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Casual or Casualty? Dressing for an Interview

In a Business-Casual World, How Do I Dress for an Interview

Just a few years ago, everyone knew the answer to this question. The standard interview uniform was suit and tie for men, and a suit with a skirt for women. Anyone arriving at work in a new suit was presumed to be interviewing elsewhere that day. But now that workplace dress codes have relaxed, both men and women have more choices when it comes to interview attire.

Does That Mean the Uniform Is Out?

Not necessarily. It's still important to make a good impression. You just face more decisions about how to do that.

How Will I Decide What to Wear to the Interview?

Remember, each company has an individual culture and environment. Try to find out what the standard is for the company before the interview. When you schedule the interview, ask what would be appropriate. Or call the human resources department and ask what the company's dress code is. Sometimes an interviewer will tell you what to wear: "We don't dress up here, so a suit is not necessary." Some people actually go to the place where they will be interviewing and stand outside at lunchtime or after work to check out employees' clothes.

If Not a Suit, Then What?

A good rule of thumb is to wear something somewhat dressier than what the employees wear to work. Never wear jeans and a T-shirt, especially slogan T-shirts. A jacket is always a safe bet for men and women, with slacks or a skirt. Somehow a jacket seems to pull the outfit together and can cover a multitude of figure problems as well.

But the suit is still a staple in some professions. Salespeople, for example, prefer the suited look, as do other professionals such as lawyers and bankers. Whatever you decide to wear, make sure it fits properly and is of the best quality you can afford. What seems like a big investment now will pale in comparison when you get the job.

How About Women Wearing Pants or a Pantsuit to the Interview?

This question is still somewhat controversial. Some observers say women should always wear a skirt. But a recent issue of Biography magazine offers proof the rules are changing. A feature about first ladies shows several presidents' wives, dating back to the 1900s. All the women pictured are wearing skirts and dresses, until Hillary Clinton. Clinton is wearing her now-trademark pantsuit.

If you are interviewing at an Internet company or a bank, it's always best to keep your outfit on the conservative side. You're giving the interviewer a picture of yourself, so make sure it reflects well on you.

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