Everyone’s heard the expression, “You’ll never have a second chance to create a good first impression.” But I’m not sure everyone understands the importance of first impressions during the interview process. Working in the staffing and recruiting industry has taught me that scores of candidates do not understand the concept and how difficult it is to overcome a negative first impression. It’s true that your resume is your calling card, but navigating the interview process with ease, confidence and style is what will capture the attention of the hiring manager and possibly give you an edge on securing that dream job.
Now please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying; a good first impression will not trump solid experience, education or job history. With all things being equal, you might have the chance to edge out the competition with a favorable first impression and there are several things that go into creating that positively memorable impact during the interview process. If you have the good fortune to be invited in for a face to face meeting with a perspective employer, go prepared with several copies of your current resume, research the company you are interviewing with, and of course prepare 5 or 6 specific questions to ask the interviewer (remember you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you!) But for today’s post, I would like to discuss the necessity of dressing for success and how your appearance can go a long way in establishing a solid first impression.
Now, I may be a little antiquated in my position on the importance of attire to help create a good first impression; my southern roots established in my soul that a good suit, a firm handshake and a positive, polite demeanor are advantageous when interviewing for a job. Yet after conducting my fair share of interviews, both as a recruiter and as a hiring manager and attending numerous job fairs with recent college grads and seasoned professionals, it has become abundantly clear to me that the ‘casual dress’ attitude has been extended to the interview; and I call foul!
I appreciate the business casual or casual work environment; I currently work in one. I love having the freedom to wear my favorite jeans to work on any given day I’m not meeting with a client or a candidate, but I did not interview with eimagine in casual clothing, nor do I want to see any of my candidates showing up for a face to face interview in casual attire. In my sincere opinion, being underdressed for an interview shows a general lack of respect for the company, the opportunity and the interviewer. Regardless of the corporate dress code, dress professionally; it’s always easier to explain why you’re overdressed rather than underdressed when attempting to ‘stand out’ during the interview process.
So what does professional dress look like? Before I discuss proper business attire, it might be a good idea to discuss what it doesn’t look like. Professional attire does not include any variation of the following: collarless shirts, t-shirts, jeans, cargo shorts or short skirts, halter tops, tank tops or tennis / running shoes, just for starters. Piercings, nose rings, visible tattoos, and gauged earrings are never acceptable during the face to face interview process. There are many blogs out there to give you detailed instruction on how to dress for an interview, but I have a few suggestions that are simple and easy to accomplish.
- Slacks, a collared shirt and a sports jacket are appropriate for almost any interview.
- If you’re interviewing in a true Business Professional environment, mirror the dress of your interviewer and wear a suit. Keep the cut and color of the suit professional and conservative.
- Regardless of company’s policy on jewelry, tattoos, gauge earrings, etc. I highly suggest that you remove all jewelry and cover visible tattoos. If you are extended an offer, you can discuss the company’s policy at that time to determine what’s acceptable and what you’re comfortable with.
- Make sure your clothes are neat, clean and properly pressed. If you don’t know how to use an iron, take your clothes to a cleaners to have them professionally pressed or enlist the help of your mom, sister, girlfriend, roommate, best friend – or anyone who know how to use an old fashioned steam iron and a little spray starch!
- Make sure your shoes are clean, shined and free of mud, dirt etc.
- Be well groomed; a fresh haircut, clean shave, trimmed facial hair and tidy fingernails go a long ways in establishing a good first impression.
- Slacks, skirts, with an appropriate and well-fitting blouse and jacket are appropriate for almost any interview, as is a business dress. Note: make sure both dresses and skirts are conservative in length. I would suggest no shorter than 2 inches above the knee and dresses / blouses should not show any cleavage.
- If you are interviewing in a Business Professional environment, mirror the dress of the interviewer and wear a suit, with conservative shoes and jewelry. Keep colors neutral—blues, blacks, grays, brown, etc. are always safe, but don’t be afraid of a splash of color to reflect a bit of your personal style.
- Keep jewelry, make-up, hair and perfume business appropriate. If you’re in doubt, don’t.
- Shoes – I personally love shoes of all types – heals, stilettos, wedges, flats and so on; but choose your shoes wisely. Make sure they are comfortable and you are confident walking in those shoes. There’s nothing worse than wearing shoes that look great but kill your feet or you can’t walk in. It is possible to be comfortable and fashionable at the same time.
- Make sure your clothes are neat, clean and properly pressed. And just like the guys, if you’re not proficient with using a steam iron and spray starch, enlist someone who is or simply drop your clothes off at a local cleaners to be professionally pressed prior to your interview.
- And PLEASE, no chipped finger nail polish. If you don’t have time for a fresh Mani, simply take off the old polish and swipe on a quick coat of clear – your nails will look great and add a dash of sophistication to your professional appearance.
If you’re making your interviewing debut and your closet is full of comfy jeans, t-shirts, shorts and flip flops, and your wallet’s empty – there still hope! There are plenty of great consignment shops that allow you opportunity to purchase gently worn, business appropriate clothing at deep discounts as compared to major retailers; some shops even offer high-end couture fashion at a substantial savings. Also, don’t hesitate to borrow something from Mom or Dad’s closet. Be sure to add a great handbag, cool shoes, or an up-to-date tie too give your interview ready ensemble a dash of your personal style. You’ll be interview ready without breaking the bank.
As you prepare for your next face to face interview I have a word of caution: don’t be too casual during the interview process – with your dress or demeanor. In my humble opinion, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed and be overprepared rather than underprepared when trying to ‘create a good first impression’ and win the job of your dreams.