The Power of Appearance: How to Present Yourself for a Job Interview

Updated: Jan 15

For years we have been taught wearing a formal business suit was the only appropriate attire for an interview. I remember my very first job interview. I was sixteen looking to work at a sewing supply store in Brooklyn, NY. On the day of the meeting, I wore one of my mother's suits and a blouse. Honestly, I genuinely believe I was hired because here I was, a teenager with zero experience coming into an interview well-groomed and wearing a suit. I still laugh to this day. However, times have changed, and many companies have shifted to being more lenient with their dress code policies. One of the keys to preparing for an interview is by making sure you dress to impress because before you have the opportunity to open your mouth, the interviewer has already judged you by your appearance. You may be asking, "how should I know the appropriate dress code?" Researching sites such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed can give you an overview of the company's culture and dress code policy.

This article is dedicated to those who are new to the workforce and for those who are already working but may need a little direction in how to dress for success. Let's crack the dress codes!

Business Professional

Congratulations! You have just landed an interview, you have done your research on the company and discovered that the dress code is business professional, but what does that mean? Business professional is the standard dress code for most companies. The dress code is quite simple, suit, and tie but let's get more into details.

Men: Solid color dress shirt, tie (solid color or conservative pattern), leather belt , dark color socks, and clean dress shoes. Your suit should be black or navy blue. Navy or grey suits with subtle pinstripes are also suitable.

Women: Solid color blouse, Neutral makeup or none, Dark color suit (slacks or skirts). The skirt should be 3 inches from the knee, Flesh toned or dark hosiery/socks, nails (natural or nude color)

Golden Tip: Your attire should be form-fitted. No baggy pants or anything too tight to the body. Keep the flipflops and open-toed shoes in your closet.

Business Casual

This time, you have landed an interview, with a company whose dress code is “business casual”, but what does that look like or even mean? Business casual is less formal than traditional business attire, however, it still gives a professional and businesslike impression.

Men: Blazer, Dress slacks or chinos, button-down or polo shirt, belt and dress shoes

Women: Conservative dress, Blazer, Blouse (or sweater), shirt, dress pants, dress shoes/boots.

Golden Tip: Doing a test run in your clothes at least three days in advance will give you the opportunity to see if any alterations are needed or if something else should be worn.

Smart Casual

For your next interview, you learn that the dress code calls for "Smart Casual" attire. Smart Casual? What does that even mean? Smart Casual attire is a mix of trendy and polished professional looks. It is less formal than "business professional" and "business casual". Done right, your attire can fit into any setting which will have you stand out in any crowd. From an office meeting to after-work activities, you will have the looks to impress.

Men: Neutral colored chinos, dark denim pants, dress shirt, blazer or bomber jacket, belt, and loafers or suede shoes are perfect!

Women: Blouse or top (mild patterns are suitable), trendy skirt, fashionable suit, comfortable trendy shoes. Add a dash of color and accessories.

Golden Tip: We love to smell good, however, avoid overpowering colognes and perfumes.

The most important rule of thumb when interviewing dress for the role you want. For example, if you're applying for an entry-level position but aspire to be in management, dress as though you are already part of the management team. Your appearance is everything, and first impressions are vital. When going on a job interview or if one already has a job, you want to make sure that you are sending a positive message to your audience. Before you leave the house, ask yourself, "Is there power in my appearance?"

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