Millionaire real estate mogul Ivanka Trump has always been an icon of style and professionalism by design for young men and women in today’s workforce. “An interview is a formal process, so dress accordingly,” she advises in her book, aptly titled The Trump Card.
And you know what? She’s right. Wearing the appropriate interview attire reinforces your professional brand and forces people to take you seriously. To be perceived as a professional who solidly understands the nature of your industry influences your chances of getting the job – and salary – you deserve. In fact, your attire is so important that HR reps will mentally dismiss you upon arrival if you come dressed in any manner that risks the perception of their business.
Now you may be thinking…
“Looks aren’t supposed to be that important. It’s my skills and my experience that matters. As long as I show up, I’m winning.”
Stop. Stop. Stop. Right now, because you ain’t winning when you think like that.
You’re seeking work to pay your bills; they’re seeking employees to handle their business. Part of their business is to have a professional image, even if casual, that represents the company culture and its brand well. You have to recognize you’re expected to present a clean image that makes it easy to IMAGINE YOU coming into the office DOING A DAMN GOOD JOB EVERY DAY. Putting forth a professional interview ensemble allows you to do this. Repeatedly.
Don’t get caught up on individuality and leave your dream career on the table. Use these strategic tips to develop a sharp professional image for your interview.
5 Sharp Style Strategies for Your Next Job Interview
1. Define your personal brand in accordance with your professional goals.
2. Dress appropriately. When in doubt as to whether to dress business casual or professional, choose to dress like a professional.
I once worked for a major security firm. As a
minion security officer, the pay wasn’t great, so when I had the opportunity to apply for a corporate position within the company, I was ecstatic.
I did great on the first and second interview, however, I was not selected for the position. The HR personnel asked if I’d accept feedback on my performance. I agreed to it. Though I was a great candidate, I was noted for having a piercing and I had an extreme leap in professionalism from the first interview outfit to the second. I explained that the leap from business casual to professional was due to an influx of money that allowed me to buy a better outfit. The HR rep said she understood but that it still left an impression that I was either unprepared or unprofessional.
3. Neutral tones + Fresh Tailoring = Power Suit.
Stick with classic power colors for your interview. A crisp tailored suit in shades of rich black, navy blue or grey coupled with a fresh white button-up seem boring but take you a long way. Unless you’re in the fashion industry, an interview is not the place to showcase your individual sense of style. Wearing your bright green power suit will make you look like a castaway from Pimps Up, Hoes Down.
Look sharp, just look professionally sharp. Stand out because your outfit is just that damn crisp, not that damn bright, that damn tight, or that damn trendy.
4. Gentlemen only.
Your Interview Tie: Any of the four basic styles of tie knots – Windsor, half-Windor, Pratt and four-in-hand – are appropriate for interviews. Your tie’s color should be solid and dark. Colors such as navy or red are acceptable. Your tie’s pattern should be distinctive, not distracting. Opt for conservative patterns, i.e. stripes and lines. Avoid distinctive pictures and multicolored patterns. Tie bars and tie clips are appropriate for your interview as long as they’re functional without distracting the interviewer. A larger tie knot can make you appear more confident.
Jewelry: Limit your jewelry to a wedding ring, a watch and cuff links.
Shoes, Socks & Belt: Wear polished lace-up shoes that are black or another conservative color. Your belt, socks and shoes must compliment appropriately. Do not wear Jordans – or any athletic wear (including hats) for any reason.
Groom: Skip cologne or wear light cologne. Get a fresh haircut and groom your facial hair. Keep your nails clean and trimmed.
5. Ladies only.
Sex appeal: You’re not bringing sexy back, so watch the level of sex appeal you carry yourself with, at least during your interview and maybe the first 90 days of hire. Conceal your cleavage. Don’t wear clothes that are too tight and leave nothing to the imagination. Even if you have hard to conceal curves, there are ways to enhance your silhouette without looking like a video vixen or even worse, a $5 store hoodrat. Keep the sexy pumps at home. Opt to wear a modest heel or an attractive flat.
Beauty & Fragrance: Natural is the name of the game. Smoky eyes and Ruby Woo are not for the office. Try Viva Glam V if you must wear MAC and if you insist on emphasizing anything choose your eyes. You want to emphasize your eyes with an attractive daytime look so that the interviewer looks into your eyes while you’re speaking. Keep cleanly trimmed and maniured nails. You can never do wrong with a classic French manicure or a simple coat of clear polish.
Hair: Keep your face front and center by having your hair pulled back and off your face with the exception of bangs that do not cover or obstruct the eye. Most women opt to wear a bun or a conservative ponytail pulled at the nape. Straighten your hair if desired, but it’s not necessary unless you’re in a very corporate environment and wish not to take chances. Don’t wear crazy hair colors – keep the Rainbow Brite look for the OMG Girls, Nicki Minaj and Nivea. (Who can wear their hair however they wish due to their profession.)
Jewelry: Limit your jewelry to small hoops and studs on your first earlobe hole and your wedding ring. Nameplates (who still has those?), name rings, large hoops and haute couture fashion accessories distract the interviewer as much as tight clothes and high heels.
Interview Appearance and Attire (Virginia Tech)
Looks Count, On Reflection (Sydney Morning Herald)
How to Dress for an Interview (ToTieATie)
The Perfect Interview Outfit (Forbes)