Most service members transitioning into their civilian careers focus on preparing a "civilianized" resume, developing a network of influential contacts, setting up online profiles, and initiating discussions with desirable employers. When they actually get a job interview, they might research the company a bit and pull together the necessary documents before heading off to the meeting. At what point is consideration given to what to wear to the job interview? Usually wardrobe is considered too late in the process.
Because first impressions matter, what you wear to a job interview is important. You typically won't get the offer just because you chose a gray suit over a navy one, or because your shoes were polished to a shine, but an inappropriate outfit could sideline the company's favorable impression of you.
Dress the Part
It's been said that you should, "dress for the job you want," when interviewing and striving for advancement. Management wants to see (visually) what you would look like in the role. Appearing too casual or inconsistent with the dress code of the company and the job you are pursuing could make it difficult for managers to envision you serving in that role.
Tips for Dressing for a Job Interview
To make a positive impression on the interviewer, set yourself up for success, and feel most confident, stick to these guidelines:
- Understand the dress code of the company. Do your homework before the interview. Ask people who work there what the dress code is. Or, look online at the company's website – what photos do they show of people at work? Look at the manager's profiles online: Do they all dress similarly? Are they wearing suits or t-shirts?
- Be comfortable. The job interview is not the day to try out a new look. If you've never worn a business suit, starched shirt or high heels (women) today's not the day to practice. You should wear something that is appropriate, but also comfortable. Dressing in something comfortable means you'll avoid pulling at your collar or pants because they are too tight or riding up. Look for fabrics that have a bit of stretch if this is your first experience wearing business clothes.
- Avoid distractions. Women, be wary of big jewelry (earrings, necklaces, or rings) that could distract the interviewer. Things that make noise (clank, jingle, or chime) or pieces that move as you do (such as big, dangly earrings) can take the focus off of you. Men, avoid wearing too many distinct pieces. For instance, to wear a bold, checked suit, with a colorful, striped tie, significant tie pin, pocket square, and bright, checked socks can overwhelm the interviewer. Your look should be confident and appropriate, not distracting.
- Dress one notch above. Are you interviewing with someone who might be in a business suit? Then wear a business suit with a tie and pocket square. Will your interviewer be wearing a casual skirt and top? Consider wearing a more professional sheath dress, with polished heels. Dressing one notch above the person you're interviewing with shows respect for the occasion (the interview) and confidence in yourself. Avoid dressing too formally if the company is laid back and casual. For instance, if employees wear jeans and a t-shirt to work, you are appropriate wearing slacks, a dress shirt and a sports coat (no tie) to the interview. A suit might be seen as too formal and could give the impression you wouldn't fit in.
- Be yourself. Above all else, be sure you feel like yourself in what you're wearing. If you hate the idea of wearing a business suit to work every day, be careful interviewing for a job where that will be protocol. To feel like yourself means you are comfortable, confident, expressive, and genuine in your style. Wardrobe is a big part of how satisfied we are in our work.
The interview is a formal part of the hiring process. Treat the interview and the interviewer with respect by dressing appropriate to the situation.