Dec 13, 2010

Dress to Impress To Land That Dream Job

Luccioni is a certified etiquette expert
and one of less than 100 certified image
professionals in the U.S.
(photo courtesy of
We all know you should never wear jeans and a ratty t-shirt to an interview. That's a given. But did you know, even if you think you look really nice and professional, the earrings you wear, or even certain colors you wear to a job interview can actually make or break your chances of being considered for the job? 

LisaMarie Luccioni, Communications professor in UC’s McMicken College of Arts & Sciences and Certified Image Professional, offers some quick and easy tips to help you dress to impress!

1.    Never underestimate the value and strategy of business clothing.
Lisa says: “There is a cost affiliated with your experience and degree, and you want to broadcast that with your appearance.”

2.    Buy fewer, better pieces
Lisa says: “I'd recommend spending more money on one or two good suits (or bottoms and coordinating jackets) than more garments of cheaper, inferior quality.  Not only do cheap garments visibly appear less impressive, they fall apart after several periods of dry cleaning.” On that note, consider using a clothing steamer instead of always dry cleaning.  Continual dry cleaning can wear material quicker.  Also, consider dry cleaning suit items together, so the colors remain consistent throughout wardrobe rotation.

3.    Dress for your industry

Lisa says: “My business students would have the expectation to dress in more conservative attire than perhaps a DAAP (design) student.  That said, even in business environments, there's flexibility in expectation.  An accounting/finance major is expected to cut a more conservative, trustworthy appearance (they deal with people's money and should communicate responsibility).  However, a marketing student in that same college has more flexibility in clothing choices.”

4.    Go with the basics

Lisa says: “Research shows that white and light blue shirts trump other colors in terms of credibility and professionalism.  Moreover, white goes with every color and is beautifully complimented by any color tie.  Women have more options on a job interview.  White and cream work, but pale yellow, peach, light blue, sage green, or even pale pink can work.”

5. Always inquire about dress expectation.
Lisa says: “If they say "business casual is appropriate," I'd follow up with a clarifying question of what that actually means.  Never fear asking questions.”

6.    Make sure you have a nice winter overcoat.
Lisa says: “Consider these investment pieces.  If you cannot afford one, perhaps ask for one as a holiday or birthday gift.”

7.    Shoes and accessories matter
Lisa says: “If you wear an elegant suit, but have scuffed shoes, you're not presenting visual consistency.  Women sometimes wear distractive jewelry (earrings, for example), that twirl and move as they talk.  Don’t. People DO notice shoes, watches and jewelry.  I'd invest in a nice leather or stainless steel watch rather than using a cell phone to tell time.  It's a nonverbal indication of punctuality.”

8.    Tailor your suits
Lisa says: “Very few people fit exactly into off-the-rack clothing.  Invest in a tailor who will make necessary adjustments so your clothes actually fit.”

9.    Invest in a leather portfolio and/or briefcase
Lisa says: “I’m partial to the leather portfolios from office supply stores that have retractable handles.  Not only do you now have visual representation of your work (resume, references, letters of recommendation, etc.), you look utterly streamlined with your polished suit and accompanying portfolio.”

Finally, Lisa offers some quick etiquette tips once you’re in the interview:

1.    Wait for a seat to be offered before you sit. 
The interviewer should send you signals:  "Please have a seat," to which you then respond, "Thank you." 

2.    Interviewers will often engage in small talk to establish rapport. 
Polish your conversational skills so you're perceived as a smooth, engaging conversationalist. If they ask you, "How were the directions?” Respond in a positive manner.  I don't care if you ended up in Idaho and the directions were actually confusing.  You want the interview to begin, progress, and end on a positive note.  Complaining about directions seems petty and gets the interview off to a bad start.

Do you have career search experience?  What are some good tactics you've used in the past?

Happy job hunting!

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