When you’re applying for work, the product is you—you’re selling yourself. While presentation isn’t necessarily what will get you the job, it plays an important part in getting you through the door. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can wear anything that will make you look good.
DRESS THE WAY YOU WANT TO IMPRESS.
Remember that there is a time and place for everything. Just because you look good, it doesn’t mean you’re dressed well for an interview. It’s not about looking great, precisely—it’s looking great for the job. You want to look like exactly the sort of person the company you’re applying for needs.
True, people shouldn’t be judging books by their covers, but you may be the latest in a long line of interviewees, and recruitment specialists have to make their careers on being able to assess people quickly and deciding whether they’re worth a second, more in-depth look. You want them to decide in your favor. Therefore, the party-ready fashionista look or the cool bohemian look may give your interviewer the impression that you aren’t the career-minded professional they’re looking for. Do a little research on your company and the job you’re applying for; conservative companies and management positions are almost always going to look more favorably on you if you dress in business attire.
Before even applying for work, invest in corporate wear. In a lot of cases, you’ll be invited for an interview a scant day (or night) in advance; you don’t want to find yourself running around the mall and find yourself spending more than you intend to just because you have nothing in your closet but T-shirts and jeans.
OVERDRESS RATHER THAN UNDERDRESS.
When you’re not sure precisely how to dress, it’s best to play it safe—overdress for it because underdressing gives the impression that you aren’t serious about wanting the job. Taking into consideration the conventional nature of the corporate setting, it would be best to go with a more conservative and professional look.
Here are a few things to consider when putting together the professional “hire me” look.
A Conservative Ensemble
When it comes to clothes, men have it easy; in this case, a long sleeved polo, slacks, belt, black socks, black leather shoes, and occasionally a neck tie, and they’re set. Now for us women, the choices are endless—and therefore potentially disastrous. Note the following guidelines to observe when dressing for that job interview:
- Nothing too low necked
- Nothing revealing or see through
- Sleeved, or if not wear a blazer, sweater, etc.
- Closed pointy flats
- Heeled strappy shoes that don’t show too much skin
- Heels that aren’t too high—if opting for these, try to keep shoes as conservative as possible, like pumps
- Tweed, pinstriped, or cotton
- Loose but not baggy
- Straight cut, not tight fitting
- Neutral colors or pastel—nothing loud
- Tweed, pinstriped, cotton
- Pencil cut, but not too tight, or A-line
- Nothing too short, where it would be difficult to sit or move around.
- Slits should not be too high
For dresses, you can consider a proper mix of acceptable tops and skirts.
Take note of the industry you are applying for; in most industries, pantsuits are acceptable, while in others, such as the hospitality industry (hotels, airlines and the like), skirt suits are required largely because the nature of the work involves being in a skirt.
About.com has a gallery of sample attires for professional and non-professional positions.
A multicolored outfit could draw attention to your clothes and away from you. Solid colors are also more conservative, and your image is most evident in the clothes you select. More often than not, the safest and most commonly used colors are black, white, neutral, and pastel colors.
Next to what you’re wearing, your hair being on your head would be noticeable, which is why it is important to keep it simple and neat. Try to avoid flashy and artificial colors, and make sure it is neat, frizz free, and kept away from your face. The safest would be a low or half pony tail, a plain hair band, or plain barrettes.
Applying makeup to your face in the hot, sticky summer weather may not seem appealing, but it’s something a woman must learn to “harness,” and it can contribute to the impression of maturity you will definitely want to leave your interviewers with. The problem is that too much may have you coming off as trampy, and too little may leave you looking too bland, oily, or blemished. It would also be advisable to check your makeup right before your interview—you never know when smudges or other mishaps might have occurred. Also remember not to overdo the perfume; a nice clean scent would suffice.
Limited Jewelry and Accessories
Large and loud accessories can be distracting—you want the attention on yourself and not your bling. Avoid noisy bangles and big earrings. Keep to studs on your ears, a single chained bracelet or a watch (which would make you look sharp and punctual), and a small pendant. Also choose a smart-looking bag or purse, nothing too small, which may make the interviewer think you’re not someone who is prepared, but not too large, either, so you don’t give off a pack rat vibe.
Proper Hygiene—Clean and/or Manicured Nails
It is said that your true neatness and cleanliness can be in how well you care for your nails and teeth. It would be rather embarrassing to smile with stained teeth, speak with bad breath, or shake hands with dirty nails. Pack some mints and if keeping your nails clean proves to be difficult, it would be useful to get them manicured with a solid and neutral color.
BE PRACTICAL AND PREPARED
Another thing to consider is how you’re getting to the interview. Are you taking a car, a cab, a bus, the MRT and will you be doing a lot of walking? This factor should affect how you decide to present yourself; practicality is an important and marketable trait. If you insist on going in heels and expect to be doing a lot of walking, packing a pair of flats might be a good idea. If you do plan to change, you might want to do this at a public comfort room instead of your interview venue.
Other must-haves in your purse are:
- A pen to fill out application forms and exams with
- An update resume—always come prepared
- An umbrella, which is definitely useful rain or shine
- Makeup for touch ups, but keep it at a minimum—face powder/foundation and a tube of lipstick
- Tissue or a handkerchief
- A comb and a hair tie
- A safety pin for wardrobe emergencies
Lastly, (or firstly, depending how you look at it) do an outfit dry run the evening before your interview—or earlier, if possible. You don’t want to panic right before your interview because of unfortunate circumstances like significant weight gain (or loss), resulting in ill-fitting outfits, or missing, ripped, or stained pieces. During your “dress rehearsal,” don’t just stand in front of the mirror—sit on a chair, walk around the room, and do a little twirl just to make sure everything is and will remain in order.
(Photo of woman in black and white by Mark Nicdao; photo source for woman in brown: sxc.hu)
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