button down or polo shirt, a belt and dress shoes. Women might consider wearing a conservative dress, or a blouse (or sweater) with a skirt or dress pants and dress shoes or boots.

When interviewing at a casual office, it's still important to look polished and professional. (Save the jeans and flip-flops for when you actually have the job.) Men might consider wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt, khaki pants a belt, and dress shoes. Women might wear a collared shirt with pants or a pencil skirt, or a work dress.

What Not to Wear

When going in for an interview, here are a few things that you should avoid wearing.

  • Flip flops and other open-toed sandals
    • A good rule of thumb is to keep your toes covered for the interview. Remember, you can always adjust what you wear once you get the job. 
  • Athletic shoes
    • Steer away from tennis-shoes. Investing in a pair of business/professional looking shoes is a good idea. And you don't have to break the bank!
  • Tank tops or shirts with thin straps
    • Even though today's culture is okay with tank tops and showing shoulders, the look isn't overly professional looking. And, you may be interviewing with someone who is older (and who doesn't like the look of shoulders showing). Consider wearing a light sweater to cover up your shoulders during a summer interview. 
  • Shirts with too-low necklines or that expose your stomach
    • Much like having your shoulders showing, you want to watch out for too much cleavage showing, or having your mid-drift exposed. If you are wearing high waisted pants and a shorter (cropped) top, make sure your stomach doesn't show when you move around. 
  • Shorts
    • Shorts should be avoided during the interview, especially if you are interviewing for an office position. You can wear a pair of more casual looking khaki pants if your interview outfit is in the casual category. 
  • Underwear that sticks out from your clothing
    • This could include the top of your underwear, boxers, briefs, etc. showing from the top of your pants or skirt, or having the straps of your bra showing. Make sure everything is tucked away before you go into your interview. 
  • Skirts or dresses that are too short
    • Check the length of your skirt by standing and placing your arms straight down your sides. If the hem is shorter than the ends of your fingers, you might want to choose a longer one.
  • Strong perfume or cologne
    • While you should smell clean, some scents are irritating to others. In a small meeting room, smells can become distracting, so it might be better to skip the scents before your interview. 

What to Wear for a Video Interview

With more an more companies and industries moving some or all of their work to online and remote, there is a very good chance that you will be participating in interviews held over video call. And while you may want to wear comfy clothes (or dress only from the waist up), it is important to remember that you are still in a professional interview, and should be dressed the part. 

Check out the video below to get a few tips on dressing for a video interview. 

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