Dress to Impress: Expert Thoughts on Dressing for Interviews and Networking Events

Today’s business world is evolving on countless levels. With casual Fridays implemented throughout many industries, and a steady stream of articles featuring pictures of CEOs in T-shirts and hoodies (a la classic Mark Zuckerberg style), it may seem like suits and ties are going the way of dinosaurs. However, this simply isn’t reality. The truth is, what you wear matters to future employers. Your choice of dress for interviews still matters.

It is widely accepted that roughly 55 percent of communication takes place visually. Therefore, how a person looks may count for even more than what is stated on their resumes! While you’ll never completely control another person’s perception, you certainly can control how you look and behave in their presence. That alone gives you an incredibly large amount of control over how others see you.

Will there be times you can dress casual? Perhaps. Maybe a networking event has a tropical theme where a Hawaiian shirt would be OK. However, even with companies whose culture accepts casual attire for employees, you would still be expected to dress well during an interview. Bottom line? Unless you’re 100 percent sure, always opt for dressing up rather than dressing down.

It sounds simple, but many people fail to grasp this concept; women come to interviews in sundresses and sandals, and men come in wearing wrinkled khakis and dated golf shirts. The best advice a job seeker should keep in mind in order to overcome the urge to go casual is always put yourself in the shoes (no pun intended) of your prospective employer. Ask yourself, “If I saw me dressed like this, would I hire me?”

For most interview situations, keep your clothes conservative (most often a suit) and choose dark colors (but not black) with white blouses or shirts. Be sure your clothes are clean, pressed and neat. Always wear dress shoes — not sneakers, sandals, all-weather boots or flip-flops. Some experts recommend dressing up, meaning dress as though you are applying for a job a level above the one you want.

Keep in mind it is easy to make business attire more casual by rolling up sleeves, loosening a shirt collar or removing a jacket; but you cannot dress up casual attire if you don’t have the jacket or tie with you in the first place. Wear clothing that fits properly. In general, tattoos and piercings should not be visible.

Remember, it is much easier to dress correctly for the situation than to change someone’s first impression. Let’s all dress to impress!

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