The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that more than 1.6 million students will graduate with bachelor’s degrees this year, which means competition for entry-level interviews is fierce and candidates should welcome any advantage.
Enter your wardrobe. Brian Tracy, an internationally known leadership and training consultant, said, "Your clothes are responsible for 95 percent of your first impression." Get an edge on the competition by dressing the part of up and arriving professional, and you’ll add to a favorable first impression with the interviewer.
Learn the dress code before the interview. Calm those butterflies in your stomach by doing your homework and preparing thoroughly for your interview. In addition to learning as much as you can about the company and position before meeting with the interviewer, call ahead and find out the company’s dress code. Call the human resources department or to talk to a friend working at the company to learn what to wear to your interview.
Dress the part. "A first impression is formed within seven seconds — before you even present your resume or speak a word," said Colleen Hammond, founder of Total Image Institute and author of the international bestseller Dressing with Dignity. "Decision makers need to visualize you in the position they are trying to fill. So dress for the job you’re applying for!"
For men, Hammond suggested:
- A suit jacket and slacks in a dark, neutral color, such as black, navy or gray, with an Oxford-type shirt and tie. "A blue and red striped tie exudes confidence and professionalism," Hammond said.
Women have more choices:
- A pant suit with loose-fitting, pressed trousers and black pumps.
- Matching skirt and jacket suit with colorful, complimentary blouse.
- Tailored, professional dress.
What about piercings and tattoos? Most interviewers understand young people graduating from college are likely to have tattoos and piercings. That doesn’t mean that you should flaunt your lip ring, however. A survey from TheVault.com states 60 percent of employers were less likely to hire a candidate with tattoos or piercings. While that may seem unfair, it’s important to understand not everyone shares your love of ink. Before your interview and after you’re employed, consider the following:
- Remove piercings from the lips, face, eyebrows and tongue.
- Use clear retainer jewelry.
- Wear long sleeves to cover large arm tattoos.
Nail casual office attire. If you choose to go more casual, business casual doesn’t mean anything goes. Familiarize yourself with what others in the office wear on casual Fridays or throughout the workweek. Err on the side of dressing more formally.
In general, casual work attire for men means khaki or navy-colored slacks, a collared shirt of some type, and casual loafers or other leather shoes with matching socks.
Women can choose to wear slacks or a casual skirt, such as a pencil skirt, although Hammond said to choose a pencil skirt that’s neither too tightly fitting nor too short. Adding a colorful blouse, black flats or ballet shoes, and a pretty cardigan lends a professional appearance to a woman’s casual work attire.
Dress for success. Even if your resume or internship experience is outstanding, wearing too casual clothing, scuffed shoes or even too much cologne or perfume can be a turn-off at work. Dress to impress, and dress for success for your first job out of college and beyond.