Fashion trends have changed over the years. In the past, men always wore suits and ties and women donned pretty dresses almost everywhere.
However, “over the years, our society has become less conservative when it comes to dress code,” according to Andy Teach, author of From Graduation to Corporation. He adds that “certain industries still require dressing conservatively but others have a more collegiate atmosphere and it’s not unusual to find employees wearing shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops to work.”
Despite being less strict on attire now, it does not mean that you can wear whatever you wish to your interview.
Brenda Ferguson Hodges, an image consultant and career coach says, “appearance affects hiring decisions and plays a major role. Hiring managers need to be able to visualize you in that position they are trying to fill.” Furthermore, first impressions are always important and will always last in the hiring manager’s mind.
“On a job interview, your attire makes a statement about yourself before you even open your mouth,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert and best-selling author, says. “A scuffed shoe, a messy bag, or a low cut shirt can speak volumes. You need to wear your ‘power outfit’.” She also advises, “it’s okay to show off your personality through your clothes, as long as you aren’t wearing a lime green mini skirt. Stick to business professional looks.”
According to Teach, “many, if not most hiring managers believe that people who dress appropriately for a job interview are more likely to be successful because they look the part. Conversely, those who dress inappropriately – too informal, for example – may be seen as having a more casual attitude toward work and authority, as well as possessing a lack of understanding of business etiquette.”
It doesn’t even matter if this claim holds water or not. As long as hiring managers think this way, what you wear will always affect their first impressions and evaluations of you. If you aren’t dressed in the appropriate attire, you may already have one strike against you before you even open your mouth.
How to Avoid Making a Bad First Impression
Here are some tips to dress well for your interview and make a good first impression:
Read Up and Study the Company’s Culture/Dress Code
If you know anyone who works at the company you’re applying to, check with them and ask them questions about the environment and culture. If not, call the company’s HR department or receptionist to check what is recommended as far as the dress code is concerned. “Even if the company has a laid back dress code in general, they may expect you to dress up for the initial interview. You can never go wrong overdressing for an interview,” according to Teach.
Invest in a “Power Outfit”
Depending on what industry you’re looking to enter, purchase a few outfits that are professional, appropriate and also comfortable. Ideally, these outfits will be professional suits or formal office dresses.
According to Williams, “it’s worth spending the extra money on clothing that looks great, and you’ll get tons of use out of them. People don’t necessarily notice when you are put together but they 100% notice when you aren’t. It’s worth it to take the extra step.”
Get Comfortable Shoes Too
An outfit is not complete without shoes. You may have the best “power outfit”, but if your shoes are torn and tattered, it will spoil your whole look. You don’t need to spend a bomb on your shoes, but remember that comfortable, work-appropriate shoes will last you quite awhile and you will probably use it a lot when you start at your job.
For women, low, comfortable, conservative heels or flats will be good. For men, loafers or lace-up dress shoes will work well. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that doesn’t cover your toes.
Avoid Perfumes or Fragrances
Ferguson Hodges says, “there are a lot of people with allergies and have problems with scents, and you don’t want your scent to be the first thing that enters the room.”
If you’re worried about body odor, then use a scentless deodorant. Never wear something too overpowering as you may be rejected even before you start the interview.
“Accessories are important, too, whether you’re a male or female. Make sure your shoes are polished and wear a nice belt. Don’t wear too much jewelry – and make sure what you do wear isn’t too large, distracting, or flashy,” advises Hodges. “Watches are fine. For men, a non-flashy, non-sparkling watch and one ring would be fine. The key is to look professional and to look like you’d be a great fit within that company’s work culture.”
As for women, “wear neutral colored nail polish and avoid too much make up,” says Amanda Sanders, a celebrity image and branding expert.
In addition to accessories, “your hair should be neat, and fingernails should be clean,” says Hodges. You want to present a wholly professional image from your head to your toes.
First impressions are so important. You can have the best answers to all the questions that your hiring manager throws at you, but if you’ve already formed a bad impression in his mind, from the way you dress for example, then it’s more than likely that you’re not going to land the job.
A little investment in getting properly dressed and groomed for your interview will go a long way to making a good first impression when you step through that interview room door.