| February 20th, 2007

* dress for success: what to wear for a job interview

This article is based on the professional business environment in the Western world.  We would appreciate comments on appropriate interview attire for Bangladesh

As the old saying goes, the first impression is the most important one, it is true for job interviews as well. Dressing up for any formal occasion could be a skill itself one needs to learn, especially for us who come to the western world from a totally different culture. We sometimes need some guidance along this line. Today I am going to shed some light on some basic guidelines on this topic when it comes to dressing up for a very important event – Job Interview.

Appearance plays one big role for an interview.  A well tailored resume and a good cover letter will help you get to an interview but the rest is on you – how do you present yourself to the interviewer and how well do you sell yourself (i.e., sell your abilities and qualities).  An interview itself is a lot to put someone into stress and sometimes people forget little details about physical appearance that help to create a good impression. While it is very important to polish your interviewing skills and techniques and to gather knowledge on the company and the industry, it is similarly important to show up punctually, well rested, properly dressed and well groomed.

What to wear

Even though companies are becoming more relaxed about dress codes these days, it is still recommended to wear a suit for an interview regardless of the dress code of the company you are interviewing at.  It is helpful to know the dress code as you may then decide which suit to wear.  Skirts are traditionally more formal than pantsuits. Most of the banks and financial institutes have professional business attire and a skirt would be preferable.  However, in today’s business world, a pantsuit would be similarly acceptable at any institution.  Skirts should be long enough to at least touch your knees. It is recommended to wear a dark colored suit (navy blue, black or grey) with light color blouse or shirt. Traditionally, a white or cream color blouse is safe to wear but any light color blouse that goes well with your suit should be fine.  It is recommended to avoid patterns for both suit and blouse.  Ideally it would be good to own two interview suits in two different colors.  However, you can create a different look simply by wearing a different color blouse with the same suit and/or by wearing a nice scarf in subtle color.

Depending on the style of your suit, you may button up or leave it unbuttoned.  Regardless of the style, your suit should be comfortable, not too tight or loose.  It should not look too casual or sporty. Wearing sheer long stockings/nylons in a shade of black or natural (close to your skin) is recommended if you are wearing a skirt.  It is important not to wear knee high socks with skirts as it looks tacky if shown.  Pantyhose with skirts and knee high or trouser socks with pants is the guideline. It is safe to carry an extra pair of nylons in the purse for emergency needs.  These things snag pretty easy and it is very unprofessional to have a visible run on your nylons.

Accessories

Accessories can help create a polished look.  This includes shoes, belt, purse, jewelry, etc.  Interviewees should wear polished, closed toe, dress shoes.  It is better to avoid funky styles with big buckles or shiny materials. Shoes could be flat or high heeled (up to 3) depending on your height and the length of your pants.  With high heels, your pants should not touch the floor, they should be about an inch above the floor.  If you are not too sure about the style, it is always safe to wear a nice pair of traditional black leather pumps.  Your shoes should complement your outfit, not overpower it.

If you are wearing a belt, select a conservative leather style belt in solid color, with a small buckle.  Your belt should match your shoes and purse. Purse should be small and simple, matching with shoes and belt.  It is good idea to have a separate purse for interviews that you do not carry everyday.  Some purses have a separate small pouch attached to it for cell phones.  It is better to detach that piece and leave at home.  It is recommended to carry a few copies or your most updated resume.  You may take them in a nice leather folder or a briefcase. Bulky day planners should be avoided though.

Jewelry, if selected properly, can compliment your look. If you decide to wear jewelry, try to keep it simple by wearing studs or small earrings and a light necklace.  Please note, our traditional deshi gold (22 or 24 carat) jewelry in bright color does not really go with the western suit.  Therefore, it is recommended not to wear them for interviews.  You may find something nice and simple at any department stores.  Nose pins/rings are considered to be body piercing in western culture and therefore, it is better not to wear a nose stud or ring.  Finger rings (simple, one or two) are fine.

Grooming

Hair needs to be clean, dry and neatly combed.  If you have long hair, you can pull it back and tie with a clip or a hair band to avoid creating distractions.  If you decide to wear clips, use a simple but dressy hair clip that is not bulky.  Wearing too high a pony tail or a deshi style ˜high khopa” may look odd at interviews.  Simple buns on the back are fine.

Make up can give you a polished look as long as it is subtle and light.  Too dark colored lipstick or too shiny lip-gloss should be avoided.  For eyes, you may use a bit of natural or beige eye shadow, liner and/or mascara but be careful not to create a dramatic look. Your make up should complement your outfit.  A mild, subtle perfume and/or deodorant can be used.  Avoid strong scents (like White Diamond or Poison).  It is important to make sure your clothes (or outerwear) do not have the deshi cooking smell.

Nails should be clean and of moderate length.  Too long nails or nail ornaments or stickers create distractions and may send wrong messages.

Some last moment tips
Here are some last moment tips that can save you from unnecessary stress.

  • Have your clothes and accessories ready the night before so that you are not in a hurry on the day of interview.
  • If you are going to wear a brand new outfit or shoes, make sure you cut off all the tags and try them on ahead of time.
  • Remember to turn your cell phone or pager off before entering the interview room.
  • Keep a breath freshener/mint in your purse (no chewing gums please) and use it right before entering the office building.
  • Better not to bring in coffee or soda.
  • It is safe to carry an umbrella if there is even a slight chance of rain.
  • Dress according to the weather.  Skirts are better for rainy/snowy days as pants may get dirty easy.
  • Wear an appropriate outerwear/ overcoat in winter that is long enough to cover the jacket of your pantsuit.  Longer coats for skirt suits.

Now that you know all about how to create your desired first impression by appearance, you are all ready for the next interview and therefore, for your dream job!  Good luck!

 

6 Responses to “* dress for success: what to wear for a job interview”

  1. Shahreen says:

    Ishret

    Great tips! I’m job hunting after many years and this is exactly what I needed.
    Do same rules apply for a career fair?

    Thanks

    Shahreen

  2. Ishret says:

    Shahreen,

    Thanks for your comment!

    Same guidelines would apply for attending career fairs as well. You will be meeting many prospective employers there and depending on the type/arrangement of the career fair you are attending, you might have been invited to interview(s) right at the fair. Make sure you take many copies of your most updated resume along with you. As you stop at the booths, you may want to drop your resume to the representatives (usually HR) of the companies you are interested. Some may even remember you just by your appearance!

    I had attended a career fair during my senior year and thru our career placement office at school, I had 4 pre arranged interviews at the fair. Of course, I didn’t get any of those jobs but it was great experience! Also, I was dressed up professionally, in a black suit, for the very first time in my life and felt great about that!

    Good luck at your job search!

    – Ishret

  3. Kawser says:

    “Dress for the job you want not the job that you have”

    K.J

  4. Sharmin says:

    When I had my first job interview in the US, I told my family that I need to buy an interview attire, they got real nervous as “Meye america-i giye uchhonne jacche naki”. Later after lots of glithches I was able to explain that most of the times these formal attires are much more conservative than Sarees even.

    Sharmin

  5. […] More resources can be found here and here […]

  6. Joniene says:

    This are great and thorough tips. I agree, always dress as professional as possible. Also, practice questions like, what are your stregnths/weaknesses, where do you see yourself in 5 years, etc. Also, be prepared to have valid questions that pertain to the job position. Good eye contact, a positive attitude, and smils are necessary accesories.

    Good luck!!!

Leave a Reply

About this blog

Adhunika blog is launched with a mission to share knowledge among women from every walk of life. Sometime it would be in the form of sharing experience to find a feasible solution of a problem; sometime it would be in the form of professional consultation, which Adhunika group will arrange for its bloggers. Nevertheless, the intent of this blog always remains the same - to help and empower women through a common web-based platform....read more

Subscribe

E-mail:

Recent Posts

Categories

Archive