Jeff Carter
Life is a riddle; unfortunately the answer's are not written here.

Dress to Impress

It has always been preached to me and many others that when you go to a job interview “you have to dress up.” By “dress up” I mean suit and tie for guys and a suit/suit skirt for the ladies. We have been always taught to “dress to impress.”

It is true that first impressions mean a great deal, especially when it comes to job interviews. However, some businesses are shifting away from the suit dress code. PR firms are good example, because so many of these offices don’t require a dress code, it is more of a casual feel. So what does that mean for the job seeker? These scenarios leave many job seekers wondering “so should I dress up or not?”

Peter Vogt, a Monster Senior Contributing Writer, addresses this concern in his article What to Wear to an Interview. He notes that in many financial industries it is fairly obvious that a suit would be the expected attire for a job interview. For advertising and PR firms it is a little less clear and that’s why he suggests that you simply ask. Peter consulted Amy Glass of Brody Communications Ltd.  on the proper way to ask the company about the expect attire for an interview. Glass said “You can say to the person you speak with, ‘I want to make sure I understand your company culture and dress appropriately.” Glass also noted that by asking what is appropriate and what is expected is a great way to show your respect.

An article posted on Businessweek.com written by Julie Gordon titled You Can’t Wear That to an Interview addressed the situation further. Gordon does acknowledge that “some offices allow for a little more creativity, usually marketing, public relations, and retail.” Gordon spoke with Katie Aiken, senior director of college recruiting for the Gap, about the matter and Aiken offered her insight. “Frequently, career centers will mandate that students wear suits and pantyhose and heels if you’re a woman, or a suit and tie if you’re a man. And we say, ‘You know what? You don’t have to wear a suit. Wear whatever you want.’ We usually encourage students to dress for interviews in a manner that expresses their personal style,” says Aiken.

With all that in mind, most businesses might not be that lenient. I think it is safe to say that it is in the best interest of the job seeker to ask what attire they expect you in so you can fit in with their company culture. Just to be on the safe side listed below are suggested attire options for the job seeker that were listed in How to Dress for an Interview by Alison Doyle.

Men’s Interview Attire

  • Suit (solid color – navy or dark grey)
  • Long sleeve shirt (white or coordinated with the suit)
  • Belt
  • Tie
  • Dark socks, conservative leather shoes
  • Little or no jewelry
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Limit the aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase

Women’s Interview Attire

  • Suit (navy, black or dark grey)
  • The suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably
  • Coordinated blouse
  • Conservative shoes
  • Limited jewelry (no dangling earrings or arms full of bracelets)
  • No jewelry is better than cheap jewelry
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Neutral pantyhose
  • Light make-up and perfume
  • Neatly manicured clean nails
  • Portfolio or briefcase

What Not to Bring to the Interview

  • Gum
  • Cell phone
  • Ipod
  • Coffee or soda
  • If you have lots of piercings, leave some of your rings at home (earrings only, is a good rule)
  • Cover tattoos

Interview Attire Tips

  • Before you even think about going on an interview, make sure you have appropriate interview attire and everything fits correctly.
  • Get your clothes ready the night before, so you don’t have to spend time getting them ready on the day of the interview.
  • If your clothes are dry clean only, take them to the cleaners after an interview, so they are ready for next time.
  • Polish your shoes.
  • Bring a breath mint and use it before you enter the building.
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6 Responses to “Dress to Impress”

  1. Your information was very detailled. Good job incorporating professional opinions.

  2. Great post! Dressing up and looking appropriate is so important. Yesterday I went to a career fair at the Braves stadium and I was shocked at the number of people not “dressed up”. The majority of students and professionals were in a suit and other dressed more as business causal, polo and slacks or a sun dress. The minority of people were there is jeans or other inappropriate wear that was not appropriate for business attire. It is so important for students to look professional and communicate to other professionals (potential employers and peers) that you aren’t a child anymore and you ready for the transition. Great information, thanks.

  3. Jeff,
    I think that what is considered “dressed up” totally depends on what industry you are interviewing for. I think for public relations professionals a suite or khaki’s and a jacket is appropriate for men and as my grandmother would say it “church attire” is proper for women. I think with the industry we are in we need to remember to take a look at what the trends are and take a nod at what we decide on wearing from the “fashion world.” I think the key is to be conservative yet fashionable. My favorite part of your post was the “what not to bring to the interview” list.
    -Meghan

  4. Hello,
    I agree with the above comments. Dressing up does depend on what industry you are in. When going to interviews it is about marketing yourself to the employers. In PR it is expected that we come off very personable and open. Sometimes the standard “dress up” attire limits us of that freedom. I dont know about everyone else but when I’m in a suit I feel “uptight” ready for some hard hitting business. I think that suits limit your personality at times and ma some times come off as being to serious. So serious that you may scare off clients and not bring them in.

  5. Jeff,
    Although many of us have heard what is appropriate and not appropriate its still a great thing to review. I was reading over some of the attire options and had forgotten what color panty hose females should wear. haha! Just being honest- but sometimes these things come as good reminders. I loved reading your helpful section on tips of what not to wear, do, or bring to an interview. Very funny, and as shocking as it may be some people I’m sure bring these items in. Thanks for the detailed post, I enjoyed reading it.
    -Kati Ann

  6. Hi Jeff!
    When I went to your blog to read a post and leave a comment…I was surprised by your blog design. It really caught my eye and looks terrific! I liked the layout and how you included YouTube videos. It was very organized and easy to use. However, I was a little distracted by the YouTube videos and started watching them. 🙂 I guess that is what they are there for, haha. I also really liked your tagline; it made me laugh out loud.
    Anyway, on to the blog…I read your blog about what to wear to an interview, and I thought it was interesting. I will take your advice and do what you suggested for my next interview. Thanks for the great information! -Kristin


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