Let’s face it: interviewing is tough.
You don’t know what challenging questions will be thrown at you. You aren’t sure how you’ll stack up against the competition. You’re worried about having sweaty palms. And you have no clue what to say if you are asked about salary requirements (oh wait, you are prepared for this one!).
So much of the interview process is beyond your control.
But there is one thing that is completely within your control and has a big impact on the impression you make: dressing appropriately.
Unfortunately, many people don’t take the time to get this aspect of the interview correct. And getting it wrong can cost you a job offer.
Here are five tips to help you nail the wardrobe portion of the interview process.
1. Better to Overdress Than Underdress
These are the kinds of interview comments I hear from clients:
“Nice guy, but he wasn’t even wearing a jacket.”
“I don’t care if pantsuits are in. Slacks are too casual for an interview.”
“Could he not be troubled to put on a tie, for Pete’s sake?”
And these are the kinds of interview comments I do not hear from clients:
“Nice guy, but he was wearing a suit. He must care too much about wanting the job.”
“I really liked her, but she was wearing a classy dress. She’s too professional for us.”
“Loved that guy’s silk tie and Windsor knot. But clearly he’s trying too hard.”
I think you get the picture. It’s almost always better to overdress than to underdress. Even if the place you are interviewing is business casual, it won’t hurt to come in looking a notch above.
2. No “After Hours” Attire
Before you head out the door to your interview, look in the mirror and ask yourself “Would I wear this to a nightclub?”
(If you just thought, “Nightclub? I’m way beyond that garbage!” then you can skip to #3.)
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard clients complain about candidates who showed up to the interview looking like they were headed to a dance club instead of a job interview.
Ladies, you should avoid inappropriately short skirts, tight clothing, or anything that is revealing (you know what I mean).
Gentlemen, you aren’t off the hook on this one. “Skinny leg” pants may be in vogue; but if it looks like your trousers were airbrushed on, you’d better airbrush them right off and put on something that gives you a little more breathing room. You’ll thank me later.
3. Dress the Part
If you’re interviewing for a role that will regularly put you in front of high net worth individuals, make sure what you wear to the interview signals that you’re ready to do that.
If you’re applying for a position that involves being interviewed on television, dress as though you will be on air that day.
If the job at hand requires public speaking in front of professional audiences, come to the interview wearing something suitable for such an occasion.
In short, make it easy for your potential employer to mentally picture you in the role.
4. Wrinkle Free is Your Friend
Before we got married, I told my future husband that I was happy to cook him fancy meals, but that it would be a cold day in hades before I would iron his clothes. He quickly educated me on the notion of “wrinkle free” dress shirts and pants. Whew. That was one marital spat avoided!
Since my wrinkle enlightenment, I have often wondered why I hear so many stories of interviewees (usually gentlemen) wearing wrinkled clothes to an interview. Even if you eschew modern clothing technology, Wally World will sell you an iron for under 10 bucks.
5. Consider Your 37 Pieces of Flair
I’m all for free expression. That probably explains why my hair used to be so blonde that one friend referred to its color as “transparent.”
As a professional, I recognized that some potential employers would judge me for that, and I was okay taking the risk.
That same risk applies to things such as pink hair, nose rings, gauges, tattoos, and dramatic makeup. When you’re on the job hunt, make sure to take into consideration how a potential employer might view these symbols of free expression.
It may be worth it to take out your three eyebrow rings before sitting down with the organization’s CEO. But it’s also perfectly fine to have this attitude: “If they don’t like me for who I am, I don’t want to work for them.”
There you have it. Five tips on proper interview attire and a bonus tip that might save your marriage (guys, buy wrinkle free!).
Claire Kittle Dixon is the Executive Director of Talent Market.