How to dress for an interview… (for Men)

I’ve been asked to add a post on how to dress for an interview. Dedicating today’s post to my students and to the sharp-dressing guys in my family.

Let’s take this from the top, then, shall we? Here goes:

ATTITUDE

Presenting an air of confidence and capability starts from the inside! The secret to a “power suit” is the energy you bring to it.

Try to get a good night’s rest beforehand. In the morning, take a look at yourself from top to toe and repeat to yourself “I am an intelligent, dignified professional.”

Allergy season? Late night out with the boys? Fake it till you make it.

So nervous you keep forgetting your name? Take your ID with you….

Remember that you are a trained and competent guy who is worthy of this company’s consideration. Breathe easy, be yourself. (http://pages.uoregon.edu/sanjay/bigfive.html)

You know how a dog smells fear and barks at you even if you’re standing far away and waiting for him to pass? Employers can smell fear too, only they don’t bark. They just don’t hire you. It’s important to have a positive and confident attitude about yourself even if you’re feeling nervous about the interview. Don’t think about how badly you need the job; think only about how you would benefit the company. What qualities do you bring to the table?

HAIR

(1) Length: If you have long hair, keep it pulled back and tidy. If you have short hair, make sure it is neatly clipped/trimmed/styled.

(2) Type: If you have “problematic” hair, make sure it’s styled properly for the interview. Ask your stylist/hair dresser for product recommendations on how to tame your locks. If I can keep my mediterranean frizzlock in check, no feat is impossible….

(3) Style/Color: Be sure to select a style and color that suit your face and natural skin coloring. Don’t go to the barber’s and have them test the latest gimmick on you…. Basically, if you know that you are gearing up for the job hunt, try not to get anything too outrageous or distracting done to your mane….

GROOMING

(1) Skin: Scrub your face daily. Try to remain blemish-free, and on days where you can’t manage that, consult your dermatologist for spot treatments. Avoid generic OTC items that may cause further damage to your skin. Avoid using any new products on the day of your interview — you might end up with a nasty surprise.

(2) Teeth: Just aim for clean — no spinach between the teeth, you know? Try not to overdo the tooth-whitener within a week before your interview. If you feel absolutely compelled to have this done, have a professional do it; don’t just reapply the OTC strips.

(3) Shaving/Trimming: Always go for a clean-cut look. If you are sporting a beard/etc. just be sure to keep it neat and tidy. Get a pair of clippers/tweezers for any stray hairs in the nose/eyebrow area…

(4) Nails: Nails should be neatly trimmed and scrubbed free of any dyes/debris. While many people don’t think about it, interviewers tend to notice things like nail-biting, skin abrasions, etc. when they shake your hand. Try to avoid these nervous habits.

(5) Scents/Colognes: That really musky scent your gal loves? Leave it at home. Try to work with a clean, crisp scent that shows you mean business. A light cologne is acceptable and, when applied appropriately, shows that you are classy and professional. Not sure what scent suits you best? Ask for a consult at Bloomies/Lord & Taylor. Take a reliable lady friend along for a second opinion. Don’t get anything overpowering. Still uncertain? Skip it. It’s not a requirement for the job….

CLOTHING

Always check to see if there is a specific dress code and dress accordingly for the interview. While some places do not specifically outline recommendations for a “uniform” in the workplace, it’s generally understood that clothing should fit you properly. Colors should be in conservative shades, with minimal accessories. You want to exude a capable confidence when you walk in to the interview.

(1) Colors: First off, remember to work only with colors that suit your natural skin tone. Men are generally encouraged to wear black, white, grey (dark/light), or blue (dark/light) on interviews. In the spring/summer months taupe or beige is also generally acceptable.

Current trends allow for a wider assortment of tie colors, or a conservative shirt pattern combining any of the colors listed (e.g., a blue-and-white pinstriped shirt) — though I would advise against wearing one of those plaid shirts that seems to be en vogue these days (at least for the interview). Avoid overly bright colors that may distract the interviewer(s) from your face and your resume. You don’t want them to feel like reaching for their sunglasses….

(2) Length/Fit: You want to wear something that fits you properly. Pants are expected to be tailored to suit your height. Avoid anything that is too… snug. Clothing should accentuate your natural shape. If the outline of your undergarments is showing, if the buttons on your shirt look like they’re about to pop, if the arm length is too long/short, if the collar on your short doesn’t fit properly, if the seams seem like they’ll burst when you sit down… put it in a bag for good will and put on something that fits. If it’s something fixable, take it to a tailor.

(3) Ironed/Cleaned: Really, I shouldn’t have to say this…. and yet I find guys coming to interviews in wrinkled suits with stains on their shirts/ties. Hold the piece up to the light and see if you spot a spot. If it’s fixable, take it to the cleaners — or better yet, arrange for the cleaners to pick it up, no muss, no fuss: http://www.laundrystork.com/.

(4) Style: “Professional Style” means different things to different people. The ultimate standard for guys is a collared shirt and a suit. Variations of this (slacks, vests, etc.) have been adapted over the years, but at different capacities in different companies. Check out the place and the expectations online beforehand to know what will be acceptable. I’d recommend the standard if you’re not certain. Better safe than sorry in this case. Wear a jacket for the duration of the interview.

(5) Safety: Some workplaces let you wear what you like, as long as certain requirements are met (e.g., in a laboratory or hospital environment, on a construction site, etc.). In such cases, check with Human Resources for a list of acceptable and unacceptable attire.

ACCESSORIES

Check on the company’s dress code before delving into your pile of accessories. Some companies have very specific requirements for safety reasons. In most cases, though, when reviewing your accessories, imagine whether the CEO of a Fortune 500 would wear this. Now picture what position you’re applying to in relation to that image. Should you wear that tie or a different one?

(1) Multiple Piercings: Um… If you’re not expecting to see them on your interviewer, leave these at home. They’ll all be there when you get back.

(2) Ties: Interestingly enough, this is where I tend to say “go with what feels right.” Ties are there to bring the “ho-hum” suit to life and show a hint of your creative personality. It shows that you follow the mainstream but also think outside the box. I would still avoid overly bright (neon) colors and patterns that are a little too “out there” — leave the light up tie with the hula girl at home….

(4) Belts/Shoes: Nothing too bold here. Make sure that your belt matches your shoes. Make sure your shoes are properly shined, not scuffed or worn.

(5) Briefcase: Really, in the age of the iPad not everyone carries a briefcase anymore. Just have a few extra copies of your resume handy with a copy online in case you need to email it to anyone on the spot. Only take what you need, including something to take notes if necessary. Leave any “extra baggage” at home — literally. Don’t just carry a briefcase around just for the heck of it. If you have something more efficient looking (like one of those leather dossiers that zip shut), go for it.

Did I miss anything?

Oh yes!

SMILE and be alert!

Good luck on your interview!

Anything else? Please feel free to add to the list or recommend specific styles and products.

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