Professional Dress

Part of a hiring decision is based on nonverbal elements in an interview – eye contact, body language, handshake, posture, listening skills, clothing, grooming and accessories. Will dressing properly get you the job? Of course not, but it will give you a competitive edge and a positive first impression.

In job-hunting, first impressions are critical. Remember, you are marketing a product -- yourself -- to a potential employer, and the first thing the employer sees when greeting you is your attire; so, you must make every effort to have the proper dress for the type of job you are seeking.

Dressing conservatively is always the safest route, but you should also try and do a little investigating of your prospective employer so that what you wear to the interview makes you look as though you fit in with the organization. If you overdress (which is rare but can happen) or underdress (the more likely scenario), the potential employer may feel that you don't care enough about the job. How do you find out what is the proper dress for a given job/company/industry? You can call the Human Resources office where you are interviewing and simply ask. Or, you could visit the company's office to retrieve an application or other company information and observe the attire current employees are wearing -- though make sure you are not there on a "casual day" and misinterpret the dress code. When in doubt where a conservative suit.

If you cannot afford two suits, investing in one good suit on a student’s budget is sufficient, until you actually land a job and can afford more. One suit paired with three or four different ties or scarves and shirts or blouses can yield a variety of different looks. When shopping, buy the best quality items you can afford.

General Tips

No matter where your interview is or what the dress code, you should plan on following these general tips to perfect your professional appearance:
  • Clean and polished conservative dress shoes
  • Well-groomed hairstyle, not hanging in the face
  • Clean and neatly pressed attire
  • Avoid outfits where pulling and tugging is necessary
  • Have your suit altered to fit properly
  • A full-length coat can be worn; avoid casual coats
  • Cleaned and trimmed fingernails
  • Minimal cologne or perfume 
  • No visible body piercing beyond conservative ear piercings
  • Well-brushed teeth and fresh breath
  • No gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth
  • Minimal jewelry and/or makeup

 

Remember:

  • The choice of what to wear is yours – but the choice to hire you is the interviewer's
  • Check your attire in a mirror just before your interview for a final check of your appearance
  • It is better to be conservatively over dressed than underdressed
  • Give a firm handshake, make eye contact, be friendly, smile and speak up
  • A little small talk to start is fine, but do not ask personal questions
  • Thank your interviewer for their time and consideration and ask for a business card

Business Professional Attire

Attention to detail is crucial.

Select apparel, fragrances, jewelry, hairstyle, etc. that do not detract from your professional image. Less is more. Keep your look simple. The interviewer’s attention should be focused on what you say and your qualifications.

  • Conservative dark navy or gray wool blend suit, skirted or pants, or a suit dress
  • Pants should be creased and tailored, not tight or flowing
  • Conservative colors - such as beige or brown - are also acceptable
  • Skirt length should be a little below the knee and never shorter than above the knee
  • Blouses should be cotton or silk and should be white, or some other light color
  • Long sleeve, button down shirts may also be worn under a suit

Business Casual Attire

You will be attending a number of information sessions and dinner engagements where the interviewer might suggest business casual. What is business casual?

Some companies consider khaki pants and short-sleeved polo shirts as business casual. Other organizations require slacks or skirts and long-sleeved shirts when they refer to business casual. Some of the larger organizations might have this posted on their website for their employees with specific guidelines. The better name brand apparel stores also have samples of business casual on their websites.  Here are some general rules:

  • Business skirt or pants, solid color
  • Conservative blouse, sweater or long sleeved shirt
  • Blazer, vest or sports jacket
  • Flat or low heels.
  • Neutral hosiery or dark socks
  • Consertative accessories
  • Ties are not expected