Dress for Success

A student dressed for a successful interviewGeneral Guidelines 

  • Research the company’s dress code. You can ask when you are offered the interview, call an administrative assistant and ask, or ask someone in your network that is familiar with the company culture.
  • Make sure your hair is clean, neat and professionally styled. Avoid styles that cover your eyes or ones that you have to brush back.
  • Remove facial and body piercings other than single ear jewelry.
  • Apparel should be clean, neatly pressed, and fit well and remain in place while sitting and/or walking.
  • Always have fresh breath and clean body hygiene. This may seem obvious but take a shower, use deodorant, and brush your teeth.
  • Wear perfume, cologne, or aftershave that is subtle, some people may be allergic. Your scent should leave the room when you do.
  • Cover visible tattoos.
  • Have clean, short nails without ragged edges. Women, nails should be unpolished, clear polish or a neutral tone.

Other Universal Dressing-For-Success Tips 

Avoid Strong Fragrances. That is, skip the perfumes, colognes, and aftershaves. Interviews can cause stress that may trigger perspiration, which can magnify scents. In a closed interview room, the scent can become overpowering. Of course, wear deodorant or antiperspirant.

Think Clean. You want to look pulled-together for your interview. That means clean nails, showered, and good breath. Shined shoes and fresh clothes that are crisply ironed are extremely important.

Test-drive your interview wear. You want to feel comfortable during your interview. It’s a good idea to “try out” your interview suit once or twice so you know how you feel in it while you’re walking, sitting, and standing. A job interview is not the time for surprises like a gaping blouse, a fitted skirt that lets you take only baby steps, or a too-tight collar.

Keep any items that scream “Student!at home! Backpacks, gigantic water bottles, and other campus gear at the interview leave you looking uninformed about the professional workplace.

Last-minute checks. Of course, you’ll want to arrive for your interview 10 minutes early and plan to check in 5 minutes early. This will enable you time to step into a nearby restroom for a last-minute check of how you look. You might want to bring a few “emergency” supplies that can come in handy at this moment: a tissue, a small breath mint (especially for smokers or coffee drinkers), a safety pin, and a small comb. Rinsing your hands under warm water and drying them thoroughly right before the interview is a way to avoid the “clammy” handshake.

Cigarettes and coffee. Do not bring your drink into interview. It's OK to have your coffee, but don't bring it in with you. That goes for water and soda as well. Do not smoke before the interview, as you will end up smelling like smoke and potentially offend the interviewer.

Dressing for a Less Traditional Environment

In a creative or hands-on technical environment, you’ll want to go for the “business casual” look.

  • For men, a good choice would be neatly pressed khakis, a button down shirt under a sweater or sport coat
  • For women, black or khaki skirt or slacks and a sweater twinset or shirt and blazer.
  • Business casual clothing is less conservative than the traditional dark suit and tie.
  • A full suit would be inappropriate for these environments, you still want to look “dressed up” and polished.

Body Art or Tattoos in the Workplace

Companies can limit employees' personal expression on the job as long as they do not impinge on their civil liberties. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are allowed to impose dress codes and appearance policies as long as they do not discriminate or hinder a person's race, color, religion, age, national origin, or gender.