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What Not to Wear to a Job Interview

“Dress for success” is a concept that has changed over time. In years past, you didn’t dare interview for even a secretarial job, let alone a management position, if you weren’t wearing a business suit. Shoes needed to be freshly polished. Tattoos? Only if you were applying for a job in the circus — or the Marines.

Today, fashion standards tend to be a bit more relaxed, especially in the creative and technical fields. Still, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and certain “no-no’s” can still end up turning people off and sending your resume to the bottom of the application pile.

Here are some fashion pitfalls to avoid when going on job interviews:

  • Clothes. It still doesn’t hurt to show up for a first interview in a business suit or, for men, at least in wearing a sport coat and tie. Avoid jeans, shorts, t-shirts or anything you’d wear to the beach. Women should avoid wearing low-cut tops and skirts/dresses that reveal too much leg. You want to look professional, not provocative.
  • Shoes. Standard “dress shoes” are preferred. Leave the athletic shoes at home. Women, don’t wear super-high heels that are likely to impede your stride or throw you off balance. (You may be doing a lot of walking if interviewing at a large company.)
  • Make-Up. Women should keep make-up to a minimum. Remember, you’re dressing to look good under fluorescents, not candlelight.
  • Perfume/Cologne. Wear a minimal amount of perfume/cologne or wear none at all. Interviews are likely to occur in a small, closed space, and you don’t want your would-be employer struggling to avoid asphyxiation.
  • Tattoos. Tats are no longer the bugaboo they were just a decade ago, but it’s still not a good idea to flaunt them during interviews. Any excessive ink should be covered by clothing whenever possible.
  • Jewelry. Conspicuous or excessive jewelry is a no-no for both men and women. Wear nothing that draws attention to itself and away from you.
  • Electronics. Don’t bring personal electronics, including MP3 players and mobile phones, into interviews. At the very least, turn all electronics off and put them away. (Even phones left on “vibrate” can be a distraction.) And don’t even think about texting in front of a would-be employer.

Once you’ve been hired and started on a job, you can gauge the fashion standards of the people around you and start to dress accordingly. Until that fine day, take as conservative an approach as you can.

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