You need to dress and act the part if you even want a chance of getting hired.


Image Building: Looking Good and Feeling Confident

If you can build personal chemistry as well as handle objections that come up in your interviews, your success may come down to projecting the right image. Here's some simple and straightforward advice that might help you make the most of yourself.

Overall impressions are established within the first few minutes of a meeting. So, before you launch your campaign, assess your wardrobe. You should have a few appropriate "classic" outfits because you must expect to go through a series of interviews. Avoid wearing the same attire twice.

You must realize that interviewers may be talking to four or five other candidates. Use your clothing to project a personality that fits the situation and the firm. As a general rule, when it comes to interviewing, a "straight-arrow" look works.

For interviewing, most people will do best if their suits are properly fitted and conservative. A balanced job search wardrobe will ideally include a navy blue suit, a darker gray and a charcoal pinstripe. High fashion and extreme styles are not suitable unless you are in one of the "glamour" industries.

Clothing must fit properly. This is particularly true with suits, which sometimes slowly shrink with dry cleaning. Be prepared to go back a number of times for alterations, and make sure your pants cuff barely touches your shoe.

As for your shirts, solid colors are recommended, with white and blue being traditional and safe preferences. Wear these colors in the interviews, or until you have the opportunity to assess the working environment you are exploring.

Be sure your glasses are clean and in good condition.

Additional Advice for Men One of the most difficult things for most men to do is throw away suits. If your suits are old, give them to charity and take the tax deduction. Wallet, credit cards and other paraphernalia should be kept in a briefcase. This latter practice is more common among top executives. By the way, allow 5" from the top of your thumb to the end of your sleeve -- 5 1/4" if you wear cuff links. Don't let tailors persuade you to take longer sleeves!

The fit of your shirt deserves special mention. If you have gained a significant amount of weight, you may be wearing your collar too tight. Ex-athletes who have trimmed down will often find that their collars have become loose. A well-fitting collar makes a tie a pleasure to wear for the entire business day. The fit of your cuffs is also important.

The most popular shirt over the years has been the 100% cotton long-sleeved, pointed-collar business shirt. Generally speaking, you will want to avoid short-sleeved shirts unless you live in a warm climate. A word of caution: Be sure that the front and collar are not rippled. This will give you a "sloppy" image. Those who wear cuff links should make sure they are simple. A gaudy look is likely to be perceived as a negative.

Why not buy a few ties for your job search? Ties can be fun and can give you a unique look. To a great extent, this element of your wardrobe is a matter of preference. For most people silk ties are best. Be sure you don't select a tie that is too flimsy. It should have adequate backing for you to look your best.

Pattern, polka-dot, and club ties have declined in popularity. The brighter, more contemporary geometric and floral designs also come in a wide array of vivid color combinations that are in good taste. Above all, be sure your tie is clean and fresh in appearance. Bow ties do little to enhance an image of assurance.

Your shoes should be well polished. Slip-ons are increasingly acceptable but eyelet shoes are still preferred. The old military "spitshine" can be a real power builder.

Don't underrate accessories. Don't wear your deep sea watch, unless it's a Rolex. Ideally, your watch will be light or medium in weight. Belts and buckles should be conservative. Socks should be over the calf in length. It is not necessary to have a handkerchief tucked in your breast pocket, but it can be a nice touch. The handkerchief you carry should be clean and pressed. A wallet and briefcase show a lot about a man. Bulging wallets and oversize briefcases can detract.

Your hair style should be natural and casual. As a rule, if you appear older than you would like, your hair should be on the short side. (Short hair will normally give you a younger appearance.) For most men in their 20s or 30s, however, a somewhat longer look is appropriate.

For late afternoon interviews, carry an electric razor in your briefcase and shave an hour or two before. As far as after-shave or cologne is concerned, keep it subtle or don't use it at all.

For those of you who are overweight, clothes can cover up just so much. Lose some extra pounds if at all possible. If not, stand up straight, sit tall and be yourself. Carry yourself in a way that creates a look of confidence and authority. Remember, when you are job hunting, the people you meet socially can be instrumental in helping you land an attractive new position.

Additional Advice for Women

Short to medium-length hair is most appropriate for the woman seeking a professional position. Keep away from an "extreme" look. Your makeup should appear natural. If you're not sure whether your present makeup is appropriate, try out some advice at the cosmetics counter of a good department store.

Whatever you do, make any changes well in advance of your interview. It is important that you feel comfortable with any "new look" so you won't be anxious on the day of the interview. Your nails should be medium length. Keep away from shades that are distracting. If you are accustomed to wearing fragrance, make sure it isn't heavy.

Never wear anything that is overpowering. While a beautifully tailored suit is always appropriate, you can arrive for an interview in a coordinating jacket and skirt (complemented by a minimum of jewelry) and carrying a light briefcase; this would be a very acceptable look.

When choosing colors, keep to an understated, conservative look. A solid color, a muted tweed or plaid, or a subtle pinstripe is always in good taste. You want your next employer to remember you, not your outfit.

If you generally wear bright colors, you can retain your personal style by choosing a scarf or blouse in a shade you particularly enjoy. The blouse or sweater you select to go with your suit should be white, off-white, beige or a color complementary to your suit. For example, a scarlet or crimson blouse can brighten up a gray suit and contribute to your appearance, especially if red is a color you enjoy wearing.

Generally, your stockings should be neutral. Stay away from heavily textured or patterned stockings. As for shoes, keep away from extreme high heels, sandals and flat shoes.

Keep your jewelry simple. Wearing four rings won't help you here! The key is never to use anything so startling or overbearing that it detracts from the overall impression you want to make. The key point to remember is that good dress won't get you a job -- but sloppy dress can cost you one. Be aware that there is an unspoken "managerial" dress code for women. It is more tailored than feminine (no plunging necklines or sheer fabrics) and enhances a "power" look.

These emphasize a woman's ability to perform on the job, rather than her femininity. Make sure you look like you are ready for the income level to which you aspire. Body language is also important. Straight posture says that you take pride in your appearance. Graceful hand movements contribute to your overall image of poise.