“Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire” – Dan Zevin

Hey, I’ve done it.  I’ve committed fashion many, many faux pas before.  One of my senior pictures shows me wearing socks with sandals.  Not only was it a bad choice, it was a bad choice caught on film.  Truthfully, the word “caught” implies that I wasn’t expecting to be photographed in this ensemble.  I can’t claim ignorance either.  My mom told me outright the socks/sandals combo was a bad idea.  Thank you, Mom, for having more fashion sense than I did.  Unfortunately, I had poor listening skills.

However you want to dress on your own time is your prerogative.  You’re a tax payer.  You can do what you want.  While Henry David Thoreau cautions against enterprises that require new clothes, interviewing is one institution that requires a certain level of polish to what you wear.  We’ll go over the flip side of the previous post and cover the don’ts of dressing for an interview.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Don’t show up wrinkled.  I know I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  You could be wearing an expensive, well-tailored suit, but if you look like a hobo you’re not going to be taken seriously.  You might as well carry a bindle and wear a crushed top hat.

2.  Don’t try to use your clothes to make a statement.  A bright shirt or funky jewelry is a great way to show your individuality on your first day of work; not during your interview.  Unless you’re Ellen DeGeneres, Chuck Taylors are not to be worn with a suit.

3. Don’t wear cologne, perfume, body wash, etc.  You may not be able to smell your favorite wild papaya soap, but someone else might.  And, they might not like it.  People are sensitive (funny) to (about) smells.

4.  Don’t ignore your hair.  Hair should be neat and out of your face.  Gentlemen, remember that it’s not your job to keep the hair gel industry in business.  Also, if you have to flip your head back every 15 seconds to move your bangs out of your eyes, your hair is too long.  Paul McCartney is the only one who could pull that hairstyle off.  (I’m looking at you, Justin Bieber.)

Ladies, keep it simple but not casual.  A low-slung clip to keep your hair pulled back is fine.  A ponytail is too casual.  Also, you’re not auditioning for the Miss America pageant.  Keep a low profile. *taps nose*

I know money can be tight sometimes, but try to budget for regular haircuts.  You don’t have to go to high-end salons.  The main thing is to find an affordable place to keep your hair neatly trimmed.

5.  Don’t forget to accessorize properly.  No worn out messenger bags or backpacks.  Keep purses to a manageable size, i.e. no “runnin’ away from home purses.” (I have to give credit to my sergeant-in-arms, Em, for this great expression!)  Have a portfolio or pad holder to carry extra resumes in.

I still remember when I first moved to Seattle, Washington with three of my friends. We were crashing at my friend’s aunt and uncle’s place while job hunting.  I was getting ready for an interview; had on my suit and resumes in manila file folders.  Uncle “Joe” stopped me and said, “You’re not going to carry your resumes in like that, are you?  Yuck!  Let me give you something better to carry them in.”  At first I was annoyed by his condemnation of my method of doing things, but I have to say that a sense of humility is the best accessory a person can carry.

Once you wow them with your professional sense of style, it’s time to wow them with your talent and experience!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“It’s always the badly dressed people who are the most interesting.” – Jean Paul Gaultier

“What a strange power there is in clothing.” – Isaac Bashevis Singer

Every girl goes crazy for a sharp dressed man.  Now you don’t have to be dressed in an Armani suit or tote in a Fendi bag to land that dream job.  You do have to look like you put more effort into getting ready for an interview than you do for mowing your lawn.  Whether it’s for your very first interview or you’ve been to the prom before, we’ll go over some of the basics of the do’s on how to dress for success.

Editor’s note: I understand that taste and style differs from person to person.  Of course your personality should come through in an interview, but it should come through your answers; not your clothes.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

What to wear:

1. Wear a suit.  Whether you are a guy or a girl, wear a suit.  I know it’s old school, but we still shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July, don’t we?  Traditions are traditions because we keep doing them.  Unless you are explicitly told that a suit is unnecessary, whether it’s because of office culture or it is a working interview, put on a suit.

Things are shifting, whether you are a guy or gal, but you can never go wrong with a black suit.  Charcoal gray is also acceptable.  One thing about a black suit is that it will never go out of style.  Gentleman, wear a white button down shirt and solid color tie in a neutral or subdued color.  Ladies, also wear a button down shirt that is tucked in.  If you don’t feel comfortable tucking in your shirt due to . . . well, I get it; then a shell or a knit top can be substituted.  As unfair as it may be, women may have a little more leeway with the color of the shirt, but I still recommend white.

2. Still dress up even if a suit isn’t called for.  I recently saw a job posting that stated outright that the dress code for the entire office is business casual, so applicants should dress accordingly for the interview.  That still means wearing dress pants, or at the very least neat and ironed khakis.  I’m not a khaki snob.  I wore them every day for work for three years.  Khakis are in between dress pants and jeans in the pants pecking order.

If you are a man, a button-down shirt with the sleeves unrolled.  If you are a woman, a plain knit top or sweater in a neutral or subdued color.  The collar of your shirt should cover your collar bone.  I know that in this day-n-age that sounds like you’re on your way back to the Amish colony, but 9 times out of 10 a person won’t be rejected for a job based solely on the fact he or she was dressed too conservatively.

3.  Dress shoes.  For guys, they can either be lace-up or slip-ons, but they should also be in good shape with no holes or scuff marks.  For girls, dress shoes should be closed toed with a minimal heel.  Black shoes for men and women.

Don’t forget dress socks.  Ladies, if you don’t want to wear panty hose, consider trouser socks.  There is some debate if your socks should match your shoes or pants.  As long as they match one or the other, you’re okay.  Also, do the leg test.  Sit down and cross your legs.  You shouldn’t see any skin showing when the cuff of your pants shifts.

Where to get your clothes:

4.  Listen: In this economy it’s hard to lay down big bucks on an outfit.  I have had really good luck finding dress clothes at JC Penney.  My very first “interviewing suit” out of college was a three piece set that cost right around $35.  JC Penney, Kohls . . . Target and Wal-Mart sell suit separates that could work.  Just make sure the colors match if you’re buying separates.

There are places such as Dress for Success, REACH Reusables, Clothes Mentor who sell dress clothes at affordable prices.  Borrow from a friend.  As long as there is no visible wear, no one’s going to fault you on where you found your suit.

Your clothes don’t have to be made out of expensive materials.  They just have to be clean and fit well.  Which leads to . . .

How to wear your clothes:

5.  Make sure the suit fits.  If you look like you’re going to Picture Day at Martin Van Buren Elementary, your suit is too big.  Another thing we need to be honest about:  If you think your suit is too tight, it probably is.

One more reason to keep an eye out for deals is it may save a few dollars for any alterations.  Make sure to ask around to get a recommendation for a tailor.  Some department stores will do them or will know who to go to.  If you’re lucky like I am, you have a mom who is handy with a Janome sewing machine!

Pants should have one break or “bunch” in the front and hit the top of the sole of your shoe in the back.  Ladies, keep in mind that you probably won’t be wearing 4” stilettos to your interview so pants should fit accordingly.  Jackets should button comfortably without pulling or bunching, even when sitting.

6.  Make sure everything is ironed.  Even your shirt.  Both sides.  I recently read how a young man went to an interview and became so hot he had to take off his jacket.  It was very obvious he had only ironed the front of his shirt.  Just because your shirt is brand new, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to iron it.  Fold marks were a big pet peeve of my mother so now I pay extra attention to see if they have been ironed out.

Wow!  That is the most I’ve talked about clothes in my entire adult life.  Next time we will go over some don’ts of interview wear.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” – Mark Twain

“It’s a double rainbow all the way!!” – Paul Vasquez

I usually try to stay away from multiple posts in one day because too much blogging can turn into white noise.  Eventually people just stop listening . . . errr, reading.  However, I had to share this link/story from another blog I frequent.

Alison Green has a great blog (the link is under the Useful Links tab) where she answers HR-y type questions regarding office behavior.  She had a poster write in about an issue he’s having with his wife and how he should go about handling it . . . by utilizing IT.  It’s too bizarre to be fake.  There’s a Hollywood script in there somewhere . . .

“Well, what am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you change your number. I mean, I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan!” – Alex Forrest, Fatal Attraction

“During job interviews, when they ask: ‘What is your worst quality?’ I always say: ‘Flatulence’. That way I get my own office.” – Dan Thompson

Hopefully your well-crafted cover letters and resumes are reeling in job interviews.  Unfortunately, job interviews can be just as gut-wrenching as writing well-crafted cover letters and resumes.

Over the next several posts we’ll tackle various elements of job interviewing.  We’ll cover everything from what to wear, to how to handle the tricky questions, to some crazy interviews I have been involved in.  Hang on to your attaché case!  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!!

If you still have any cover letter and/or resume questions, please continue to send them in.  We can always delve any topic you have questions about.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“I had a job interview at an insurance company once and the lady said ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ and I said ‘Celebrating the fifth year anniversary of you asking me this question’” – Mitch Hedberg

“Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.” – Arthur Christopher Benson

I have done it.  I have relocated . . . on land and in cyberspace! One thing I haven’t done is kept up on my New Year’s resolution. Big thumbs down for me. Now that life has calmed down I will be a diligent blogger. Thank you for sticking (and moving) with me!!

Making changes is scary.  Making changes is difficult. I worried about having to ask for help moving all of my belongings 85 miles back to the F-M area.  To me, asking people to help me move ranks right up there with asking for a kidney or a ride to the airport.  But, my family and friends came through in a big way.  I am constantly amazed by the support I have in my life.

If you’re thinking about making a career change, whether it’s asking for that big promotion or a new job altogether, and are wondering if the people in your life will support you, try this.  Make a list of all of the worst-case scenarios of how they might react.  Then re-read through the list and think about how likely those responses are to happen.  My family could have refused to help me move, but the chances of that actually happening were very low.

I do realize I was in a position where I wasn’t going to uproot a spouse or children.  However, whenever I think about big changes I think about the following quote I found and put onto a PowerPoint slide:


You can do it.  You can make the changes necessary to have a happier and more productive career.  Don’t settle for unhappiness, even if you’re worried about how changing will affect other people.  Chances are the ones closest to you are feeling the ripple effect of your unhappiness.  Make a change in the New Year.  Be brave.  Be happy.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” -Unknown