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Dress to impress at your next job interview

Christine Lundeen, career counselor at WSU Vancouver, suggests job hunters prepare their interview attire as carefully as they prepare for the interview itself.

“Even if an organization’s corporate culture calls for casual clothes on the job, an applicant should still dress professionally for the interview,” said Lundeen. She suggests a suit and tie for men and dress pants or a skirt or dress with a blazer for women. Lundeen recommends dark, conservative colors such as navy, black or gray and suggests applicants avoid dressing in bright colors such as white, yellow or red.

If a college student or new alum cannot afford an extensive interview wardrobe, Lundeen suggests investing in good quality separates that can mix and match. For example, a female applicant might wear a navy jacket and pants together for an initial interview and change up the outfit with a different shirt and jacket for a second meeting.

Whatever the applicant chooses to wear, clothing must be clean and pressed, hair washed and styled appropriately, said Lundeen. Fingernails should also be clean and trimmed.

Rather than carrying a briefcase, or arriving empty handed, Lundeen suggests both male and female applicants carry a leather folio that can hold an extra resume or two, business cards, a pen and pad of paper.

Special guidelines for women
“An interview is not the time for a woman to wear a mini skirt or plunging neckline,” said Lundeen. She suggests that skirts be no shorter than two inches above the knee. 

Personal stylist, Kat Smith, an independent consultant for the D.R.E.S. system agrees. “A skin tight skirt and low-cut top are great for night clubs, but not for job interviews.”

Smith suggests applicants show they are serious about a job opportunity by choosing clothing and accessories that reflect their respect for the organization. If your friends hear your accessories before they see you, an interview is the time to tame your style.

“Keep accessories simple,” said Smith, “but keep a balance between too much and not enough.” Smith suggests using a scarf for a pop of color and style and Lundeen recommends limiting jewelry to a single pair of conservative earrings, a necklace or scarf and one or two rings. Leave jangly bracelets and other distracting jewelry — such as jewelry for nose or other piercings — at home.

Smith acknowledges that bare legs may in fashion, but suggests women wear hosiery for an interview. Women should also choose dress shoes or boots that coordinate with their outfit. Flip flops, sandals, and sports shoes are more appropriate for the celebration party after you land the job.

Special guidelines for men
Love that Mickey Mouse tie?
Leave it in the closet when you go for an interview. Lundeen suggests men wear a blue, red or neutral tie paired with a white or light blue shirt. Socks are a must, and they should match the color of the applicant’s pants. 

Men should pick single breasted, two-, three- or four-button jackets. Lundeen suggests leaving the bottom button open and cautions that four-button jackets may not be appropriate when interviewing with more conservative companies. Suit sleeves should fall at the wrist, with the shirt sleeve extending a quarter to half-inch longer.

Lundeen discourages jewelry for men beyond a wedding ring and wrist watch, and she suggests the clean-shaven look or very well-trimmed facial hair.

Both Lundeen and Smith note there are exceptions to these guidelines. If the industry is very casual, clothing may be a bit less formal, but Lundeen still suggests that applicants dress more formally than the interviewer. Smith notes that applicants dressing for a job in a creative or artistic industry will have more leeway in choosing clothing, hair
styles and accessories.

Lundeen suggests students and alumni refer to WSU Vancouver’s online career resources for more information on dressing for career success and other job hunting tips. Go to: studentaffairs.vancouver.wsu.edu/student-resource-center/online-career-resources or attend one of the job search seminars sponsored by the WSU Vancouver Student Resource Center.

For more personalized assistance to hone your professional style, Kat Smith provides an in-home service that includes a complete closet overhaul, assistance with styling both casual and professional outfits from your existing wardrobe and personal shopping services. Smith is available at 360.907.1582 or ks@holobi.com.

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