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Dress to Impress

Are you attending a networking event? Securing job interviews? Hoping to make a great first impression?

What you wear should be determined by the norms of your organization, the role you want, and your unique situation. Keep in mind that the Career Center is merely presenting widely accepted norms that are present in many professional environments. Researching the particular organization you are targeting is essential to knowing what’s expected.

Important Suggestions

  • Investigate the organization where you are interviewing to see what the average employee wears. A good guideline is to always dress as or more formally than would be expected on the job.
  • Remember that it is easier to dress down conservative clothes than dress up informal attire; always dress to impress.
  • Go with your instincts- if you feel like you should not wear it, then don’t. Clothing that’s appropriate for a bar setting is most likely not acceptable for a work environment.
  • Do not wear jeans, open-toed shoes, t-shirts, shorts or other extremely casual clothing to an interview. No hats or caps.
  • Make sure you are well groomed and your attire is laundered, pressed and wrinkle-free.
  • Make sure clothes fit correctly and are not too loose or too tight.
  • No undergarments (camisole straps, boxers, etc.) should be visible, ever.
  • Most employers prefer that accessories, jewelry, makeup and fragrances be kept to a minimum. To avoid being screened out, consider removing facial piercings and fixing hair in a widely accepted manner.
  • You may note these descriptions portray very traditional gender roles. Remember, you are the final judge of what will work for you. Transgender job seekers should dress professionally for the gender they would choose to present or in gender-neutral attire.
  • When in doubt, ask!

Traditional Corporate Environments

  • Choose a basic neutral suit and a standard button-up dress shirt. The suit should be simple and in a conservative color, such as navy or dark grey. For men, white shirts are best, with a conservative tie. 
  • The safest shoe choice for male attire is polished leather shoes with a matching belt.
  • Men should avoid bright colors, double-breasted suit coats, or short sleeve shirts.
  • For women, it is common to wear a classic suit. For highly conservative organizations, a knee-length skirt with neutral hosiery is considered more appropriate than slacks.
  • It is common for women in corporate environments to wear a long-sleeved button down shirt or a sweater paired with the suit.  
  • Shoes should be leather, low-heeled pumps that match the suit color.  
  • Carry a leather portfolio or briefcase large enough to carry your unfolded resume or other materials.

Less Formal Environments

Even though you may be interviewing with a more casual organization it is essential to be well dressed and groomed during any interview. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed.

  • For male attire, we suggest wearing pressed slacks, such as khakis or dark dress pants. Additionally, wear polished closed-toed shoes and a matching belt.
  • In “business casual” environments, men are expected to wear collared shirts. Adding a blazer adds flexibility--casual looks can become more formal with a blazer; taking it off creates a more casual look.
  • For women, it is common to wear dress slacks and sweaters, cardigans or blazers to interviews. Additionally, you may choose to wear a professional-looking interview dress (knee length) or polished skirt and top outfit if that is appropriate for the organization’s culture.
  • Flat shoes can be appropriate and can be paired with hosiery to create a polished look.
  • Bright colors can be paired with neutrals for a polished, professional look.

Unique Environments

When interviewing for a job that requires a uniform, it is important to dress professionally for the interview. Take into account where the interview will take place. For example, you will not want to wear heels if you are in an outdoor environment and might be required to wear safety shoes. When in doubt, be sure to research the organizations’ culture. 

Last modified August 04 2014 03:16 PM