Congratulations! You have a job interview! Just like you need to prepare yourself for the questions your interviewer is likely to ask, you need to prepare yourself for the impression you’re going to make on the people you meet. Your business management and accounting degree isn’t going to be as impressive if you walk into the office looking like someone who works at a landscaping company. All the gerontology training in the world isn’t going to convince a hiring manager that you’re the mature and responsible candidate they’re looking for if you show up in overalls and pigtails.
So what fashion blunders do you need to avoid when you’re job interviewing? Here are 7 vital mistakes to avoid, to help you stay the focus of the interview—not your clothes.
1. Wacky, unconventional accessories. Avoid wearing giant pieces of jewelry, or an excessive number of accessories, like a hand full of rings and a wrist full of bracelets or a neck full of pendants like you are an impressive rapper. And definitely avoid wearing a nose ring and any other facial jewelry, or more than one earring per ear. You want the interviewer to be looking at your eyes while you talk, not counting your piercings.
2. Extreme makeup or hairstyles. If you wear makeup, keep it low-key and natural, rather than dramatic; definitely nothing sparkly, bright, or heavy-handed. Unfortunately, what looks good in a club or bar looks garish under florescent lights. Keep your lip color neutral and light—which is definitely easier and neater to keep from getting smudged. And make sure your hairstyle is simple, clean and neat, rather than spiked-up and full of product, even if your hair looks the coolest when it is spiked up and full of product.
3. Open-toed or backless shoes. Open-toed and backless shoes are much too casual for an interview. And by all means, do not wear flip-flops. If you wear flip-flops, there is no hope for you at all.
4. Obviously old, wrinkled, or stained clothes. This should be a no-brainer—you need to look neat, pulled together, crisp, clean and professional. Check your clothes carefully for rips, stains, fading, unraveling and holes. Iron your outfit the night before and hang it up, or get it professionally pressed if you are hopeless with an iron like I am. Have someone else take a look at the outfit you’re thinking about wearing, so they can catch any flaws you might have missed.
5. Denim. In some creative industries, like graphic arts and computer programming, interview standards tend to be slightly more relaxed, and an interviewee can—depending on the company!—wear jeans with a blazer. But the jeans must be neat, new, clean and unwrinkled, not novelty jeans with rips and bleach stains. But for 99 percent of industries, avoid wearing jeans at all costs, as most companies find them too casual for an interview. And even if you’ve graduated from a graphic arts program or have a computer programming degree, never, ever wear a denim jacket or blazer to an interview.
6. Short skirts, leggings, capris. You might have great legs, but wearing a miniskirt is unprofessional. Hemlines should hit around knee length: just above, at, or below. Remember that leggings are never, ever pants and should never be worn in a professional situation or without a skirt on top of them, and stick with capris on your days off only.
7. Too-bright or too-dark colors. Really bright colors are distracting, especially neon and jewel tones. But all-black can also look too serious and severe. Try to pull together an outfit in darker, toned-down navy blues and grays.
In the end, your potential employer likely doesn’t care if you have tattoos, prefer to dress more creatively to express yourself, or wear a lot of jewelry in general: but an interview is not the place to make a fashion statement. You need to convey a specific impression of a professional who is reliable and serious. When you dress neatly and professionally, you become the focus of your interview, not how you look or what you’re wearing—and that’s exactly what you want.
Sara Nelson is the Social Media Guru for CollegeAmerica, overseeing the college’s profiles on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and more. She is also a student in the Master in Business Administration (MBA) program, and she enjoys spending time with her family, listening to good music, and eating freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.