Dress for Success: Your Appearance in Job Interviews Counts!

4/18/2018
Tri-Valley Career Center

Hiring managers form first impressions about you as soon as you walk into your job interview. Your dress, grooming, facial expression and even your handshake all influence this impression, and can affect an interviewer's attitude toward you throughout the evaluation process. If you convey a positive first impression, you are more likely to command respectful attention and interest. If the interviewer is immediately turned off by your appearance, you will likely have to work harder during your interview to overcome an unfavorable impression.

Clothing plays a big role in the interview process because how you dress sends an immediate message. Even when a work environment has a casual dress code, hiring managers may be more favorably impressed by candidates who dress professionally for the interview. If you are unsure about what to wear, you can ask the person who schedules the interview or a human resources representative to give you some guidance.

In general, the guidance is to dress “one level up from the job you’re interviewing for”. Global online employment solutions company Monster has compiled a list of general interview attire expectations for eight career areas: 

· Technology: In most cases you won't need to wear a suit. For men a collared shirt and khakis or slacks, and for women a sweater or blouse and slacks or a skirt are appropriate. However, you should probably upgrade your attire if you're interviewing for a higher-level job. 
 
· Finance: Full business professional attire is most often required and expected.

· Government: Dressing conservatively is probably the best way to convey that you're responsible, trustworthy and honest. You can add some color but avoid being too flashy.

· Human Resources: You need to look professional and authoritative to help convey that you could handle any crisis and be dependable.
 
· Sales: Typically a suit is the uniform for a sales interview. The product or service you're representing will determine how classic versus trendy/fashionable you should be.
 
· Automotive: If you’re interviewing for an auto repair job, a potential employer will probably understand if you have a little dirt or grease under your nails. You should still look as neat as possible, but a suit is probably not necessary.
 
· Hospitality: Image is particularly critical in the hospitality industry, so a suit is probably best, especially for customer facing positions.
 
· Trades: Business casual - for men, khakis and a buttoned shirt, for women slacks and a professional business top – is most appropriate.
 

An additional concern for women is how much makeup to wear. According to new research from psychology researchers in Scotland, women get taken less seriously as competent leaders when they wear too much makeup. Abertay University researchers recruited more than 150 participants to look at multiple computer-generated versions of women’s faces — one version with makeup used for “a social night out,” one with moderate makeup and one with no makeup. Regardless of the gender or race of the participants, they all judged women with the heaviest makeup to be less effective leaders. So women may want to consider wearing a moderate amount of makeup for interviews in order to avoid this gender bias.

It’s important to remember that you probably won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. Investing some time and money to create a suitable interview wardrobe will encourage potential employers to invest back in you.

Need Help to Look Your Best for Interviews?

Jails to Jobs has compiled an online directory of nearly 1,300 nonprofits across the U.S. that are dedicated to giving away professional clothing to those who are searching for work but find that a new suit, dress or other clothing can be prohibitively expensive. Some, like Dress for Success, Salvation Army and Goodwill, are major organizations with a worldwide presence, while others are small stand-alone operations. Some of these organizations also provide job search workshops or help clients develop resumes and interviewing skills.

Wardrobe for Opportunity is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland that works in partnership with the community to assist low-income individuals in their efforts to find and keep a job, and build a career. Founded originally to provide professional clothing for women, Wardrobe for Opportunity has expanded to provide in-depth, 360 degree professional development for men and women. Ask any One-Stop staff about our connections to Wardrobe for Opportunity to help you acquire appropriate interview and on-the-job clothing.

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