Dress for Success

March 11th, 2010 | Interviewing | 1 Comment »

So you’ve been acing your interviews, nailing the technical questions, and making great connections with the hiring managers, but something’s missing.  You just can’t seem to close the deal, and you can’t quite put your finger on why.

However, in reality, even if you interviewed well, it’s possible that when you leave the office, all the hiring manager can remember about you is what Disney character was on your tie, or he’s left wondering what your tattoo design stood for or if that perfume would be a nice gift for his wife.

When it comes down to it, no matter how much of a point the hiring manager makes about non-discrimination, first impressions can hold a lot of weight.  Your decisions about what to wear are important.  Don’t make the mistake of neglecting the weight of that decision like so many other talented people out there.

Wondering why you should put in the effort?  Think about it: If you were looking into buying a new used car, would you even bother looking at the ones that looked ill-kept, dirty, or damaged, even if the car was rated well?  Probably not.  Bringing aboard a new employee is similarly a large investment for an employer.  They want to make sure they’re making the best choice, and they’re likely to take your image into account as well as your technical and personal skills.

That being said, when it comes to interviews, your goal is to look sharp and professional.  First impressions are practically irreversible, so here a few pointers so you can dress for success!

One of the Team

Company culture varies far and wide, so find out as much as you can about the company before your interview.  You probably don’t want to show up to an interview in a $500 suit if the company’s employees live in shorts and flip-flops (not that you’d want to show up in shorts and flip-flops to your interview either; nice pants and a collared shirt are more casual but still professional).  Try to look like part of the team from the beginning.

Comfort Zones

Don’t go out and buy a new outfit the day of the interview.  Wear an outfit you know you’ll be comfortable in, so that you’re not distracted in the interview by that stray price tag or sudden tightness when you sit down!  Take time to make sure your clothes are clean and neat, with no missing buttons or frays.

Kick Up a Storm

You don’t want scuffs and chipped toenail polish giving you away.  Make sure to select a nice, polished, and comfortable pair of shoes.  Skip open-toed sandals, 6-inch heels, and beach flip-flops.  Shoes that are in good shape show a meticulous attention to detail. P.S. Guys – that means, shine your shoes!

Eau d’Interview

I recommend you don’t take your morning swim in your cologne or perfume bottle.  Giving the hiring manager a headache from your overwhelmingly strong scent is not going to get your hired.  Stick to one squirt or simply go without your favorite cologne or perfume.

Winter Blues

If it’s cold out and you need a coat, make sure it’s a nice, plain dress coat.  Remember to take a lint brush to it, attacking any excess lint and animal hair.  A dirty coat reflects an unorganized, messy person (plus, you don’t want to trigger an allergy attack for the hiring manager if all those dog hairs on your coat are still flying around!).


Aim to limit the amount of jewelry you’re wearing, and avoid jewelry that may be considered distasteful or gaudy, as this can be distracting.  When it comes to jewelry, subtlety is the key, especially for men.

Don’t Wait Till the Last Minute!

Avoid the stress of rummaging through your closet, throwing shirts everywhere, trying to piece together a last minute outfit.  Invest in a nice suit now so that you’ll be ready when the time for a suit calls.

Letting Your Colors Shine Through

Save the black suits for funerals and formal events.  You want to go with natural, earthy colors so that your tone in an interview is welcoming, comfortable, and personal.  Some of my personal favorite color combos include the following:

-Brown/beige suit with a blue shirt

-Gray suit with a pastel-shade shirt

-Navy suit with a yellow shirt and red/orange accessories

In conclusion, when it comes to interviewing you want to stand out and be noticed, but you don’t want it to be because of a bad choice in clothing. So tuck away your Hawaiian shirts for your luaus and save the four-inch stilettos for the nightclubs, and dress for success!

Jamie Campbell – IT Search Manager at Ashley Ellis

Related Links

Dress for success, even for a phone screen
Shoe shine!
10 Tips to a Successful Interview

One Response to “Dress for Success”

  1. Tevi Hirschhorn says:

    I’ve gone to interviews in a suit and the company thought I “wasn’t a good fit” – everybody else was wearing shorts and t-shirts. In the creative industry, showing up for an interview in slacks and tie can be under-dressed for some in-house positions, or over-dressed for the laid-back studio or agency.

    Bottom line? Do your research on where you’re interviewing. If possible, ask a connection in the company what’s appropriate.