Dressing for Success to a Job Interview

As a Program Coordinator, my colleagues and I conduct job development seminars in the community for individuals entering the workforce for the first time or going back to work after many years of being unemployed. One of the seminars we conduct is the Image Enhancement: Dressing for Success. During the seminar, clients ask us questions like:

  1. When do we schedule this type of seminar?
  2. Is the seminar always the same?
  3. How do you dress for success?
  4. Should you pay attention to trends or just stick with what’s traditional?
  5. Why does it matter or important that you dress appropriately for a job interview?

Imagine after sending countless resumes to numerous job openings, you receive a call back for an interview. To help you prepare for your job interview here are some important tips to remember for both men and women.

1) What dressing professionally appropriate reveals about you:

It takes three to seven seconds to make a first impression. Your first impression reveals a lot about you. One, it reveals that you are organized and paying attention to details is crucial to you. Two, it reveals that you are reliable, because you are conscientious in your choice of attire. Three, it reveals that you can demonstrate the soundness of judgment. Organized, detail orientated, reliable and soundness of judgment are skills you are demonstrating through your professional look before you even say a single word in your interview.

2) Dressing professionally appropriate for your interview can increase your chances of making a great first impression:

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article last year about a study published in the Journal Social Psychological and Personality Science which found that “people engage in higher levels of abstract thinking when they dress up, compared with when they dress casually.” The study confirms dressing professionally have the ability to:

  • Tap into your sense of power
  • Help you feel more confident
  • People are likely to view you as important

The same study also found, what you wear can influence your thinking and negotiating skills. When you are professionally dressed, people view you as a respected person. As a result, you become more assertive in achieving your goals.

3) It matters to dress appropriately for the most important interview of your career:

Research has shown, body language accounts for 55% of our nonverbal communication, compared to verbal communication which is only 7% of what we say. So, it’s important that you choose your interview clothing carefully. Remember, your suit should make you feel the way you look, confident. It’s equally important that you communicate in your interview positive aspects of your personality and what working with you might look and feel like.

4) Fashionably trendy or traditional?:

When in doubt, dress conservatively. Which Means, dress appropriately for the position for which you are applying. Research the company culture or just inquire about the dress code while setting up the interview. But regardless of the company dress code policy, you should always wear a suit for an interview. For men, a suit means a matching jacket and pants, dress shirt, tie, coordinating socks and dress shoes. Your suit should be comfortable and fit you well, because when it does you act your best, and you feel more at ease. For women, a suit means a skirt or pants. Your suit should be comfortable and fit you well. You should not wear anything tight, bright, short, or sheer. Wear knee-length skirts with a conservative blouse with your suit. Do not wear bright colors, animal prints, or anything lacy, or low-cut. Your clothing should always be neat, clean, and pressed; if you don’t have an iron, either buy one or be prepared to visit the dry-cleaners often.

For those of you who keep up to date on fashion trends, dressing fashionably for a job interview can be an excellent way to express yourself and boost your self-confidence. However clothing styles and trends never stay constant, your best bet is to keep your interview attire simple. Like black or navy blue, which are the preferred colors of hiring managers. Bear in mind that, research has shown that those colors help people view you as a leader.

5) Preparation is essential:

Think about your interview attire before the big day the night before. Take a shower or bathe the morning of the meeting. Wear deodorant. Brush your teeth before you leave for the interview. Makeup and nail polish should be very little and flattering; shades that are neutral to your skin tone are acceptable. Avoid bright or unusual colors or very long nails. Keep your jewelry and hair accessories to a minimum, choose not flashy, distracting, or shiny accessories. Your hair should be neat, clean, and conservatively styled. Banana clips, brightly-colored scrunchies or elastics, are not recommended. You may want to wear your hair in an updo or wear it pull back. One ring per hand is best. Little to no cologne or perfume: you don’t want to smell overpowering or worse, cause an allergic reaction. No visible body piercing beyond conservative ear piercings for women, and minimal jewelry. Shoes should be conservative and fairly low-heeled. They should be in reasonably good condition, not scuffed or run-down at the heels. Do not wear shoes with an open toe or back; a basic pump is flattering, versatile, and always in style. Lastly, no gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth. Make sure you have fresh breath and don’t eat or smoke before the interview.


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