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Clothes Make the Man and the Woman: Dressing for a Job Interview

Lots of experience job hunting. I've had great success, so I want to share my tips on how you can get the job you want too!

Dress for the Job You Want, Not the Job You Have!

I don’t know who said this great line, but I love the thought behind it. While probably very overused in relation to job-hunting, dress for success, is a phrase that carries a lot of merit. In job-hunting, like so many other things in life, first impressions are key! Think of yourself as a product on the shelf. The first thing the employer sees when greeting you is your packaging, your attire. If you looked busted up and trashed, do you think anyone would want to purchase you? The answer is no; that is unless you are in the clearance section and the employer is looking for a quick deal. Don’t be a clearance markdown! Make every effort to have the proper dress for the type of job you are seeking.

Regarding make-up, less is more. Recent studies show that women with natural makeup were judged as more competent than women without makeup, while women with glamorous, heavy make-up were seen as less trustworthy and ineffective leaders. Make sure what your project with your make-up look aligns with your professional ambition. Will dressing properly guarantee you the job? Of course not. However, it will give you a competitive edge and will leave a positive first impression with the employer.

Easy Make-up Look

Rimmel London Lasting Finish Foundation, Covergirl+Olay CC Eye Rehab Concealer, IT Cosmetics CC+Radiance Palette, Santee Eyebrow Designer, e.l.f. Finishing Powder, and Loreal Lash Paradise Mascara

Rimmel London Lasting Finish Foundation, Covergirl+Olay CC Eye Rehab Concealer, IT Cosmetics CC+Radiance Palette, Santee Eyebrow Designer, e.l.f. Finishing Powder, and Loreal Lash Paradise Mascara

Judge Least Ye Be Judged

Should we judge others by what they are wearing? No, but the reality is that we are all judged based on our appearance and the impression we give to others. Job hunting is a lot like online dating and can be thought of as such. Throughout the entire job-seeking process employers use short-cuts to weed through potential candidates and to save time.

All things in this process are chosen with a quick glance. With cover letters, the opening paragraph is most important along with a hurried scan of your qualifications. With resumes and CVs, they look at your accomplishments. Think of the job interview as an actual blind date. How you dress sets the tone of the interview and within the first few minutes of the employer will know whether or not, he or she wants to employ you at their company. Still not convinced? A recent study found that 68% of managers tend to favor employees with fashion tastes like theirs, so dressing like the boss could be in YOUR favor when job hunting.

I Have Nothing to Wear

Most if not all women at least have uttered this phrase all while staring at a closet full of clothes, shoes, bags, etc. So the next question is what should you wear to the job interview? Smart business attire i.e. neat and clean clothing, shoes, and accessories is safest route. You aren’t going clubbing or to the lake, so don’t dress like you are. Go the extra mile and investigate your prospective employer and see what others in the company wear.

Wearing something similar, but pumped up a notch, will make you look as though you fit in with the organization. Next, you may ask how do you find out what is the proper dress for a given job/company/industry? Call your recruiter to ask, “what to wear”, or call the Human Resources office where you are interviewing and ask. If you have a friend at the company, ask them what they recommend. If those options aren’t available, take to the Internet and scan the company's social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor, etc.) for photos of the attire current employees are wearing. Try to avoid Fridays or holidays as those might be "casual days" or “themed days” and you will misinterpret the company dress code.

I can’t stress how important it is to do your research on the company before the interview. Many offices have embraced business casual, or flat-out casual, so if you show up to an interview in a suit, you will look strange and out of place which might suggest that you're not a good fit for the office. Marc Cendella, CEO of Ladders, stated in an article that “over-dressing for an interview can send important and [NEGATIVE] cues to your future coworkers.”

Only the Devil Wears Prada

A lot of people think that just because something is more expensive that it is better. In my opinion, this isn’t always the case. There are lots of designer clothes, bags, shoes, etc. that most people wouldn’t be caught dead in. My point is that you don’t need to run out and spend a lot of money on clothes for interviewing. My advice is to have a few, very good basic pieces that can be mixed and matched with other cheaper pieces.

Basic pieces include, but are not limited to, a black pair of pants and/or skirt, a sport coat or blazer, a white collared shirt and a good pair of shoes. With those good basics, you should be able to make several good outfits to last a week. I took my own advice recently as I needed more professional clothing for job hunting. I’m a bargain shopper, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but I like good clothes. I went to my local thrift stores and online for my treasure hunt.

On my trip, I was able to find and purchase 2 new pairs of dress pants (tags still on), 2 good, but used shirts (designer brands), a new dress (tags still on), a blazer (tags still on), and even a new purse. My grand total was less than $100.00, less than triple what I would have paid retail. You don’t have to spend a million bucks to look like a million bucks. Confidence and a few quality pieces will get you far in the job interview as in life!

Bargain Business Casual

The 1st look: Orange knit shirt, brown pants, and statement necklace. Not shown: brown boots and khaki blazer. The 2nd look: Denim blazer, mustard tunic dress, brown leggings, and brown boots.

The 1st look: Orange knit shirt, brown pants, and statement necklace. Not shown: brown boots and khaki blazer. The 2nd look: Denim blazer, mustard tunic dress, brown leggings, and brown boots.

Deals and Steals: ThredUP Haul—Business as Usual

Last, But Not Least, Here Is a Checklist to Go Through Before the Interview

  • Clean and polish conservative dress shoes
  • Get a well-groomed hairstyle
  • Clean and trim fingernails
  • Apply minimal or no cologne or perfume
  • Have no visible body piercing beyond conservative ear piercings for women
  • Brush teeth to ensure fresh breath
  • Have no gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth
  • Wear minimal jewelry (goes for both men and women)
  • Have no body odor
  • Check yourself in the rest room just before your interview for a final check of your appearance

Best Dressed at Work

When asked about fashion, a survey of 2,000 working Americans named the best-dressed female coworkers Sarah, Mary, and Ashley. For men, John, Tom, and Tim. Just so you know, the worst dressed coworkers were named Karen, Jill, Sue, Mike, Bob, or Steve. My name is Sarah, by the way.


“Dress To Impress - Professional Attire.” (2018). Tarleton State University. Retrieved from https://www.tarleton.edu/careerservices/Students/dress-to-impress.html

Lepore, M. (2018). “The worst dressed people in your office tend to have this name.” Retrieved from www.ladders.com.

Premack, R. (11 September 2018). “There’s an easy way to figure out what to wear to an interview even if you have no clue what the office culture is like.” Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/what-to-wear-to-an-interview-business-casual-startup-2018-9

“THE JOB INTERVIEW: WHAT TO WEAR, AND WHAT TO AVOID.” (9 August 2018). Retrieved from https://apsjobs.us/the-job-interview-what-to-wear-and-what-to-avoid/\

Torres, M. (3 April 2018) “Study: Women in heavier makeup are less likely to be seen as leaders.” Retrieved from www.ladders.com.

“What to Wear at Job Interviews.” (17 September 2018). Retrieved from jobiety.com.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Sarah Hurst

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