As you think about yourself as a product to be marketed to potential hiring managers, then dressing for success can be considered the PACKAGING. Some clients that I counsel consider their dress style to be reflections of their personal style and refuse to follow conservative guidelines as they feel it will marginalize them as individuals. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You want to distinguish yourself in terms of your professionalism, the way you carry yourself and the extensive research you conduct so that you come across as extremely qualified, competent, and heading in the right direction.
Here is the rub – before you ever get a chance to speak to a complete stranger in order to convey beliefs about you, they have drawn conclusions in the first few seconds of ever setting their sights on you. The opinions the draw about you immediately are based on your physical appearance, and just as importantly ,to what you wear, how you carry yourself, if you remind them of anyone, perhaps even the non-verbal cues you give off.
Here are some general guidelines on dressing for success strategies that apply equally to men and women:
Your dress as a whole should add to your appearance – not detract from it
Clothes should never detract from your business persona. If you want to be taken seriously you have to come across seriously in your PACKAGING
Everything should be neat, clean and shined – pay attention to all of the little details, as they add up.
Navy blue, medium to dark grey are best. Conservative color patterns are always a safe bet
Avoid bright, flashy colors as they detract from the image you are trying to convey as a professional
Wear comfortable clothing that doesn’t require any distracting adjustments – the last thing you need to distract you from focusing 100% on acing the interview is uncomfortable clothing that doesn’t fit you well
Use a minimal amount of perfume cologne. The sense of smell is people’s strongest sense. It has the power of conjuring up a lot of very strong connotations with people including: past boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses, family members, etc. and by association their past experiences.
Carry all of your paperwork in a briefcase and/or portfolio. It adds to the overall appearance of being organized and professional
Clean and polished conservative shoes – while male interviewers may not focus on the state of a candidate’s shoes, a female interviewer WILL. Studies show that women focus almost immediately on the condition of a candidate’s shoes.
Keep jewelry to a minimum – large and gaudy jewelry can serve a s a distraction and detract from your attempt to achieve an overall professional and competent appearance.
Practice good hygiene – nothing can serve to sidetrack a candidate’s chances for employment than strong body odor, stained teeth, bad breath. If you are a smoker, be sure to wear dry cleaned clothes, brush and use mouthwash the day of the interview, abstain from smoking. It’s a small price to pay if it means the difference between getting the job or not getting the job.
No visible body piercing – you might think it’s cool and articulates your originality/creativity. Chances are it probably will do nothing but freak the hiring manager out.
Well groomed hairstyle is a must
Manicured neatly trimmed fingernails – this falls under the category of paying attention to detail. How can you manage a $100 million budget it you can’t keep clean fingernails.
Winter coats cleaned and pressed
Professional umbrellas (no South Park or Scooby Doo patterns to detract from the impression you are trying to convey of being the consummate professional)
Allow time to dress with care and deal with any emergencies
Favorite color of most Americans is blue – it conveys trust, calm and confidence
Tips for women
Wear a belt if wearing skirt or pants with hoops
Style hair tastefully and professionally
Low conservative heels
Shoes color-coordinated with outfit
Blouse white or ivory are safest
Clear and conservative nail polish
No more than one hand on each hand
No purses carry a briefcase instead
No more than 13 total accessories
Tips for men
Over the calf dark dress socks
Wear a belt if wearing pants with belt loops
Professional haircut or trim
Clean shaven is a must
Conservative Color coordinated shoes – black lace ups are best
Always stick with natural fabrics – wool, wool blend for suit, cotton for shirts, and silk for ties