Home » Career Development Topics » How to Look the Part…

How to Look the Part…

Blog Categories

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 86 other followers

We have all seen it – a person walking down the street or on-campus wearing something that makes us go…hmm. Or, you’ve spent several hours trying to figure out what outfit to wear on a first date.  You may not have realized it, but one’s attire is just as important on a date as it is in an interview. How you look and present yourself can have just as much impact an interview as the answers you provide to questions, the firm handshake you deliver, and the thank you letter you send following the interview. Appropriate attire supports your image as someone who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed. Note: Be aware that in some industries, customer contact and image presented to the customer is critical. In such industries, your attire will be judged more critically.

So what does it take to look the part? Well…what a male interviewee would wear vs. a female interview would wear is quite different. Lets face it men – you probably shouldn’t wear a knee-high skirt suit with high heels to an interview (unless you are interviewing to be a Scotish Knight in Scotland and need to wear a kilt). Below are some tips regarding what to wear and not wear in preparation for an interview.

Tips for Women:

1. No matter what is suggested, dress professionally. A pant suit is appropriate if you have one, otherwise wear a skirt that is at least knee length. When choosing a color, be conservative (e.g. black, navy, or gray). We recommend avoiding a brown suit if at all possible. Wool, wool blends, or other good quality natural and synthetic fibers, are generally the best fabrics in all seasons. Avoid lower quality acetate/rayon blends.

2. To compliment your suit, wear a button-up collared shirt.  Believe it or not, the color of your shirt can make a difference. If you are looking to brighten up your attire, a bright colored shirt would be recommended. However, colors can sometimes be perceived as resembling personalities (e.g. a soft-pink shirt might be perceived as a soft, quiet, and gentle person; while a bright red shirt might be perceived as a fireball or someone who is trying to exhibit power). Our advice, wear a color that other’s close to you think you look good in, or a color that you feel the most comfortable in.

3. Make sure your clothes (suit and shirt) are clean and wrinkle free. A trip to the dry cleaner may be in order if you haven’t broken out your interview suit in a while. Also, carefully inspect clothes for tags, dangling threads, etc.

4. Ladies – we know you love your shoes, but the interview is not the time to show off your latest trendy purchase. Wear shoes that are comfortable. If wearing a heeled shoe, we recommend that the heel not exceed two inches. Plain color is the best approach – avoid leopard print high heels.

5. Keep your hair simple…meaning out of your face. You want to make sure that you full face is visible (especially the eyes) and that you are not spending most of your time in the interview brushing your hear back or tucking it behind your ears.

6. When it comes to jewerly – keep it simple and avoid gaudy or distracting earrings, necklaces, or braclets. Also, keep the perfume to a minimum as others could be sensitive to the smell.

7. Keep makeup conservative. If you are going for a more polished and professional look, a little is usually better than none.  Nails should be clean and well groomed. Also, avoid extreme nail length and polish color.

8. Hosiery should be plainly styled (no patterns), sheer is most conservative (not opaque), and in neutral colors complementing your suit. If possible, avoid high contrast between your suit and hosiery color.

9. If you are looking to compliment your attire with a purse or bag, a business-like tote bag is ideal for interviews and other professional occasions. It can carry your padfolio, extra copies of your resume and any other papers you might need, and personal items can be concealed within. The color of your tote/purse should coordinate with your overall attire; it does not have to match your shoes, but should not clash in style and color.

10. Finally, don’t confuse club attire with interview attire. What you wear to a club should probably not be worn to an interview.

Tips for Men:

1. No matter what is suggested, dress professionally. A suit is highly recommended if you have one, otherwise a nice pair of slacks, button up shirt with a tie (minimal). When choosing a color, be conservative (e.g. black, navy, or gray). We recommend avoiding a brown suit if at all possible. Wool, wool blends, or other good quality natural and synthetic fibers, are generally the best fabrics in all seasons. Avoid lower quality acetate/rayon blends.

2. To compliment your suit, wear a button-up collared shirt with a tie.  Believe it or not, the color of your shirt can make a difference. If you are looking to play it safe a white or lite-blue colored shirt would be recommended. However, colors can sometimes be perceived as resembling personalities (e.g. a bright red shirt might be perceived as a fireball or someone who is trying to exhibit power). Our advice, wear a color that other’s close to you think you look good in, or a color that you feel the most comfortable in. As for the tie, avoid Star Trek or Three Stooges ties…or anything with silly graphics on it. The more conservative the better; a tie that compliments your shirt (matches) is preferred. Note: some ties with bold/large strips can be perceived as power ties; as well as all pink or red ties.

3. Make sure your clothes (suit and shirt) are clean and wrinkle free. A trip to the dry cleaner may be in order if you haven’t broken out your interview suit in a while. Also, carefully inspect clothes for tags, dangling threads, etc.

4. When it comes to your sock selection – white gym socks are for the gym not the interview. The key is to keep it simple…if you are wearing a black suit, wear black dress socks. If you are wearing a grey or navy suite, black dress socks are probably best. Also, make sure the length of the socks is at least mid-calf high. You do not want to show any skin when sitting down, even if you think your legs are your best feature.

5. The same approach you will take with your socks, is the same as your selection for your shoe selection. Black suit – black dress shoes; Grey suit – black dress shoes; Navy suit – black or brown dress shoes. Note: absolutely no tennis shoes! On a related note, your belt should match the color choice of your shoes (a brown belt should not be worn with black dress shoes and visa versa). Lastly, make sure your shoes are polished.

6. Guys, unless you are Justin Bieber or Carrot Top avoid obnocious hair styles. Well groomed hair styles and facial hair is preferred; or being cleaned shaven is also preferred. For men with long hair, make sure that it is pulled back and out of your face. You don’t want to spend most of the interview brushing it back out of your face or tucking it behind your ears.

7. For jewerly, wear a conservative watch. If you choose to wear other jewelry, be conservative. Removing earrings is safest. For conservative industries, don’t wear earrings. If you have other piercings (e.g. lip, nose, eye brow), we recommend removing them as well.

8. Avoid having your hands and fingernails look like that of a mechanic or farmer. Cleaned and groomed fingernails are recommended.

Final Tips:

Remember, no matter if you are a man or woman, the look you decide to go with is how others will perceive you. Your professional attire says as much about your brand than your resume. If you are preferring for a phone interview, practice interview with a career counselor or mentor, or will be attending a company information session – the aforementioned rules apply. By “looking the part”, you are half way to a successful interview!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: