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It's Important to Dress Appropriately for Interviews

Similar to a good resume and strong interview skills, the way you dress tells potential employers a lot about yourself.

Appearance is a critical part of first impressions, and a positive first impression can help put your name on the hiring consideration list.

During this economic downturn, when there are so many people applying for the same position, presenting a professional image can help you stand out.

What are the general, universal tips for dressing for any interview?
A general tip for dressing for any interview is to dress conservatively and professionally. It is better to cover too much skin than to have some skin inappropriately exposed. Do not look to the television to define professional attire; "business professionals," especially women, on TV shows typically dress too provocatively for real life business situations. I would prefer to overdress (too formal), than to under-dress. When you are choosing your attire, do not glam it up. A simple, classic style and minimal jewelry are appropriate.

Why does it matter how one dresses for an interview? Aren't people being judged on their experience and qualifications?
People often wonder what does dressing have to do with my ability. Maybe nothing or maybe a lot. The way you present yourself often tells a story about you as a person and an employee. If you pay attention to detail in your attire, you may also pay attention to essential detail in your work. Your attire tells how much pride you take in yourself and possibly how much pride you will bring to the job. It demonstrates how seriously you may take the job, how much effort you may put into the business' success, and how well you may maintain your workstation.

By paying attention to your presentation, you show that you take yourself seriously and the effort you asserted to make a good impression. This effort may reflect your customer service and work ethic. Likewise, if you do not care enough about yourself to appear professional, why should any employer believe that you will care enough about their business or their customer service?

Does the job a person is applying for play a factor in how they should dress for an interview? Are there different standards if they're applying to work on the floor of a manufacturing facility versus in the executive office of a large corporation?
Yes, industry standards and levels of employment vary in standard expectations for appropriate interview attire. It will do an applicant well to research acceptable standards for each industry.

For example, financial services industry is typically very formal and conservative. One would be expected to wear a dark suit, subdued accent colors and maybe even carry a professional, leather portfolio. Whereas, a manufacturing position may expect a less formal suit, or if a tour of the plant is included in the interview, shoes with low or no heels may be required because of safety standards. Additionally, someone interviewing for an entry level position would not be expected to own as high quality a suit as an executive level applicant would be expected to wear. Therefore, be reasonable with your suit purchase. Microfibers are of better quality than they once were and are acceptable for lower level positions, whereas a more expensive quality material may be expected for higher level positions.

Does having an interview mean a person has to go out and spend a lot of money on a new suit? How can a person dress nicely and professionally on a limited income? Are there any local organizations that you know of that help low income job applicants get professional attire?
Not necessarily. However, I encourage the purchase of one, good, classic style, dark colored (brown, navy, or charcoal) suit. It is a smart investment to purchase a fairly inexpensive suit with nice, quality material. One suit can get you through many interviews, especially two interviews at the same location. A classic, single breasted style is timeless; the suit can and will last many years. Men have the option to change the tie or shirt color and have two different coordinating looks with one suit. Ladies have many more options of shirt style (collared and shell), shirt colors, and accessories (pearls, classic and minimal gold or silver jewelry) to change up a look.

If you cannot afford a good quality suit, second hand stores and Goodwill often have professional suits that can be purchased inexpensively. Local churches may have a professional clothing closet that will assist low income job applicants to dress appropriately.

If a suit isn't required every day on the job, should one still be worn to the interview?

Even if you will not be required to wear a suit on a daily basis, I recommend a suit for an interview. You are trying to be remembered and noticed for your impressive professionalism. You have one chance to make a good first impression.

If a person has visible body piercing or tattoos, should they be removed/covered for an interview?
Body and facial jewelry and tattoos are not acceptable in a traditional business environment and are inappropriate to wear or expose during an interview. Many company policies do not allow non-traditional jewelry to be worn or to have visible tattoos during work hours. It is not a good sign if you are told during an interview that what you are wearing or showing is not in compliance with company policy. That is certainly not an impression you want to leave with the interviewer.


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