An article in U.S.A. Today spoke about candidates for jobs wearing jeans, purple sweat suits, and spike heels or sneakers. Other applicants weren't afraid to show pierced body parts and spiked hair. Still others chewed gum or showed up in rumpled clothes or with their pants falling down. One recruiter even told a candidate with his trousers down below his hips, to "Pull your pants up." According to the article, the outlandish dress costs some candidates the job.

Does it really make a difference how you dress for an interview? In many cases, it does. I'll never forget the gentleman I interviewed for an accounting position. He had been out of work for a few months and wanted to show me why. He took off his jacket, unbuttoned his shirt and started to pull down his pants (this is a true story) to show me the scar from a boat propeller that had injured him. He didn't get the job. Neither did the young lady in a bright red skirt so short and tight that she could hardly sit down!

In the conservative business climate I worked in at the time, appearances did matter. In other environments it isn't as important. However, it does make sense to dress your best for the interview, regardless of the dress code at the organization. If you're in doubt about how to dress for an interview, it is best to err on the side of conservatism. It is much better to be overdressed than underdressed (or undressed).

According to Kim Zoller at Image Dynamics, 55% of another person's perception of you is based on how you look. Her Dressing for Success information gives some tips on how to look your best, without necessarily spending a lot of money. Here's a quick look at the basics:

Women's Interview Attire

Solid color, conservative suit
Coordinated blouse
Moderate shoes
Limited jewelry
Neat, professional hairstyle
Tan or light hosiery
Sparse make-up & perfume
Manicured nails
Portfolio or briefcase
Men's Interview Attire

Solid color, conservative suit
White long sleeve shirt
Conservative tie
Dark socks, professional shoes
Very limited jewelry
Neat, professional hairstyle
Go easy on the aftershave
Neatly trimmed nails
Portfolio or briefcase
More Interview Help:

How to Dress for an Interview
How to make a great first impression.

Job Interview Attire
How, and how not, to dress for an interview..

How to Dress for Success
A quick guide to dressing for an interview.

Interview Etiquette
Interviewing can be even more stressful when you are expected to eat and talk at the same time. Here's how to survive a lunch or dinner interview.

Interview Questions and Answers
The key to successful interviewing is to review these typical interview questions and prepare your answers. Also be ready with questions for the interviewer - here's a list.

Winning Interview Skills
So, you’ve landed an interview for a seemingly wonderful job! Now what?

Good article by Alison Doyle

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Replies to This Discussion

i think a suite is always a good idea.
Hi Karen,
I agree with Chris, you are always putting your best foot forward wearing a suit/professional attire. Things are changing though in the creative space and those employers are looking more for the applicants' personality and personal style. My advice to people interviewing in these type of companies is to take your personal, creative style and wear it in a professional manner. If interviewing in a company that works in some sort of media, they are looking for more modern, fun professional vs in accounting where they want the business look of everyone else.

Recruiting Specialist

Karen Star said:
I've recently had new and innovative companies actually tell me not to wear a suit for an interview. Have things gotten more casual in some markets recently?
We have had managers tell us "Please let the interviewing candidate know there is no need to wear a suit. This is a casual atmosphere, and we are a casual company."

Personally...I will 100% disregard any advice about not wearing professional attire to an interview. When I have a candidate going to interview with one of my hiring managers...they are instructed to wear their best interviewing suit/tie (business attire for women) and dress to impress.

They can be casual once they get the job if that is the environment...NOT for the interview.

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