In this ultra-competitive job market you need every advantage possible to land a job. On the other side of that coin, you need to avoid pitfalls that could cost you the job before you even open your mouth. First impressions are key when meeting with prospective employers and the way you dress plays a major role in that first impression.
Whatever you wear to a job interview should speak to the employer and should say “I am qualified for this job and I can fit in nicely to your job environment.”
Standard Men's Interview Attire
Conservative suit (preferably solid color or light pinstripe)
White long sleeve shirt
Basic tie (without too much pattern or flash)
Black socks (with little or no pattern)
Dress shoe or loafer-type shoe
Clipped nails and a fresh haircut
For “Business Casual Attire” swap out the suit for a blazer (optional) and dress slacks or khakis
For the Ladies - Women's Interview Attire
Solid color, conservative suit with a matching blouse
Moderate shoes (no spiked heels)
Tan or light hosiery
Manicured nails and a neat, professional haircut
Light make-up & perfume
Portfolio pad (with pen) to take notes (briefcase not required)
If you are applying for a job in an office you should definitely wear office attire: A suit (if possible), a nice tie, and dress shoes. If you don’t have a suit, you will still be ok if you wear a nice dress shirt (solid colors are best, with a nice tie, slacks and dress shoes. For the ladies, the standard office attire above should work. Trying to look “cool” or “different” to stand out from other applicants is most likely not going to make the good first impression. This means leaving the gym shoes at home and not trying to rock the latest Rocawear jacket. This very well may be the dress code at your potential office, but save the gear for AFTER you get the job.
If you are applying for a job as a construction worker, or some job that will require you to be “out in the field”, unless your interview is on the construction site you should follow the same rules as the Office Job. Most construction companies have a home office or a site trailer where the professionals handle the construction paperwork. In either case, this area is free from loose nails and boards and the people who work in this area usually wear “business casual” attire at worst. If you feel more comfortable without a tie you will probably do fine if you wear a nice solid color dress shirt, khakis and a rockport-type shoe. You should not show up for your job interview in construction gear (dirty jeans, a t-shirt and construction boots) unless you were told specifically to do so.
Fast Food Job
So you want that job at McDonalds to get your feet wet in the job world? Business casual is the way to go. Most fast food operations require you to wear a uniform when you are working so you already know the job attire. With this in mind, wearing a suit to the interview is definitely not required. A simple dress shirt or polo shirt and khakis is fine. For the ladies a simple top and casual pant will work. If you are the type who only wears jeans, you will probably be ok, just make sure that they are not sagging.
For a young student looking for their first job or internship there is no need to go the interview “dressed to the nines”. A $500 suit is not required to get you the internship and in fact may be a turnoff. A simple suit is fine, but you are just as likely to make a good impression if you wear a simple dress shirt, nice slacks and a basic dress shoe or loafer. After all, you are a student and there are certain expectations that come with that.
Remember to clip your nails, get a fresh haircut.
Things to Avoid:
Earrings, chains or other flashy jewelry
Keep the tattoos covered if possible
Do not overdo it on the cologne
No white gym socks with dress shoes
If you are having trouble affording a new suit for an interview there is an organization that may be able to help. Career Gear (www.careergear.org) is a national non-profit that helps get black men clothes for interviews. They also have mentoring and coaching programs, all designed to help you get back to work.
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