How Should One Dress For An Interview?

How should one dress for an interview? Conservatively. Remember that it's all about first impressions and you have about six seconds to make that first impression. Robin Thompson, owner of Etiquette Network...

Robin Thompson, owner of Etiquette Network and the Robin Thompson Charm School, says that you should dress conservatively. She says, "Remember that it's all about first impressions, and you have about six seconds to make that first impression." Everything that you wear, as well as your grooming, matters. "The interviewer is going to look you up and down from your hair down to your shoes."

If thinking about being scrutinized makes you nervous, it might help to think about the interview in a larger perspective. How you look matters, but it's not the only thing that matters. And it's not the most important thing either. (Unless you are applying for a job as a model where you are being hired primarily for your looks.) The website for Career Services at Virginia Tech puts it into perspective: "In an interview your attire plays a supporting role. Your conduct, your interpersonal skills and your ability to articulate intelligent and well thought out responses to questions are the most important elements. Appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed."

Another good piece of advice the Virginia Tech website offers is, "Dressing nicely and appropriately is a compliment to the person you meet, so if in doubt, err on the side of dressing better than you might need to."

It's usually a good idea to wear a suit to an interview, even if you wouldn't wear a suit while working on the job itself. There are a few exceptions, however. For some blue-collar jobs, or for some office jobs in companies where people pride themselves on being unconventional, wearing a suit might give an interviewer the impression that you are stuffy. The best way to find out what would be most appropriate would be to ask someone who is already working in the organization where you will be interviewing, if that is possible, or else to talk to someone who is familiar with the norms of that type of organization.

For most interviews, there are general guidelines that you can follow. Robin Thompson says that "you should not wear jeans or sandals, no matter what the position you're interviewing for. If you have body piercings that are visible, remove them. If you have tattoos on your arms, wear a long-sleeved shirt. Don't chew gum. If it's an interview for a professional job, you should wear a suit. For ladies it can be a pants suit, but a skirt suit is preferred, with navy being the best color, although black and grey are also fine."

Don't dress like you are going out to a club. Thompson says, "You should not wear anything faddish, not hip huggers and not anything revealing." Jewelry and make-up should also be tasteful, not wild. And don't forget to take good care of your clothes. "Your clothing should be crisp and clean, with no stains. Learn how to use an iron. Shoes should be polished too; that's something that interviewers really notice."

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