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Student Success Center - Career Services

Make A Good Impression, Dress to Impress

Dressing to impress employers should be a crucial part of your job search strategy. Although we may believe that no one should be judged by what they wear, the reality is that employers are looking for reasons to remove you from their selection process. They are not only concerned about your resume and interview, they are also aware of the image you project and often make a judgment on appearance within the first five minutes of meeting the candidate. They are looking to see if the candidate respects them enough to conform to their perceived expectations. Whether we like it or not, how you dress is taken into consideration in hiring decisions. You want to have a competitive edge, especially when it comes to making initial impressions.

Research the employer before the interview. Explore the dress requirements typical of that career field. For example, Silicon Valley will call for a different image than Wall Street. One way to gauge this is to dress in the manner of the organization's representatives. You can also find this out by visiting the office and picking up an annual report or employer brochure.

The clothing you wear should make you look like you fit in with the prospective employer and should really communicate the message, "I am already one of you." If you overdress or underdress, the potential employer may feel that your research has been limited and you really don't understand their corporate culture. Some may see you as a non-conformist, others may appreciate your independent thinking, but all will make a judgment on you based on attire. Research employers who will most appropriately embrace your values.

Dress as you would for a formal interview

Dress for Success For Both Men & Women
If you dress more formally you may feel more comfortable and prepared for an important interview. Rumpled and wrinkled clothing is out. Shoes should be polished, not scuffed, and coordinated with your outfit. Fly-away hair or bizarre haircuts are out; make sure it is neat and well groomed. Avoid wearing cologne or perfume. Also, for men if you wear an earring, remove it before the meeting. Your hands and nails should be clean and trimmed. After you secure the job, you can dress less conservatively. For example, if you are applying for a teaching position, few will expect you will wear a formal suit each day on the job. If you have doubts about what you are considering wearing, then don't wear it; err on the side of conservatism.

Dress not for where you are but for where you want to be. An interview isn't a beauty contest, but how you dress and your overall appearance almost always get noticed by the interviewer. Don't give the interviewer a chance to rule you out because you didn't feel like ironing your shirt or polishing your shoes. Dress in a business-like professional manner, and you will be sure to fit in wherever you interview. References: Dress for Excellence by L. Fenton; Dress for Success by J. T. Molloy Dress for Success for Women by J. T. Molloy.

Business Casual
At last count, over 70% of American firms allowed some form of casual attire at least once a week, including GE and IBM. Many students will have a chance to work in situations where the dress code is more relaxed. The words "business casual" is subject to multiple interpretations depending on the environment. "Business or workplace casual" means charcoal pants and a white oxford button down shirt and a quality pair of casual shoes for men. A banded-collar shirt is another good staple that goes well with blazers and vests. Another option is a denim shirt with a sporty tie. Choose your casual attire carefully, and use your common sense when dressing for work; looking neat should be a priority. Avoid t-shirts, baseball caps, sunglasses, and don't wear sneakers unless it is the norm. Sneakers, no matter how clean and new, are considered inappropriate for most employers. Don't take "casual dress" too literally. You're better off dressing a bit on the conservative side than on taking a gamble only to find out that your idea of casual does not match that of your employer.

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