Job Search Tip of the Week #18 (2017)


How to End Your Interview Before it Even Begins

Dress to Un-impress

“What to wear to the interview in the summer?” is a trick question, because despite the brighter colors, more casual garb, and shorter hemlines and sleeve lengths that the summer months tend to bring into the office, interview attire stays the same year-round!

What NOT to Wear

You can quickly put yourself on the “Do Not Hire” list by wearing or carrying:

  • Anything neon-colored, or so bright that it can cause blindness and/or be seen from outer space.
  • Anything denim.
  • A collarless tee or shirt.
  • A shirt with words on it.
  • A golf shirt.
  • An off-shoulder shirt or one with straps that do not cover your shoulders completely, such as a muscle tee, spaghetti strap tank, or strapless top.
  • A midriff-baring shirt such as a crop-top.
  • Shorts or anything with a hemline higher than three inches above the knee.
  • Open-toed shoes such as flip-flops or strappy sandals, or boots or sneakers.
  • Sunglasses (No, they can’t double as a headband).
  • A big, bulky bag that knocks people over as you make your way to the reception desk.
  • Drinks (they make for a bad handshake)
Appropriate Interview Attire & Appearance

If you want to portray yourself in the best light possible to your potential employer and co-workers, always err on the conservative side. An interview-appropriate wardrobe includes:

For gentlemen,

  • Well-groomed facial hair. If you have long hair, pull it back so your hair is out of your face.
  • Neatly-trimmed nails.
  • Little to no cologne. If you used aftershave, limit the cologne to one spritz max.
  • A long-sleeve, collared button-down shirt. Solid colors or thin stripes are best.
  • A silk tie that’s a solid color or a subtle print. Whichever you choose, make sure that it hangs either to the top of your belt or at most, only a few centimeters below.
  • A tailored suit of a solid color (navy, dark grey or black) or subtle weave pattern (If you opt for plaid, it should give the illusion of a solid color from across the room).
  • A leather belt that matches your shoes.
  • Dark-colored socks that complement the color of your shoes and hit mid-calf (no skin should be visible when you sit down).
  • Minimal jewelry. You should remove all earrings, especially if you’re part of a conservative or traditional industry. If you decide to wear a necklace, it should be worn under your shirt.
  • Padfolios are preferred over briefcases, and if you don’t have a reason to carry a briefcase, don’t (because it’ll look silly when you open it and it only contains your résumé). No backpacks!

For ladies,

  • A hairstyle that keeps your hair out of your face but is professional (no pigtails or messy braids).
  • Neatly manicured, clean nails of a reasonable length and conservative color.
  • Little (a spritz on the wrist) to no perfume.
  • “Natural” makeup, which includes concealer, foundation, bronzer, blush, and a subtle lipstick.
  • Shoes with a heel of three inches or less. Closed-toe pumps are best, dressy flats are acceptable. If you go with peep-toe heels, don’t wear pantyhose otherwise you’ll look like you have webbed feet.
  • A navy, dark grey or black pencil skirt or slacks with a coordinating suit jacket. If you opt for the skirt, it should be no more than three inches above the knee (right above the knee-cap is the best length, and universally flattering). Avoid the Angelina Jolie Leg by making sure that the skirt’s side or back slit is two inches in length or less and cuts lower than mid-thigh.
  • A collared shirt or tailored blouse. Solid colors are best, but small prints are acceptable. Cleavage and shoulders should not be shown.
  • Minimal jewelry. You should wear at most two accessories. Keep in mind noise and movement; avoid dangling earrings or loud bracelets. If you have multiple piercings, remove all earrings except the ones on your earlobes.
  • Minimal “carry-ons.” Choose to carry a purse and a padfolio, a business tote, or a briefcase. Minimize distraction by ensuring bags are small and complement your outfit.

We understand that New England weather is frustrating, with it being scorching hot one moment, pouring rain the next, and then a perfect 72° sunny with blue skies. However, when you have an interview, you must always dress to impress, and never for the weather. No reason to be anxious that you’ll suffer in sweat for long, however. Three quick tips for staying cool:

  • Arrive on time, or at most ten minutes early (so that you have time to bask in the glory that is AC). That way, you won’t be running through the heat to avoid being late, and show up sweaty! Drenched in sweat and out-of-breath makes you appear harried, which negatively affects your potential employer’s perception of you.
  • Taking the most direct route to the office. Cars and taxis are encouraged, but if you’re taking public transportation, go at a non-peak commuter time if possible.
  • Carry your jacket on your arm and put it on right before you walk into the office building for your interview.

Once You’re Part of the Team

Appropriate summer office fashion varies by geography, among industries, and from office to office. You should keep in mind your company culture, and consult your employee handbook or supervisor when you are unsure. However, the summer months usually allow for:


  • No suit jacket!
  • Cotton, linen, or seersucker jackets, slacks, or skirts.


  • A short-sleeve collared shirt such as a polo (the smaller the logo, the better) or a button-down.
  • A sport coat.
  • Leather penny loafers.


  • A summer dress with some light structure (it should not be spaghetti-strapped or strapless; reveal too much of the chest, shoulders, or back; and be thin or sheer). Again, the hem should be no higher than three inches above the knee.
  • A sleeveless shirt that covers the shoulders.
  • Portofino shirts, with a tank worn underneath if it’s particularly sheer.
  • Bright, bold accessories. However, if you’re one who likes to accessorize, keep your outfit from being too distracting by checking yourself out in the mirror and removing one accessory before you leave home.

Unsure if you should wear something or not? Whether you’re vying for the job or you’ve already got it, the general rule of thumb is that if you’d be embarrassed to run into the president or an important client of the company while wearing it, don’t wear it. It’s always better to be overdressed than under!

Remember: Neither snow nor rain nor heat shall affect your interview attire! Your appearance reflects how seriously you take the job opportunity, and you only get one shot to make a great first impression.

Sound Off: What’s the worst interview-attire faux pas that you’ve seen?

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