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Dressing for success

Published April 24. 2010 09:00AM

Congratulations! You got called for an interview. This is it. Time to make a killer first impression so that every hiring manager at the other companies you had applied to kick themselves for not getting to you first.

One problem. What should you wear?

Like most of the situations I talk about here, it depends on the company and the type of environment you'll be working in. I've had on-the-spot interviews where I was totally caught off-guard and had to meet with the manager wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. In some work environments, this type of clothing is appropriate to wear anytime. But even if that's the case, you still want to dress up a little bit more for the interview.

You don't need to spend a fortune on a brand new interview wardrobe. Guys might want to pick up one or two nice pairs of pants, or maybe a new dress shirt or a tie. Ladies, dress pants might make you feel a bit more comfortable, or else choose a nice skirt and top with heels or pumps, and pantyhose (be sure to check for runners before you leave the house). Stick with conservative jewelry. Guys and ladies, make sure everything is clean and ironed and ready to go. If the interview is for a higher level position, you may want to break out the business suit. Yes, it'll be uncomfortable, but business dress is supposed to portray an image of success and professionalism, and that's exactly what you're hoping to project. Most job search experts advise dressing a step above the approved policy for the job you're interviewing for.

When I first started going out on interviews, I felt so strange. I felt like an imposter in the "adult" world, and it took me awhile to realize that I was competing for jobs just like the other applicants. I was an "adult" and was supposed to start acting and dressing like one (I still have trouble with this!) I once showed up for an interview at a printing company in my business suit and heels, portfolio in hand. The hiring manager was wearing jeans and a "hoodie". So maybe I was little overdressed. How was I supposed to know the dress code? My advice? See if you can find that out when you research the company.

Now, I'm around business executives in suits and ties all the time, so I have to admit, I barely notice them anymore. It's definitely not as intimidating or strange as it used to be, although I have to say I still don't like wearing a business suit. I save that attire for extra special occasions.

I didn't realize how immune I was to business dress until this past week, when I was part of a conference attended by over 3,000 high school students. The students were required to wear business attire as part of the day. I even commented on how nice all of the kids looked. I'm used to seeing kids in either jeans and T-shirts or dress code-approved clothing, so I got a kick out of seeing so many kids in jackets, ties, skirts, and high heels. They went back to their regular clothes right at the end of the day, just like we adults do when we get home.

No matter what type of clothing you may choose to wear to an interview, be sure to make yourself presentable on all fronts. Be neat, clean, groomed (get that haircut a few days beforehand), with no scuffed shoes, ironed clothes, and a confident attitude. Remember that your appearance is a huge part of the first impression you make with the hiring manager, so make it positive one.

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