About Me

Musings of a hopeful wanderer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dress for Success(ful Interviews)

If you've recently landed yourself a job interview, congratulations!  Even if you end up not being offered the position, interviews show that you are a well-qualified candidate.  Interview attire is nerve-wracking, especially when you are a young professional or entering a new field.  Advice from yesteryear states dark business suits are appropriate; 1) I hate business suits and will go to my grave (hopefully) never donning one, and 2) in today's age, you can be just as professional looking wearing something else.

I recently had a job interview for a reference position in an academic library.  Library settings are tricky because while they are professional, they are often more casual than other workplaces.  You are often on your feet and interacting with people, so you need to be comfortable and approachable.  In a interview, I will opt to dress nicer than I would expect to on the day-to-day, but still comfortable (which, for me, means no high-heels).  Comfort is key because you want to be focused on your interview, and not the pain in your feet or wondering if your top is cut too low.  This is what I wore:

This outfit reflects some of my guidelines when choosing an interview-appropriate outfit.  This dress is a silk blend, so its nicer than cotton.  The belt is a dark color, my shoes are neutral (and flat, always) and the cardigan covers my bare shoulders.  A couple more things to consider:

Tattoos and/or piercings.
Much to my parents chagrin, I have several tattoos and piercings.  Two sets of piercings in my earlobes, and a few "non-traditional" ear piercings in my tragus and helix; more obviously, my nose is pierced.  I also have a large-ish tattoo on my left tricep and a small tattoo on my right wrist.  You'll hear different opinions about displaying tattoos in piercings for an interview, but here's my advice: do what feels comfortable and be honest.  I've never taken out any piercings for an interview and never has it been a problem (that I know of).  I do cover the tattoo on my tricep because it's large and kind of weird; I don't purposefully cover my wrist tattoo, although it often happens inadvertently when covering the one on my arm.  If I'm offered the job, I will let my employer know about my tattoos and ask about any workplace policies regarding facial piercings or tattoos.  Like I've said, I've never had an issue with either of them (in fact, most of my employers have had one or the other themselves).  Again, be comfortable and honest.

Its all in the details.
If you've made it to the interview stage, you've already stood out as a qualified candidate.  I've sat on hiring committees where all the candidates were very well qualified and gave good answers, and the decision ultimately came to small details.  What you say is of course the most important aspect of an interview, but details of your appearance are important, too.
  • I'm a nail-biter which is often unsightly; I curb the habit by almost always having my nails polished, which means they are often chipped due to daily wear and tear.  To make my nails look presentable, before an interview I either polish them or take off all the polish.  Chipped, cracked nail polish looks unclean and unprofessional.
  • I am completely paranoid about things in my teeth, so I floss just before an interview (yes, I'm crazy).  Also, you might be sitting very close to your interviewer, so if you can, brush or use mouthwash just before.  Will you not get a job because you don't have awesome dental hygiene?  Probably not, but it'll never hurt.
  • Iron your clothes.  Period.
  • If you tend to sweat easily (guilty, even when it's not 100 degrees out) and will have to walk some distance between your bus stop or parking lot to the location of your interview, consider changing into your interview attire when you get there, if possible.  If that's not possible, allow yourself some time before the interview begins to cool down.  I did not wear my cardigan on my half-mile walk from my bus to the library because I would have been unacceptably sweaty. When I got to the library, I stopped in the bathroom, blotted myself off and sat in the air conditioned lobby for a few minutes.  Then I put on my cardigan.
What else do you recommend for interview-appropriate attire?

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