When you meet a prospective employer, he's not only considering how much experience you have or what skills you can offer, he's also looking at how you present yourself for clues about what kind of employee you'll be. To many employers, a polished appearance indicates a professional and competent person, while a very casual or trendy ensemble suggests someone who doesn't take her career seriously. For women, the guiding principles for interview attire should be a conservative, neutral and tailored look.
Before you plan your ensemble, find out if the company has a dress code either by asking someone who works there or by calling human resources. Show the employer you're a good fit for the team by tailoring your outfit to the company's standards. Err on the conservative side, with tailored, classic clothing and neutral or muted colors. Avoid trendy clothing or designer clothing with conspicuous labels. How formal you should dress depends on what kind of job you're applying for. For example, a vice president position requires more formality than a retail sales job. Career experts recommend that you dress a notch above the position you're interviewing for. If you're applying for an office position where you'd normally wear a blouse and slacks, dress slightly more formally, for example, with a two-piece skirted suit.
Career website QuintCareers recommends a skirted suit in a conservative color such as black, navy blue, gray, beige or brown. A more casual alternative is a blazer and skirt with a white blouse. While many employers and career experts view pantsuits as appropriate workplace and interview attire, others disagree, so QuintCareers advises playing it safe by choosing a skirt, instead. Skirts should fall at the knee or slightly below. If you choose a longer skirt, opt for a narrow one that will drape neatly across your legs when you sit. The Virginia Tech Career Services office recommends choosing a hem length by wearing the skirt and sitting in front of a mirror so you can see what your interviewer will see. Stay away from revealing clothing such as low-cut blouses, sleeveless dresses or tops or short skirts.
Keep jewelry to a minimum and avoid large earrings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches or other pieces. However, a small pair of earrings or a pendant can add style and sophistication to an outfit, and a colorful scarf enlivens your ensemble without being gaudy or showy. If you're interviewing for a position in a creative field such as advertising, you can use accessories to project your creativity. Carry a small handbag in a neutral or conservative color instead of a large satchel or tote bag. Or, skip the purse and carry a briefcase instead. Wear close-toed, low-heeled shoes in conservative colors.
Hair and Makeup
Hair can be worn down or pulled back, but should be neat. Wear minimal makeup in neutral colors that complement your face rather than drawing attention to themselves. Red lipstick and shimmery eye shadows, for example, are too harsh for daytime and will detract from the rest of your ensemble. Skip the perfume, fragrant lotions and scented hair sprays. Avoid very short or very long fingernails and wear clear nail polish or muted or conservative colors.
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