How to Dress For a Job Interview
Dressing appropriately for a job interview is always important, but even more so in a tight job market. As a candidate, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to stand out from the other job applicants. It might seem silly to suggest that something as simple as polishing your shoes could mean the difference between another month at home watching The People’s Court and a month at work collecting a paycheck, but it could be true. Research shows that others form their opinions of us in the first 30 seconds that they see us. The difference between dressing properly and dressing poorly will certainly help you to make that first impression a positive one.
The Dress Code
The base dress level for all job interviews is khakis, a shirt that has buttons on the front of it, a good belt, and clean shoes. This is the bare minimum for any position, whether you are applying at Wal-Mart, McDonalds, or for a job as a mechanic or carpenter.
A great rule of thumb is always to dress one level up from the expected dress code of the position. If you will be wearing dress pants and a shirt, add a tie for the interview. If you will be wearing a tie, add a jacket. If you will be wearing dress pants and a blazer, wear a suit.
If you are applying for a job in a field that you are already familiar with, then you probably have a pretty good idea of what type of clothing would be appropriate. If you are applying for a job in a field that you are a little unfamiliar with, it’s alright to ask the person who sets up the interview about the dress code of the workplace. They will usually be happy to help.
No matter what the expected dress level, I also suggest taking a tie with you and placing it in your jacket pocket. When you arrive at the job interview, if everyone in the building is wearing a tie, you can put it on while waiting (excuse yourself to the washroom, don’t tie the tie in the waiting room).
It goes without saying that your clothes should all be clean and ironed, your shoes polished, and that you have a belt that is similar in tone and style to your shoes (this means no studded leather belts with dress shoes, no black belts with brown shoes, etc. They don’t need to be a perfect match, but they should look similar). It’s also a good idea to select your clothes the night before and lay them out for the morning. This way, if you find out that your shirt has a stain on it or is missing a button you have time to correct it.
In general, it is my opinion that men should keep accessories to a minimum, however, there is one must have accessory that you need to add for a job interview: a nice business folder. You can buy leather folio pads for under $20, and they are a must have for a job interview. In it, you should have a pen, extra copies of your resume, and a notepad with some questions for your future employer written on it. Also, take short notes during the interview; it makes you seem more interested and engaged in the job.
When we are working, many of us tend to let our hair get a little long between cuts, out of convenience. Don’t let this happen when you are searching for work. Here is a basic checklist of personal grooming items to take care of before the interview.
- Shower. I shouldn’t have to mention this, but I do. Have a hot shower the morning of the interview. Not only will it make sure that you are clean and don’t smell funky, but the hot water can help open up the pores on your face, and make you look happier and more vibrant.
- Fingernails. Cut your fingernails and clean them well. Make sure there is no dirt or grease underneath them.
- Shave. Take your time. Use a new razor blade. Try to get as clean and close a shave as possible. If you have facial hair, trim it well.
- Comb your hair. The faux-hawk you wear on the weekends with your friends might be cool and fun, but the work world is a traditional place. Go with a simple hairstyle. Once your probation period has expired you can experiment with the dreadlocks again.
- Apply lotion to your hands. Not too much, but you will be shaking hands at a job interview, and it’s better if your hands don’t feel like the trunk of a tree
- Avoid cologne. More and more workplaces are moving towards being fragrance free, and even if the workplace you are applying for hasn’t, it’s best to go in without fragrance. Besides, colognes and scents are designed to evoke responses from those around us, and scent is one of the strongest senses we have. Do you want to take a chance that the female HR manager who is hiring you will be reminded of an ex-boyfriend by your Axe body spray? That’s a poor way to lose a job.
A Couple Final Tips
Be on time. Actually, plan to be a little early. If you show up too early, you can wander around the area outside the workplace and see the people you could be working with. This is a final chance to judge the dress code. If you need to add that tie, this is the time to do it.
When waiting, wait well. This means that you should sit quietly in the waiting room, read a magazine or book, and don’t do anything stupid. This means no picking your nose, falling asleep, or farting.
Be nice to the receptionist. Many people are surprised to learn that Human Resource departments often have the receptionist keep an eye on job candidates. Candidates who are rude, loud, or obnoxious here are often dismissed, even if the actual interview went very well.