A first impression is the most important thing you give to a prospective employer. Your interviewer has already read your resume, and may have even talked to you on the phone. Chances are, they have already formed a preliminary opinion of you. When you step into that interview room, it is important that you need to meet or exceed that expectation.
You don’t need to knock them out with an Armani suit or a $1,200 briefcase, because violence won’t get you anywhere. (kidding! 😉 ) Instead, focus on presenting a clean cut, professional image. If you shop around, you can easily build a professional wardrobe on a budget. Focus on the classics and you will never go wrong.
How to Dress for an Interview:
The most important thing to do is dress the part. You don’t want to interview for a foreman’s position at a factory dressed in a suit and tie. A coat and tie would not only be out of place, but potentially dangerous to wear. You would probably want to wear slacks and a polo shirt, and be prepared to walk through dirty and potentially hazardous areas. Conversely, you wouldn’t want to show up to an interview at a financial institution wearing khakis and a polo if everyone else is wearing a dark suit and tie.
These are extreme examples, but they present a valid point. Be aware of the company’s culture and try to fit in from the start. If you are unsure what to wear, give the HR rep a call and ask. If you are still unsure, dress one level higher than you think you need to. Look the part, act the part, be the part.
Choose your suit carefully. If you elect to wear a suit, choose a solid, dark color. Leave the black suit at home, because black suits are generally associated with being either power suits (high level executives and bankers) or for weddings and funerals. Small pinstripes are acceptable, but only if they are light and blend well. You don’t want to go into most interviews with bold ¼” stripes all over your suit. That could easily distract the interviewer’s attention.
Wear a plain white or off-white shirt. The idea here is to keep the focus on you, not your clothes. A solid white or off-white shirt won’t distract the interviewers like striped or patterned shirts could.
You have options with the tie. A plain tie is a simple, elegant, and always in fashion. However, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from the loud, visually distracting ties. Ties with argyle print, or Daffy Duck probably aren’t the best choice for most interviews. The emphasis should be on you and your interview answers, not your clothing.
Go easy on the jewelry. If you are a male, keep the jewelry light. Wear your wedding ring if you are married and maybe a watch or tie clip, but consider leaving the jewelry at home, in your car, or concealed beneath your clothing. Females should wear simple accessories and stay away from large dangling pieces which can distract the interviewer. Again, the focus is on you, not your jewelry.
Neatly groom your hair. Guys, get a haircut and comb your hair. But be sure not to weigh it down with half a bottle of gel – that’s disgusting. Women, consider a simple style and try to keep your hair from covering your face, which will be distracting to the interviewers.
Skip the perfume or cologne. Many people are allergic to perfumes and scents and the last thing you want is to have an interviewer cut short the interview because they can’t physically be in the room with you without sneezing. That is a quick way to end the interview and miss out on what could possibly be a great opportunity.
Polish those shoes! Many people forget this simple, but important part of their wardrobe. Your shoes don’t need a mirror shine, but they should be clean, polished, and presentable. Polishing your shoes also makes them last longer.
Other accessories and tips. Wear plain dark socks and a belt to match your shoes. Be sure to leave a pager or cell phone in your car, or turn them off.
These tips won’t guarantee you will ace your interview, but at least you know you will present yourself in a professional manner. And that is half the battle! The other half… well, that is up to you! Good luck.
photo credit: Henkster.