Dress for Success


Clothing is the outward expression of the inner person. It’s important to dress in a way that sends the right message but also looks effortless and natural.

It’s better to be overdressed than under.

Don’t be a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. Plan and lay out what you’re going to wear several days before the interview, so you’ll have time to shop or get garments pressed and cleaned. The darker and more solid the color, the more elegant and authoritative. With the possible exception of creative fields like advertising or computer programming, it’s best to stick with navy, black or grey.

For women, you have a choice between a pantsuit or a skirted suit. Again, do your homework. For example, when Accenture recruits on college campuses, the firm recommends skirted suits for the first two rounds of interviews, with pantsuits acceptable for the third round. Take your cue from your research into the company and its culture. You might go wrong wearing a casual pantsuit, but it’s almost impossible to go wrong wearing a skirted suit. You can wear matching or coordinating top and bottom. Make sure your skirt length is not too short so as to be distracting to the interviewer. The cardinal rule is that it’s all about your fit with the company.

Accessorize with colorful scarves to add your unique signature. Carry a simple handbag, and keep it in the same color family as your shoes or complimentary to your clothing. Also, if you are carrying a briefcase, choose a smaller purse. Avoid noisy and oversized jewellery; opt for a more refined look and make sure your shoes are in perfect condition. No scraped heels or scuffed leather.

Men, coordinate your shoes and socks with your suit. Socks should match either the shoes or suit color, and be certain that your shoes are freshly shined. The belt and the shoes should be the same color, and the socks should be executive-length so you don’t expose hairy legs if you happen to like sitting with your legs crossed. You might want to check out to see that your soles of your shoes are in perfect condition if you intend to sit in this fashion. If you carry a briefcase, it should also be clean and well-kept. And please, no tie clips, pocket protectors, suspenders worn with a belt (!) or thick rubber soles with a power suit.

Wear your tie as your signature.

It should be silk, and elegantly knotted, like a full or half-Windsor or a four in hand. Choose the type of tie depending on your audience. Stripes and repetitive small patterns typically are appreciated by the more conservative interviewers. Wear bold abstract patterns when you are meeting with creative people and bring out the power tie (red or yellow with strong repetitive patterns) for negotiating your salary. The tie should not extend below your belt. And please, refrain from wearing short-sleeved t-shirts or singlets under your shirts if they are of a thin weave. You don’t want the interviewer to think, h-m-m-m-m, fearless executive by day, longshoreman by night.

The clothes you choose for that all important interview are critical in generating that positive first impression.


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Author and Host of the PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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