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Dress the part: Some simple rules for dressing for an interview

- Oct 17, 2012

Congratulations! You got the interview. You have cleared the first hurdle and, frankly, the one that you have the least control over.

Now, for the interview. Answering the questions well is important, but as important, and often forgotten, is how you present yourself for the meeting.

Below is a list of hints, tips and suggestions about how to dress. There are no hard and fast rules, but this will give you a place to start. Contact us at ACE Employment Services for more ideas. We are happy to help.

Picking up the application or making an inquiry – If you find yourself out on a Saturday in your favorite torn jeans and beat-up Red Sox t-shirt, do not stop to pick up an application or talk to someone about employment. Always look your best.

So what do you do? Text yourself an email reminder and stop by on Monday when you are properly dressed.

What to wear – As a general rule, it is best to dress one step up from what you see the either the boss or the employees wearing, which ever is dressed better. What does that mean “one step up”? If they are wearing jeans and t-shirts, you should wear a button down shirt and khakis or a blouse and a skirt. If they wear shirts and ties or skirts and blouses, you should wear a two piece suit or woman’s business suit. It pretty much stops there. If they are wearing suits and business formal, you should too. Don’t show up in a tux! The key is to dress more formally than the people who are already there.

Hair color and style – No one wants you to not be yourself, but unless you are applying to be a barista or a tattoo artist, your hair should be a color found in the normal spectrum of human hair colors. Browns, blacks, blondes, natural reds are all fine. Purple hair is not compatible with your interview for a $75,000 attorney’s job. Even if the people who work there have funky hair, they have earned that privilege. Get the job then you can do anything you are allowed.

Again, unless you are applying for the lead singing position for a Sex Pistols tribute band, your mohawk is not going to go over well. Even relaxed businesses have standards. You can push the envelope on the hair style policy (as well as the holding power of your hair gel) after you have the job.

Tattoos – Everyone seems to have tattoos these days. That’s not a problem, but, depending on the position you’re applying for, you might want to cover them up. If you are looking to be a legal secretary at a prestigious Harvard Square law firm, ink might not fly. For the interview, cover them as best you can. Again, once you’re in, you can work inside of the culture.

Piercings – Take them out! One earring in each ear for women, none for men. Sorry. It’s still a bit conservative and everyone knows you can make them go away temporarily. So whether it’s your little nose ring or a spear through your head, please take them out.

Footwear – Why shoes especially? Shoes are a detail. Practically, you could wear Hush Puppies or Converse sneakers. But… shine your shoes. Wear nice shoes. Women: Heels, but not something that makes you look like you have a problem moving around. Men: Black or brown as fits what you’re wearing. Your black and white patent leather shoes can wait for the day they give you the corner office.

Details – Here’s a list of details to remember:

Employment agencies – These folks make their money by finding you a job. Make sure you dress for them like you would an employer.

Belts – Wear one. It’s a detail, like shoes, that shows that you have some self-esteem.

Undergarments – This really shouldn’t need to be said but, here goes… Men: Boxers or briefs? Don’t know, don’t care. Don’t show. This goes back to the “wear a belt thing.” Make sure your pants are up and stay.

Nails – Clean, neat, conservative. Maybe you fixed the car over the weekend, but scrub your nails for your Monday morning meeting. Ladies, colors you can see from space are great for the club, but not so hot for a professional interview.

Cologne or perfume – To smell or not to smell, that is the question? The answer is soap. Go to your interview clean, smelling like soap and water and wearing deodorant. You never know              when you will be in a tiny office being interviewed by someone with a severe fragrance allergy.

If you aren’t sure and you are working with an employment agency, like ACE Employment Services, ask them. They know their clients and they will have a sense of what is appropriate.

Still not sure? Over dress.  No one can fault you for taking an interview too seriously.

Employers: Please share with us what your worst dressed interviewee was wearing and tell us how it went. Did you hire them?

Applicants: Ask questions, make comments. This is a great place to share advice and ideas.

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