13 Interview Attire Mistakes That Can Sabotage your Job Search

Dress for Job Interview Success - What Not to Wear

Job search is all about first impressions. You want your appearance to convey a confident, respectful, professional and prepared job-seeker. Remember, you are ‘on stage’…and this interview day is your BEST day. Obviously, you want the interviewer to concentrate on your skills, qualifications, and fit with their job description specifications. However, if you look disheveled or too casual, you may be remembered for the wrong reasons. Interviewers know that what you wear is not your normal day-to-day attire, and it may not even be the everyday style of their office.

First and foremost, understand the product or service of the company. Applying for a position with a law firm requires a different ‘attitude’ in dressing than for an internet company or manufacturing facility. However, during my 30 years as a hiring manager and candidate, I have never heard an interviewer complain that “they came in too nicely dressed”.

Following are 13 mistakes that WILL derail your ability to make a professional first impression and may undermine your ability to WIN that job. A special thanks to my mother, Ilse Metchek, a fashion icon and President of the California Fashion Association (CFA).

For Men:

Men’s Suits

Mistake #1: Wearing a suit with bold colors, large prints, stripes, plaids or funky patterns

Correction: Wear a jacket in a dark, solid color such as navy or charcoal/gray

Mistake #2: Wearing a suit jacket with pants that don’t match

Correction: If you wear a 2-piece suit, be sure it matches, or wear a blazer and slacks – no jeans!

Mistake #3: Wearing a suit made of an exotic fabric such as suede, leather or velvet

Correction: Wear a jacket of neutral fibers (depending on the season) like wool, a wool blend, cotton, or linen.

Mistake #4: Wearing a garment that doesn’t fit.

Correction: Anything too large or too small is a dead give-away that it is not yours! Invest in ONE ‘interview’ outfit; it’s worth it!

Men’s Socks and Footwear:

Mistake #5: Wearing no socks, short socks, or socks with large prints, patterns or bright colors.

Correction: Wear socks mid-calf length so no skin is visible when you sit down. Generally, your socks should match the bottom of your slacks.

Mistake #6: Wearing dress boots, athletic shoes, deck shoes, crocs, sandals, flip flops

Correction: Wear leather shoes with or without laces; dressy loafers are OK for a casual facility—shinier materials, such as patent leather, are too dressy

Mistake #7: Wearing a short-sleeve shirt, collarless shirt, ill-fitting shirt, rolled up sleeves or wrinkled shirt

Correction: Wear a well-pressed, long-sleeve, button-down-the-front shirt with a collar. The shirt should fit your neck perfectly (If it is too tight, it will look strained and if neckline is too large your tie will drag the collar shirt down). Here’s the trick: hang your shirt in or around a steamy shower for about 5 minutes to get the wrinkles out.

Mistake #8: Wearing bold shirts in flashy colors or prints

Correction: Choose a solid or conservatively striped shirt

Men’s Ties:

Mistake #9: Wearing a flashy tie, a tie with religious, political or sports symbols, or with cartoon characters

Correction: Wear a tie with neat repeating patterns or a traditionally striped tie. When in doubt, be on the conservative side

Men’s Jewelry:

Mistake #10: Wearing excessive amounts of jewelry , or body jewelry (ear, eyebrow, nose rings)

Correction: Limit yourself to a watch and one ring per hand

For Women While many of the mistakes and appropriate recommendations above apply to women as well, there are a couple of additional points for women:

  • Suit: Wear a pant suit or a knee-length skirt suit
  • Hosiery: When wearing a skirt suit, wear neutral or flesh-tone stockings. In spite of the no-hosiery trend, this interview needs to be your BEST day so err on the formal side.
  • Shoes: Wear a low-heel shoe versus flats or 4+-inch high heels; no sandals, tennis shoes or flip flops. Depending on the season, boots are OK too.
  • Necklines: Too low a neckline can give the interviewer the wrong impression. Button up your blouses. Do not show any undergarment shoulder straps.
  • Hemlines: Wear a suit that reaches the middle of the knee or 1-2 inches below the knee. When legs are crossed, the interviewer may be given the wrong impression.
  • Perfumes: Do not wear any. Some interviewers may be allergic and you don’t want to leave an impression of your perfume in their office all day. Additionally, aromas are very subjective; the interviewer may just not like your scent…ever.

All Genders: Briefcase / Portfolio / Pen:

Mistake #11: Not having anything with you to take notes with. Not having copies of your resume.

Correction: Bring in a portfolio or briefcase with a clean pad and pens (have back-up!), multiple copies of your resume, notes you have taken to prepare for the interview, including questions you will ask them, and a copy of the job description. Toss in a bottle of water and a nutritional bar in case you are waiting or are given a short break.

All Genders: Cell phone:

Mistake #12: Talking or texting on your way into the interview area — or worse yet, taking a call during the interview. Your cell phone should be off once you are on the premises.

Correction: Turn off your cell phone as soon as you step out of your vehicle or transportation. Trick: Put a big yellow sticky note on your portfolio to remember.

All Genders: Hats or Sunglasses:

Mistake #13: Wearing a hat or sunglasses in the building for your meeting.

Correction: Do not wear a hat and remove sunglasses immediately upon entering the building. (No sunglasses up on top of your head—remove them completely)

These recommendations are for the traditional, conservative industries. If you’re pursuing a position in the creative or artistic field, you may need to adjust these recommendations. However, always err on the conservative side of the industry unless you feel you simply could not be happy working in a somewhat conservative environment.

Remember, this is your BEST day and you want to be remembered for your “total package”, including the presentation of your skills and capabilities. Yes, dressing for success is important. As Shakespeare said, “All the world is a stage and we are merely players”….the interview is your ‘stage’.

At www.CutTheCrapGetAJob.com you will get a lot more guidance on how to win a job.


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