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The Right Job Interview Attire for Men and Women

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The Right Job Interview Attire for Men and Women

You only have one chance to make a good first impression, and that impression never counts so much as at a job interview. You need every possible advantage in today’s tight job market, and looking less than professional is likely to leave the interviewer thinking, "Next!"

Whether you are looking for your first job, returning to the job market after taking time off to start a family, aiming to move up the corporate ladder, or just hoping to get back to work after a layoff, dressing appropriately for a job interview won’t guarantee you the job, but will help create a positive impression to get you over that first hurdle.

1. Consider The Industry And Company

Though you always want to look businesslike, your level of formality will depend on the atmosphere of the workplace. In general, your interview outfit should be a step up from what the current employees wear on a typical day.

  • Finance/Law: If you are applying for a financial institute or legal firm, plan on a conservative, business-appropriate suit.
  • Creative: A less formal, more creative workplace, such as a design firm or retail establishment, might call for business separates with a touch more personality.
  • Hands-On: If you are applying for a job in a hands-on job like construction, machinery, cooking or repair work, choose a business casual style.
  • N/A: If you are not sure of the workplace atmosphere where you are applying, try to visit before your interview and observe the way employees dress. If you cannot arrange to visit, and are not sure of the corporate style, then it is better to be more formally dressed than too casual.

2. Start With Your Shoes

For both men and women, your shoes must be clean, in good condition and appropriate to your outfit. This is not the time to wear your most comfortable athletic shoes, nor to try out those new Jimmy Choo’s with the 5-inch heels. Both genders should be wearing freshly polished shoes with no scuffs, worn-down heels or broken laces.

For Men: Wear a pair of black or brown leather shoes in an Oxford, cap toe or monk strap style. These are dressy shoes appropriate for wear with a suit or dressy separates. If your interview is for a very casual workplace, such as construction or machinery, choose loafers that complement your outfit. Your socks should match your shoes, and when you sit down, there should be no gap of skin showing at the top of your sock.

For Women: Classic pumps are appropriate for any interview outfit. Keep heel height under two inches so you don’t look ready to party, and avoid shoes with an open toe or thin straps. If you wear hose, keep them neutral or black to match your shoes.

3. Let Your Outfit Make The Right Impression

The first thing the interviewer will notice is what you are wearing. Don’t turn them off by sporting sagging pants, a low-cut top, overly short skirt, jeans or a tee shirt with silly slogans.

For Men: Wear a long-sleeved, traditional white button-down shirt with a black, gray or dark blue suit in a conservative workplace, or business-appropriate pants and sports jacket if it is less formal. Choose a tie with an unobtrusive, classic pattern like stripes or dots, and stick with darker colors for a formal workplace. You can get away with a little bit of individuality in your choice of tie if you’re in a creative field.

For Women: Though you can wear either a skirt or slacks, go with your best power suit for a conservative workplace. A dark, solid color is always safe, with a lighter blouse underneath. If you are interviewing at a less formal, or creative company, you can wear separates, but keep them businesslike, modest and not too crazy in color or pattern.

For Both Genders: Tuck your shirt in neatly, button all necessary fasteners and make sure there are no hanging threads or tags on your clothing. Everything you wear should be clean, pressed and without rips, stains or gaps.

4. Pay Attention To Details

Little things can become big if they create the wrong impression. You don’t want the interviewer to be mesmerized by your eyebrow piercing or overwhelmed by a cloud of cologne.

  • Wear a belt that matches your shoes and is in good condition and polished.
  • Jewelry should be understated. On men, just a wedding or class ring and a tailored watch are appropriate in a formal setting. You can leave in an earring only in the most creative or casual of workplaces. Women should stick with professional, small jewelry and limit it to just a few pieces.
  • Carry a presentable briefcase or portfolio if necessary. No overly large purses, backpacks, fanny packs or casual bags.
  • Your hair should be clean, groomed and not wild. This isn’t the time to try a new style, use excessive styling products or dye your hair pink.
  • Women, if you are wearing hose, keep them professional and plain. Stay away from fishnets, crazy colors or patterned hosiery.
  • Neither gender should wear strong perfume or cologne. If you are a smoker, make sure there is no lingering odor of smoke in your hair or on your clothing.
  • Fingernails should be neatly trimmed and clean. Women should wear neutral nail polish, if any.
  • Facial hair on men should be neatly trimmed.

You’ve prepared for your interview, researched the company, rehearsed your answers and polished up your portfolio. Your outfit is professional, clean and fits you perfectly. Show up on interview day at least 15 minutes early, offer a firm handshake and direct eye contact to the interviewing manager, and you are well on your way to hearing those magical words: “Congratulations! You’re hired!”

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