How to Dress for an Interview – 5 Job Search Dress Code Must-Haves

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For many of us students and recent graduates who gladly roamed campus in yesterday’s sweats, fashion is a foreign world tread only when absolutely necessary.  So, in order to make things easier: here are a few staple items that every job seeker should have in the closet.  The great thing about staple items is that they never really go out of style.  Invest in quality pieces now, and you will be able to wear them for years to come.

1. Conservative suit

A nice, conservative suit is an absolute must-have.  If you have the money, get it tailored to fit. The fabric should be a neutral or solid color – black and navy are the most common, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a little fun and go with a nice taupe or pinstripe.  When considering different types of ties, appliqués, or lapels, remember that the simpler the better.  Once you’re hired, you will have all the time in the world to impress your coworkers with your amazing sense of style.  Stick to the basics during your interview to convey a professional, polished look.  Women can wear a pant or skirt suit and should always wear sheer, neutral hosiery underneath – keep an extra pair in your purse in case you run the hosiery in transit.  It never hurts to be prepared!

2. Neatly pressed blouse or shirt

If you’re a man, a white, long-sleeved 100% cotton shirt with button cuffs is always acceptable.  For women, blouses or shirts should be white or ivory and conservative.  The neckline should coordinate with the lines of your jacket lapel.  Stay away from shirts that are too tight or revealing – while it might land you a date, it won’t land you a job!

3. A simple, professional watch

A watch is a great piece of flair that you can wear without worrying about committing a fashion faux pas.  Be sure to disable any functions that would cause the watch to beep during an interview.  While watches are by no means necessary as a means of telling time (now that everyone and their grandmother has a cell phone), watches are still an important part of an interview wardrobe.  Foregoing a watch can effectively say “I am never on time, ever.”  This writer recommends eco-drive watches: they’re solar powered and can run for years without having to change the battery!

4. Dress shoes

You should invest in a nice pair of interview shoes in a dark solid color that coordinates with your suit.  For women, shoes should always be closed toed with a heel of 2.5” or less.  Avoid anything shiny or textured – try for leather or synthetic fabrics that will not draw attention.   For men, just stay away from loafers!  Classic, tie-up dress shoes are always in style.  Your belt should match your shoes.

5. A simple bag or briefcase

One thing about briefcases: if you don’t have a reason to carry one, don’t.  But you should have some kind of bag with you to hold your resume, your phone, extra hosiery and everything else necessary or superfluous that you will want to carry with you on interview day.  Stick with neutral colors – a dark leather is always best.  Stay away from anything ridiculously large or small, and from messenger bags that sling across your body.  Over or undersized bags can make your entire outfit look unprofessional, and a slung-over bag will wrinkle your nicely pressed suit.  For women, if you’re not looking to invest in a bag specifically for interviewing and professional purposes, try getting something that will work for both work and play – like a neutral color Longchamp bag.

Beyond these basic items, there are a wide range of things you can do to to spruce up your look for an interview and make you look and feel your very best.  Be sure that your hair is neatly cut and styled and your nails are clean and cut short.  Always err on the side of caution when it comes to accessories, but the great thing about many of these staple items is that they can also be paired with fun, colorful pieces during the work week to add some professional excitement to your wardrobe.  These are working items that you can continue to wear and enjoy for years.

If there’s one thing I learned from years of watching What Not to Wear, it’s that fashion does make a difference in the way we look, feel, and present ourselves.  Dress for Success, and your confidence will reflect that effort!

Farewell, fashionistas -

Your interview style gurus,

The Doostang Team

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