Wearing the wrong clothes to a party might prompt a few snickers — but a fashion mistake at a job interview not only creates a bad first impression, it could cost you the job.
Few managers openly admit that the way you dress is an important consideration in the hiring process. But experts say fashion and grooming mistakes can derail a candidate's prospects almost instantly.
In the last decade, the world has become a much more casual place, and for some employees, tattoos and piercings are a rite of passage.
"The new grad who borrows a tie from his dad that's 30 years old and too wide; the candidate who shows up wearing a coffee-stained shirt; the woman wearing too much lip gloss, holes in her shoes and messenger bags — these don't convey an impression of success," says Vicky Oliver, the Manhattan-based author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions.
Oliver advises job candidates, particularly recent graduates, to wear appropriate clothing for any given organization, whether it's a white-shoe law firm or a fashion magazine.
Avoiding these missteps won't guarantee you the job, of course, but at least you won't be making these mistakes.
1. THE SOCIALLY INEPT NETWORK
If you missed the dress code memo, you may miss out on a great opportunity. Show up for a job at Facebook in a suit and tie, and they'll assume you're a lawyer or an accountant. Show up looking like a slob at General Electric or Viacom, and they'll think you're looking for a job as a messenger. So do your homework about any company you're targeting and hoping to work for.
2. WHERE'S A BLACKBOARD WHEN YOU NEED ONE?
Those long, glue-on fingernails adorned with sparkles and fake diamonds may be trendy in some groups, but recruiters get a different message: She can't type. Karen Roth, president of The Hunter Search Group in Manhattan, counsels candidates to cut their nails and switch to a "pale, simple" polish before interviews. "You don't want your fingernails to be like daggers. They should be properly manicured when handing your resume to an interviewer."
3. TATTOO YOU
Tattoos are so common today, you'd think most bosses and HR departments would accept them by now. But don't take off your jacket wearing a short-sleeved shirt at a financial service office or law firm unless you want your interview to last 5 minutes or less. "Tattoos are fine if they're not highly visible," says Hilary Pearl, founder of Pearl Associates, an executive coaching and organizational consulting firm in Greenwich, Conn. "We've seen everything, including a woman who had trees and vines crawling up her entire hand. Distinctive tattoos can distract from the interview."
4. TOO SEXY FOR MY SKIRT
A too-sexy dress or style can do more than prompt a refresher course in sexual harassment law. Brian Oliver Smith, president and CEO of Urban Planet Mobile in Durham, N.C., objects to candidates who wear sexy, short skirts to interviews. "You don't need to dress in a short skirt to get a job. We're interested in big brains, not shapely legs."
5. THESE SANDALS WERE MADE FOR LOAFING
It may seem obvious to say that the clothing you wear to the beach and wear to job interviews are not compatible — but some people don't get the message. Wearing clothes that are inappropriately casual is one of the most common mistakes made — especially by young job seekers.
6. A SUITABLE JOB OPPORTUNITY
The old expression "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" is not a bad rule of thumb when hoping to ace a job interview. Wearing a suit and tie can actually work against you at a company like Urban Planet Mobile. OliverSmith says he annually interviews Duke MBAs who come dressed for Wall Street — instead of an office where men and women often wear jeans. "People are told it's better to be overdressed, but that's not correct," he says. "It's better to be culturally appropriate. Sometimes if they're wearing a suit on the second interview, I have to tell them to relax."
7. CAN YOU SEE ME NOW?
The interview isn't the time or place to prove you're an early adopter of new technology. So don't whip out your new iPhone or any other gadget in an effort to win cool tech points. Some job candidates arrive at interviews with more than just their resumes. Experts agree that laptops, mobile devices, backpacks and messenger bags to interviews don't count as fashion accessories.
8. HOW NOT TO "NAIL" AN INTERVIEW
The first time Lisbeth Salander — the girl with the dragon tattoo — appears on the big screen, the audience emits an audible gasp. She's both hideous and beautiful at the same time. But she's also terrifying. And a genius. And a risk. So take caution with the number of studs you have in any earlobe, or in your eyebrows, nose or tongue. If you do get hired, you may find yourself in the isolation ward.
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