Interview Prep: What to Wear

By David Meeks on September 14, 2012

Interview Prep:  What to wear and other essential tips

Congratulations on landing an interview! In addition to doing your homework so that you are prepared to present your qualifications clearly and to answer potential interview questions, here are some other issues to consider that I lump under the category of logistics. These involve your appearance and other miscellaneous details.

Attire – In general, you should keep in mind that you want the interviewer to focus on how you can do the job and not be distracted by the way you look. Regular attire at any given organization may vary and so you should do some research to get this information. You should always dress a level up from what is the norm unless usual attire is a business suit and you’ll be wearing one too. And no matter what they’re wearing, the lowest level of dress for you should be business casual, nice pressed slacks and long sleeved button shirt for mean and nice skirt or pants and matching blouse for women. Be sure that your shoes are clean and polished.

Hair, Makeup, Fingernails – Your hair should be clean, neat and out of your face. Women should wear light makeup, don’t overdo it. No makeup for men. Your nails should be clean, short, shaped, and with clear or no polish.

Fragrance – This is a hot topic for me and most people don’t even think about it. Most products you use in your daily routine are scented – bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, deodorant, shaving cream, body/face lotion, after shave, and cologne/perfume. All the various scents can be overwhelming. It’s best to use unscented products when possible but at least take care to rinse off all shower products and avoid using cologne/perfume altogether.

Jewelry – Keep jewelry simple, or wear none, not garish and not noisy.

Smoking – Of course, you know not to smoke during the interview, but you should also refrain from smoking before you go in and on the way. Your clothes will retain the smell.

What to take with you – A few copies of your resume and professional looking portfolio with paper and pen. You will not take detailed notes like in a class but will have a place to jot down a few words as needed.

What not to take with you – Your cell phone!! If possible, leave it in the car. Otherwise ensure that it is completely turned off, not on silent or vibrate, and not visible to the interviewer.

One last tip or two – Listen to some of your favorite, most uplifting music on your way as it will boost your confidence. Smile at everyone you see as soon as you enter the building or parking lot. They will smile back and that will make both of you feel good.

imageMauri Schwartz is President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm, and is a leading figure in the San Francisco Bay Area career management community. She is a frequent speaker at conferences, job fairs, and career panels and serves as Adjunct Advisor of Career Services at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. She has also worked with students at Mills College, Tulane University, University of San Francisco, Golden Gate University, San Francisco State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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