A first impression during a job interview is crucial — it could be the difference between securing a coveted position or opening that dreaded “thanks but no thanks” letter.
That’s why Steve Zidek, assistant professor for the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University, invited Abbey Rowe, fashion instructor for the Department of Fashion Merchandising, to talk to his students about how dressing the part could help them land a job.
“Many of our intelligence students are going into the government or business sector,” said Zidek, whose students are currently preparing for internships or will be presenting their capstone projects to high-profile “clients,” such as the U.S. Department of State, Sony Pictures and Target Corporation.
“I want my students to ‘dress for success’ when applying for job opportunities,” Zidek said. “A potential employer could assess someone’s personality and fit within a company by how they dress; this is important for a future intelligence officer.”
According to Rowe, your style of dress should reflect the industry in which you choose to work.
“First impressions are made anywhere from the first few seconds up to the first two minutes of an interview,” she said. “Before an interview, a presentation or an important meeting, you should always ask yourself, ‘What is being communicated by my clothing?’”
Quick Tips — How to Dress for an Interview
Tip #1: Dress Appropriately
When it comes to an interview, conservative and traditional (black suit and white shirt) is best. Overdressing for an interview is better than underdressing.
Men — Always wear a tie, socks with polished dress shoes and a belt.
Women — Keep skirts knee-length and don’t wear revealing attire. Keep heel height to three inches or less.
Tip #2: Ask about the Dress Code
Employers often indicate their dress code in an employee handbook — business formal, business casual or casual. It’s important to inquire about dress code during an interview and observe how other employees dress.
Tip #3: Be Well Groomed
For an interview, you want to look your best. Your hair needs to be neat, your clothes pressed and your nails clean.
Men — Short hair is best; although, if you have longer hair, keep it above your shoulders and keep it neat. Keep facial hair tidy.
Women — Keep your hair out of your face and refrain from messy updos; both long and short styles are acceptable. Use minimal makeup and only use neutral nail polish colors for an interview.
Tip #4: Buy Clothing Staples to Start & Accessorize
As a college student, you may be on a budget. Start with a basic suit (navy and black are best) that can be paired with different shirts, belts, sweaters, ties, jewelry and shoes.