Valentine's Day was recently upon us. Love was in the air despite the tornado warning that Houston faced all morning. Seeing all of the hearts and date pics on social media reminded me of something career-related. Try to avoid transforming your date-night "Best Dressed" into an interview-day fashion "Don't."
There are plenty of examples of people who take an outfit that would not traditionally be worn at work and throw a cardigan or blazer on to make it pass for work-appropriate because it's laundry day. However, the interview day is not the time to press those boundaries. MOST of the time, and I say most because there are some exceptions (i.e., people who dress especially conservatively when they go out on the town, people who are applying for very creative jobs at very creative workplaces), what you wear on a date is not what is viewed favorably on an interview. Here are some quick tips to be sure you are interview-ready:
1. Research the culture of the workplace. Perhaps you don't need to wear a 3-piece suit, but, if most of the people at the business/organization are in business casual, then you want to arrive in business casual or maybe something a bit nicer to demonstrate your effort and enthusiasm for the job. If most people are in business attire, break out the suit. Similar rules apply for a remote Skype interview. Even if you are Skyping in from home, don't look like you just rolled out of bed. Show that you have made an effort.
2. Look at your school's career website to see if they have recommendations. University career centers are great resources and often they provide pictures of interview "DOs" and "Don'ts." If your own career center doesn't have a good resource, search the internet and find resources from other schools. Also, business websites like LinkedIn often have good tips. Here is one popular article that presents helpful reminders along with a photo example of business and business casual: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-dress-interview-melissa-gushwa
3. A few months before you start searching for jobs, begin keeping an eye out at thrift stores, department store clearance racks, and discount stores for key items. Do not feel badly if your pieces are not name brands. The important thing is that they look nice, they are appropriate, and they fit well. I, along with most people I know, wear a broad range of clothes--everything from thrift stores to Target to outlet stores to more upscale department stores. Who cares where you bought it as long as you like it and it is appropriate for the interview?
Here are some key pieces to be on the lookout for:
Nice pair of dress pants or nice dress skirt
Nice dress shirt
Nice pair of comfortable business shoes
Nice dress that doesn't show too much skin
If you are going to splurge, try to do so on shoes. Nothing is worse than walking around at an interview with aching feet. On a similar note, you might want to leave the 4-inch heels at home and opt for something more comfortable. You never know how far you might end up walking on an interview, especially if they offer you an impromptu tour of the workplace. Also, be sure to break the shoes in ahead of time.
If you are very tight on money, reach out to organizations such as Dress for Success that help provide interview attire. Some universities even offer this service. One note: Dress for Success tends to cater to women, but there might be other local organizations near you that provide more options.
4. Contact your university's career services office to schedule a mock interview. This process will help to ensure that you present yourself well and display appropriate posture, eye contact, expressions, etc. If your university does not offer this service, look for other organizations in your community that do. If all else fails, ask a mentor or someone who has been on several interviews (and successfully been offered jobs) to serve as your mock interviewer.