Saturday, January 19, 2013

Avoid Wardrobe Malfunctions When Dressing For the Interview

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Most of us in the career development profession, have watched, feeling helpless, as we see hopeful job seekers get disqualified for less than appropriate interview dress.

All of us at one point or another have made silly interview dress choices or have been caught unprepared in the interview. Many might be all too familiar with the convenience store pit stop to get anything from new stockings, to new deodorant or even mouthwash on the way to the interview. How many of us have had to run into the bathroom of a nearby fast food restaurant just before the interview? How many of us have gone into the interview, at the peak of allergy season, without tissues? I have.

My most embarrassing interview moment came as I glanced down to open my portfolio and realize that my blouse was inside out. I remember wishing that the ground would open up and just swallow me. Unfortunately, I wasn't savvy enough to comment on it myself and keep moving. Instead, I tried to close my jacket and hugged my portfolio to my chest. I lost my focus and the most important thing to me then, was not to do well in the interview, but just to get out of there as fast as I could.

The following list of things to watch for - speak more about often over-looked little details rather than general tips on grooming for interview dress. They are things that can cause a great deal of personal discomfort for candidates, once they realize they overlooked a detail they should have caught with a little bit of extra preparation.

Wear layered season-appropriate attire. This way you can remove pieces to make yourself more comfortable just in case the HVAC system might not be set to your comfort level. If you are already nervous, sweating profusely won't make you stand out for the right reason.

Don't overlook neighborhood consignment shops as a great place to find suitable bargains, but make sure to check garments thoroughly for holes, small rips, pulled hems, and lingering odors. Seam construction becomes awfully important here also.

Make sure accessories like shirts and blouses have the appropriate number of the all the same types of buttons. Be sure that ties, handkerchiefs (if still used) and scarves are not stained or unraveling.

Watch for ring-around-the collar from too much wear or too much make-up. Also watch for rings under the arms.

Practice walking, sitting and standing in new interview attire before the interviews. College students should also try to become comfortable going the whole day without a back back as a catch all.

Take your cue from the recruiters you see at a career fair - if they are dressed above business casual and you are not - avoid approaching them. Also avoid approaching them if you are dressed appropriately, but the friend that gave you a ride, who chose not to wait in the car is "hanging" out with you and is not.

Make sure you always have a suit that is dry cleaned and ready for interviews on short notice - If you do not, try very hard to reschedule in a professional manner. Do not just "throw something on" and come in to explain that your suit is at the cleaners.

Safe attire for men typically means button-down shirt, polished shoes and a blue, black or gray suit with a conservative tie. This is not the time for holiday ties or for the suit you wore to your eighth grade graduation.

Conservative dress for women typically include a skirt at least knee length, slacks or pantsuits and clean flats or moderate heels. Bulky jewelry, chipped nail polish and a peeling "pearl" necklace do not make a good first impression and by no means try-on a new hairdo before an interview.

A leather or leather look portfolio finishes off your look and keeps you organized with note paper, a pen, copy of your resume and a place to put business cards you collected in the interview. Recruiters always remember the candidate who pulled a folded resume from a coat pocket, in a less than positive way.

Avoid taking unnecessary items into the interview. For example, putting your resume inside of a Law School test prep guide, might indicate you are more interested in law school than you are in working for this company.

There are definite trends towards acceptance of some things once considered taboo in the interview. For example in a 2006 study published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers ([]), 88% of the employers said that earrings on male candidates had none or only slight influence on their decisions. In the same survey, however, personal grooming continued to be an important factor as 73% of employers said it had strong influence on their view of applicants.
With a few well-selected pieces, job seekers need not break the bank to make the right impression from the first meeting with the potential employer at a career fair or networking event, through the interview to the first day on the job and well beyond.


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