Not sure what to wear if you land a job interview? You're not alone. Many job hunters are confused about the proper attire for interviewing because it's not uncommon to see people walking around in flip flops, sundresses and T-shirts in many offices. But if you want to make a good impression on potential employers, save the casual wear until after you land a job.
In most cases men and women can't go wrong with a suit. "As a job hunter you are vying for a position. Your current 'job' is to dress to impress your potential employer, says Mona Ashley, an image and style consultant at Magnet Image Consulting. For women "wearing a crisp suit, a neat hairstyle, moderately applied makeup and a fresh manicure will surely impress your potential employer."
Even if you work in a profession where casual dress is the norm, it's important to look professional. People who work in the IT industry often dress casually at the office, but according to a recent Robert Half Technology survey of 1,400 CIOs, 35% of them said they expect people interviewing for a job to show up in a business suit and 26% said it was OK to wear khaki pants and a collared shirt. Also, 24% of CIOs said they expect women to wear outfits such as a skirt and blouse or tailored jacket and dress pants. Only 9% said jeans and a polo shirts were acceptable attire for an interview.
Here are some fashion faux pas to avoid when interviewing for a job:
- Dressing too flashy. Women should avoid big, gaudy earrings and accessories, as well as extra long, colored finger nails.
- Looking too frumpy. One of the biggest fashion mistakes men make when job hunting is looking like they "just rolled out of bed...wrinkled clothing, shirts are unbuttoned and worn with no tie, rolled up sleeves, unshaven face, dirty nails and hair that is not maintained," says Ashley.
- Short skirts. Avoid going above the knee for job interviews if you want to be taken seriously.
- Wearing clothing that is too revealing. "Too much cleavage sends the wrong message. It's inappropriate, unnecessary, and in many cases found to be offensive (especially if your interviewer is a conservative woman)," says Ashley.
- Looking too trendy. Unless you're interviewing for a job in the fashion industry, it's better to stick with more classic clothing.
- Not wearing a tie. "A tie tells the potential employer that you are a go-getter. You want the job and you're going the extra yard to impress and show how serious you are about getting hired," says Ashley.
- Not paying attention to little details. Avoid wearing run down shoes and make sure they're shined. If necessary, make a visit to the barber shop or beauty salon for a fresh haircut, manicure or eyebrow wax. Also, don't go overboard on the cologne or perfume.
So what do you do if you're on a tight budget and need to spruce up your image for an interview? Check out local consignment stores for affordable clothing. Ashley also suggests borrowing something to wear from a relative or friend. As a last resort you could try nonprofits like Dress for Success or Career Gear, which give business suits to job hunters who can't afford them.
But ultimately, whether you land a job involves more than just your wardrobe choices. "There are three things you should always have on your interview: confidence, a warm smile and a sharp, polished presentation," says Ashley. "These three things represent a triple threat. They are sure to give you the edge in today's tough market."