This is a guest blog post from Patti McLaughlin.
Did you know that your interviewer will make a judgment of you within seven seconds of meeting you? Fair or not, human beings make very quick decisions about other human beings based on their initial impressions. So your first impression is critical. You are marketing yourself to a potential employer, and the first thing the employer sees when meeting you is your attire. If you wear the wrong outfit, you can go from potential employee to reject almost instantly.
What you wear to an interview creates an image or perception of the type of person you are, so choosing your clothing is critical to presenting yourself as the right candidate. The good news is that wardrobe mistakes are easy to avoid, so don’t blow a chance at your dream job because you wore the wrong thing.
Every industry has its own unique culture, and it is important to do your research regarding the culture of any potential employer. For the most part, legal employers are very conservative when it comes to interview attire, which means you wear a suit.
Men should wear a suit in a dark solid color with a long sleeved shirt that is white (the safest choice) or light color coordinated with the suit. You should wear a leather belt, a conservative tie, dark socks, and conservative leather dress shoes. Your hair should be neatly trimmed and you should be freshly shaved. If you have facial hair, your beard and/or mustache should be trimmed and clean. You should have clean trimmed nails and carry a portfolio or briefcase.
Women should wear a dark colored suit. You may wear a skirt or pants. A sheath dress with a matching jacket is also acceptable. Your skirt or dress should be right above or below the knee. You should wear a light colored blouse with a conservative neckline. You do not want to show too much skin. You should wear conservative shoes. Flats or heels are both acceptable. If you wear heels they should be more conservative. 2 inches is a good height but don’t go above 3 inches. Your shoes must be closed toe and closed back.
Limit your jewelry: one ring per hand, simple necklace, no dangling earrings, or arms full of bracelets. Your hair should be neat and away from your face. You don’t have to wear your hair up, but you want to make sure it is not distracting. As long as you can keep your hair from falling in your face, and you don’t have to touch your hair during the interview, you should be fine. If you are wearing a skirt or dress, you should wear skin-colored pantyhose. Your makeup should be conservative and you should avoid wearing perfume. Your nails should be neatly manicured. If you polish your nails, you should have a neutral polish color. You should carry a portfolio or briefcase.
Your clothes must fit well. Try everything on early enough so you can get something tailored if necessary. Your clothes must be clean and neatly pressed.
When you have too much going on with your clothing, it can be a distraction to your interviewers. Trust me — you don’t want to be described as the woman in the garish yellow shirt or the guy who got lost on his way to a clam bake in Martha’s Vineyard. You want the interviewer to be able to concentrate on your accomplishments and your personality.
You may also have a signature scent and feel incomplete without wearing it. I encourage you to go without on interview day. Your sense of smell is a powerful trigger for memories and emotions. Imagine you are sitting in the interview and you interviewer smells your signature scent. What could possibly go wrong with that? Maybe the person who broke your interviewer’s heart or the vet tech who put the family pet to sleep wore that same scent. The memories and emotions triggered would be unpleasant and you would be the beneficiary of that unpleasantness. It is just not worth the risk.
We live in a culture where you are constantly encouraged to be your true self. Many people like to express parts of their identity through their clothing. You might like bright colors, Vineyard Vines ties, or lots of accessories. Once you have the job…express away, but keep it simple during the interview.
If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to a career counselor.