I would never consider myself a fashionista. In fact, I am far, far, oh so far from it. However, that does not stop me from devouring celebrity gossip blogs to see what the stars are sporting as they make their daily Starbucks run, subscribing to over five fashion magazines and religiously watching Project Runway thinking how amazing it would be if I had that kind of talent. In fact, at my day job as a software developer at a manufacturing site, I am the lone woman in an office of men. My work “outfit” normally consists of jeans, a random short-sleeved shirt, a hoodie (you would think they were freezing meat at our office) and my hair pulled back in a bun or pony tail. My only shout-out to fashion comes with my shoes which I try to keep cute and trendy but which go unappreciated by my male colleagues who only remark on how slippery they look and how they loudly click-clack on the factory floor.
When I applied for this IT job, I knew from the get-go that everyday would be a casual Friday (most jobs in information technology are), especially when I realized we worked in a factory setting. Despite this everyday hobo-like attire and despite my knowing that all my future colleagues would similarly dress like hobos, I knew that the job interview was a different beast altogether. No matter what type of job you may be applying for (even one in the meat-packing industry, in which case you can rent a space in our office…it is cold enough), you must always look sharp at an interview.
First impressions are lasting impressions. I have had the opportunity to conduct interviews with our company and I will admit that even though I go into the interview dressed in my usual IT attire, I expect the interviewee to be dressed completely different. He or she has no idea what kind of environment they are entering, so if I see they make little effort in their attire, that is definitely points lost in my book. If you find yourself preparing for an interview and are wondering how you should answer the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I have no idea what you should say (although I would steer clear of saying something like, “I would like to have stolen your job, sir.”), but if you are lost in terms of what to wear, we might be able to help you out.
Many articles will advise you to research the company to determine what the dress code is before an interview thereby determining whether you go to the interview more formal or more casual. You will definitely want to research the company before your interview to get a feel for their mission statement and overall environment; however, I personally think that you can never go wrong with a suit and tie for an interview. After all, the better you dress, the more likely it is the interviewer will see you as somebody who is professional and serious about securing the job. It may sound overstated, but investing in a suit is one of the best investments you can make in your career. It will take you from the interview all the way to your office Christmas party with only a change of shirt and tie.
Opt for a two piece matching suit that leans towards the conservative side in terms of color. Sure, the white double-breasted suit and shiny burgundy shirt that Al Pacino’s character wore in “Scarface” does come across as quite powerful and will definitely leave a lasting impression, but it may not be the impression you are seeking. Choose a suit that is dark gray or dark blue. While you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on a nice suit (although if you can afford it, by all means, go ahead), you will want to shell out some money to make sure the suit is tailored perfectly. There are a few points to keep in mind when purchasing your suit, because nothing looks worse than an ill-fitting suit.
The shoulder pads on a suit should not make you look like a linebacker. If they jut out farther than your own shoulders, the suit is too big. In terms of your chest, the suit should be able to button without looking like it is seconds from popping and springing off your chest onto your interviewer. With that being said, the suit shouldn’t fit so loose that you have tons of extra room in the chest area.
The sleeves of your suit should show about an inch or so of your shirt sleeve and cufflinks. Cufflinks are a great suit accessory and can range from the conservative to the playful. For example, if you are interviewing for a graphic artist position, a lighthearted addition to your suit could be a pair of Mickey Mouse Cufflinks to liven the mood and highlight your creative side.
The suit pants should fit comfortably with just a little bit of give. As far as ties go, keep the playful character ties at home and opt for a solid silk tie to match your shirt. Keep your shirt a light solid color, like white or blue and match it up with the tie. Stick with a dark black pair of shoes that are free of dust and dirt.
Scour a few men’s fashion magazines, like GQ or Esquire, before heading out to a suit store so that you know the different styles that will be offered. Suits vary ranging from different types of lapels to the number of buttons, so find a style that looks great and go with that. A few days before your interview, spend a few dollars and be sure to have the suit and shirt dry-cleaned and pressed.
With all this talk about what to wear at your interview, be sure to research your prospective employer thoroughly so you will be just as ready mentally. If you are bringing along a portfolio of your work or extra copies of your resume (always a nice touch), be sure to pack them in a nice leather portfolio case and leave the backpack you still have from college at home. Good luck!