Every day we make snap decisions about a person based on their looks. Think about what a Mohawk hairstyle and a beat up leather jacket represents, or a polo shirt paired with a strand of pearls. Our clothing choices say a lot about us. Before we even speak, people make assumptions about our socioeconomic background, personal interests, and even religion. It’s no different at job interviews—regardless of a flawless resume, dressing the part is crucial to landing the job you are seeking.
If you’ve ever picked up a men’s style magazine, many of the articles are about dressing for confidence and comfort. Men are told to dress for success— it’s all about looking suave, sporty, and healthy, like you’re a go-getter. It’s a stark contrast to the images displayed in women’s fashion magazines, which fuel the rat race that is extreme dieting and trendy dressing. Some magazines hardly touch on the subject, save for an annual “power dressing” issue.
With scant dress codes and the lines of casualness blurred, it can be confusing figuring out what to wear to work, let alone to a job interview. Doing a little research can go a long way. If you’re applying at a creative company, a sober black suit might indicate that you aren’t a free thinker. Showing up to a corporate job in jeans might send the message that you aren’t serious about your career. Do a little research and, when in doubt, it never hurts to dress like the boss.
- Show that you’ve got substance and style in the workplace. Adhering to dress codes doesn’t mean you can’t have a personality. Jewelry adds interest to and keeps a conservative look from being too staid. Take a cue from Madeleine Albright—her brooch collection is infamous.
- Fabric content and cut can make the difference between professional and casual. Look for suiting fabrics, fine knits, or sturdy cottons. A button down shirt tucked into trousers or a skirt is a no-brainer that can easily be dressed up or down with accessories. Certain items, such as a sundress, are better worn at Jazz Fest then in the boardroom. Opting for lighter weight fabrics is downright a necessity in this city, but look for structured pieces to balance out the casual feel. In cooler months, practically any material goes so long as it’s suitable for the environment you’re in.
- Err on the side of over vs. underdressed; it’s smart to look like you’ve put some effort into your outfit. If you decide you’re overdressed, take off the jacket, let down your hair, or tone it down by taking jewelry away. There’s not much you can do about being underdressed except scramble for a pair of heels hiding out in the back seat of your car.
- If you’re younger, try to dress more professionally. If you’re older and trying to tap into a youth dominated job market, ditch the frumpy hemlines, or select a bolder color to offset a more conservative look.
- Interviews are nerve wracking at best, and an ill fitting, uncomfortable ensemble will only leave you frazzled. Choose clothes that fit and make you feel good. Test any questionable garments at home—will that mini skirt ride up when you sit down? Is that slightly-too-fitted button up going to pop open at an inopportune time?
- Job interviews are not the time for experimenting. Stick with silhouettes that work with your body type for the ultimate boost of confidence.
- Too much cleavage on display is a serious faux pas. It will turn off a female interviewer and distract a potential male boss, so it’s best to keep your neckline tasteful and wear that low-cut blouse to celebrate the job offer, not to get it.
- Keep body art hidden. Unless you are applying somewhere extremely liberal, it’s wise to cover up tattoos until you’re 100% sure they are okay in the workplace. You can explain what your permanent art gallery means after you snag the job, not during the interview.