Saturday, January 19, 2008

Acceptable Attire for an Interview

'What should I wear?' is a question we often ask ourselves and those around us. At social events or work events 'fitting in' means dressing the same (in terms of formality that is). Indeed most business events tell you want to wear (casual, business casual, formal etc). And it is never more so than at an interview.

With non work, and indeed, work dress becoming increasingly informal it can be hard to judge what to wear to an interview. But the advice remains unchanged - go formal.

There could possibly be some exceptions and if you know your genre really well, and the company then you can ‘do your own thing' but take care. Note also that even if you know someone who works there, just because people wear informal to work it does not mean they will not expect you to be formally dressed for interview as an external candidate.

There are some cultural variations but if you play safe and go formal you should get by. Generally, for example, the US is a bit more relaxed. Also women can 'get away' with pants suits in the US but they are unlikely to be penalized for a skirt. Thus the advice remains, play it safe and go formal.

Looking at this in more detail.
What to wear and what not to wear

* Even if you know that the company dress is casual, dress up for interviews anyway. It shows professionalism and respect, and more importantly, that you know how to dress for job interviews.
* Dress conservatively avoiding bright, flashy colors and patterns. Solid navy blue or medium to dark gray or black is usually best.
* Make sure you are comfortable in the clothing. Practice sitting and standing in it ideally with a mirror in front of you and try a sofa and a desk chair. Make sure you do not need to make "adjustments" when you sit or stand.
* Clean and iron all of your interview clothing and polish your shoes (or have it professionally done). If you have pets give yourself a really good ‘rub down' as you go out the door. A damp rubber glove is a good option.
* Keep jewellery to a minimum. If you ordinarily wear jewellery in your nose, tongue or eyebrows, remove all of it before interviews. Women should wear small, stud earrings, one in both ears and in the traditional place. Men should remove their earrings.
* Make sure you are clean: Scrub and cut/file your fingernails (or get a manicure), shower, brush your teeth, gargle with mouthwash, brush or comb your hair, and do all that other hygiene stuff your parents taught you.
* Avoid wearing strong perfume or cologne. It's best to have no odour at all!
* Empty your pockets of bulging and jingling items, such as coins and keys.
* Avoid smoking at an interview and do not carry cigarettes and lighters in your pockets (unseemly bulges).
* Carry your papers (copies of your CV, information on the company, other job applications details etc), a pen and notepad in a nice briefcase or portfolio, preferably one that is color coordinated with your clothing (such as a black or dark gray). This makes you look organized and professional. Keep it in your left hand so your right hand is ready for shaking.

Specific things for women

* Wear a skirt suit. Keep your blouse very simple and white or cream.
* Wear tights - take a spare in case you snag them getting to the interview.
* Wear low-heeled, conservative shoes that are color coordinated with your outfit. 1 ½ inch heeled, court shoes are ideal. Make sure your toes and heals are covered up.
* Style your hair tastefully or have it professionally done. If it's long, wear it up or back, so you're not constantly flipping it out of the way.
* Clear or no nail polish is best.
* Keep make up day time, and light. No bright colors, do not overdo the mascara.
* It's better to carry a briefcase or portfolio into an interview than a purse or handbag. Try to avoid carrying both - you look a mess and have to juggle to shake hands.

Specific things for men

* Wear a suit - dark blue or dark grey or black. Avoid patters and avoid brown or light colors. Wear a white, cotton, long-sleeve shirt (dress shirt in the US) with a conservative silk tie. Buttons on the sleeves unless you always wear cuff links.
* No tie clips and do not tuck your tie end into your shirt.
* Wear calf-length socks - black or navy depending on the colour of your suit.
* Wear low-heeled, black shoes. Laces are good. Tassels are bad
* Wear a belt unless your trousers do not have belt loops. Wear a plain black belt (matches your shoes) with a conservative buckle.
* Get a professional haircut or trim. If you have long hair, tie it back in a ponytail. But short, well-groomed hair is always the safest bet.
* Clean shave is the safest choice. If you have a beard or moustache, shave it off for interviews. If you just can't, at least make sure it's well-groomed. In some industries facial hair is not allowed, anticipate success and shave for the interview
* Go light on the rings (i.e. keep it to your wedding ring). Possibly class/team ring in the US.
* If this sort of outfit is totally alien to you make sure you wear it a little beforehand, even if just at home, to get comfortable.

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