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The New Rules of Interview Attire



Once upon a time, there was no question about what you’d be wearing to an interview: a suit. Historically, both men and women have been expected to dress in their professional best, but in today’s workplace, there’s no longer a hard and fast rule. Business casual, trendy looks, and pops of color are not only accepted, but may identify you as a candidate that meshes well with company culture. Of course, now that there are so many different options for interview attire it does making dressing for an interview a bit more complicated. How can you make sure you’re appropriate and comfortable? Read on to learn about the new rules of dressing up for your interview.

  1. Wear what they wear, or slightly better:

    Spend some time checking out the dress code of the office you’re hoping to work in. You might even be able to grab a cup of coffee next door and see workers coming in for the day. What are they wearing? Stick to a similar level of dress, or just slightly better.

  2. Know the industry standards:

    Even if you can’t nail down a clear answer on what’s worn at the specific office you’re applying for, you can get a good idea from the industry. Sales jobs will typically require a suit, while IT or design may be safe with business casual.

  3. Don’t fear color:

    A navy suit with a white shirt and neutral tie is always safe, but color can be fun and set you apart. Black is a more contemporary choice these days, as are colorful details. As long as your overall look is still appropriate, bold color is a great addition to your interview attire. Colorful accessories, like shoes or a tie, can add just enough punch of color and personality to help you stand out.

  4. Err on the side of overdressed:

    No one wants to show up in a frumpy suit when jeans are the dress code at the office, but if you’re unsure what to wear, it’s always safer to dress up than down. You can always dress business casual, and bring a suit jacket with you just in case you arrive at the office to discover that’s the norm.

  5. Don’t skimp on grooming:

    Even if you’re dressing down, grooming matters. Make sure your haircut is fresh, facial hair is trimmed, fingernails are polished, and by all means, you’ve practiced good oral hygiene. Ladies, be careful not to go overboard on makeup.

  6. Be well-tailored:

    Whatever you’re wearing, make sure it fits appropriately. A baggy outfit can make you look like you’ve dressed up in your mom or dad’s suit, while too-tight attire can send the wrong message. A few bucks at the tailor (or even a few minutes in the store dressing room) can make a really big difference in your interview appearance.

  7. Avoid major wardrobe malfunctions:

    Backpacks are never OK, and the same goes for short skirts. Ill-fitting clothes and unnatural hair colors and styles are out, too. No matter what field you’re in, awkward is never a style you want to wear to your interview.

  8. Remember that classic is appropriate everywhere:

    A basic button down and trousers for men (with a blazer brought along for insurance), and a pencil skirt and top for women are attractive and can be dressed up or down. With a classic look, you’re more likely to avoid wardrobe malfunctions and feeling totally out of place in your level of dress.

  9. Find appropriate alternatives:

    For winter interviews, a nice sweater or cardigan can easily take the place of a jacket as a more contemporary alternative. Matching suits were once appropriate, but for ladies, two coordinating pieces are a more modern alternative. Dress up your outfit with a silk scarf that’s neatly tied around your neck.

  10. Show attention to detail:

    Polish your shoes, iron your shirt, and accessorize appropriately. Also be careful not to expose undergarments like bra straps. And of course, put your cell phone in a bag and on silent. Showing this kind of attention to detail can say a lot about you as a person and potential employee.

  11. Stay current:

    If you’re returning to the workforce after a break, or searching for a new job in your established career, your interview attire may be out of date. It’s time to go shopping for some new duds. You want to look current, not dated, in your interview, so look for new, more contemporary looks when you’re planning your interview outfit.

  12. Add one thing that makes you stand out:

    Even in the stuffiest of environments, it’s good to stand out. A pin, colorful tie, or eye-catching scarf can add your personality to your look in a subtle way without becoming inappropriate. It’s a great way to distinguish yourself from the long line of other interviewers you’re competing with.

  13. Be yourself:

    No matter what level of dress you deem appropriate for your next interview, make sure you feel comfortable and let your personality shine through. Your dress can let the interviewer know more about you, and it’s important to share the real you. Further, if you’re uncomfortable, it will be obvious and may trip you up during the interview.

November 27th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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