I grew up in a household of clothes-lovers and shoppers. Both of my parents liked to dress for success  and valued quality over quantity.

The quality issue was a source of frustration for sis and me when we were kids. We ™d look at the clothing catalogs “ mainly from the less-expensive stores “ and dog-ear the pages with our selections. Mom and dad would not hear of it. We were taken to Neiman's for our back-to-school outfits. Of course that meant a very limited amount of clothing, since Mom and dad weren't exactly rolling in the dough, but dressing for success was still important.  Dress-For-Success

With about 5 outfits each that we rotated daily, we were forced to accept quality instead of the mass quantity of cheaper versions we desired. And little sis had the misfortune to inherit my outfits, which of course held up beautifully due to quality workmanship. Oh, the torture of having to wear high-quality clothing! What were our parents thinking?

Dad was probably the worst offender when it came to shopping. He adored grocery stores, probably because his father, an Italian immigrant, managed a small grocery/meat shop. Much to mom's dismay, dad always wanted to go to the store with her. He would marvel over the produce, the meats and especially the imports. Mom would always come home with way more than she needed because dad couldn't resist.

Dad also loved fashion; he dressed to impress. Custom-made shirts and tailored suits were his staple. He ™d meticulously pick out neck ties, cuff links and other accessories. Dad was a sharp dresser. When I got married, he spent more on his outfit than I did on my wedding dress.

Needless to say, my parents instilled in us an appreciation for fashion and a desire to look good.

Dressing for Success

This translated into a valuable career lesson: dress for the position you want, not the one you have. I ™ve found it never hurts to dress up a bit more than is required. If jeans are the staple, wear casual black slacks. I always have a jacket, even if wearing jeans, in case I ™m called to a meeting.

Unless you're wearing a ball gown and tiara, it's unlikely that you are over-dressed for work.

The same principle applies to job interviews. When prepping for an interview I ™m also carefully considering my outfit, including an outfit strategy for potential follow-up interviews.

To me, this seems like a no-brainer. We ™ve all heard the notion that impressions are made within the first 10-20 seconds of meeting. That means we're being judged on overall appearance, like it or not.
The strategy of self-presentation, as I like to call it, is crucial to our job search. Not only for job interviews, but also for networking events or any situation in which we may meet potential colleagues.

So you can imagine my frustration when I meet people at networking events that look like they just rolled out of bed. Yes, I ™m judging. You can judge me back. Not that it's really any of my business, I guess, except when I hear these same folks complain weekly about not making any connections at these events, or getting a job interview, or if they do, not receiving an offer.

Are you kidding me? Buy a mirror.

Clothing need not be purchased at Neiman's to achieve a great interview look, you can still dress for success on a conservative budget. A few quick pointers:

¢ There is no such thing as a short-sleeved dress shirt. Only long sleeves make the cut. Anything else is casual. Trust me; I was a men's furnishings buyer at Neiman's.
¢ Mr. Engineer, pocket protectors are a huge NO
¢ Braces (suspender is the country word for these) should be attached with hidden buttons inside the waist of pants. Unless you are going out to slop the hogs, DO NOT under any circumstances wear suspenders that have big clips that attach to your pants.
¢ Gym shoes with Velcro closures are not acceptable. Period.
¢ Please come to grips with your hair loss and lose the comb-over. You ™ll look years younger and much hipper.

Women (no, we're not exempt from this either):

¢ Make sure your outfit is in style or at least purchased within the last 5 years. I know you loved it in 1995 but it's not helping you now.
¢ Tailor your suit if it doesn't fit 100%. Suit sleeves should hit the wrist, but not cover your hands.
¢ If you're figure doesn't work well in a tailored suit, find a jacket alternative such as a nice sweater. As women we have tons of options, unlike the men who are stuck with a suit.
¢ Speaking of options, a traditional suit is not a must unless maybe you're a lawyer or a banker. My sympathy, if that's the case. For the rest of us, dresses and separates work too.
¢ Lose the granny shoes! You don't have to wear stilettos, but if the word comfort was a selling point when you purchased them, they're out.
¢ Less is the new more “ less skin, less jewelry, less make-up. These should complement the outfit, not draw more attention.

Everyone “ buy an iron. ˜Nuff said.

Yes, it's sad that opinions are made based on how the package is wrapped. All of us have the opportunity to wrap ourselves in a great brand advertisement, if we just take the time to do so.

I ™m sure I ™ll have more to say on this interview-fashion dilemma. Right now I ™ve got to work on my clothing strategy, so I too can dress for success.

For more posts from Tami on careers, job interviews and job less see the following. Tami turns job loss into shopping fever, baseball games and vegetables…yes, vegetables.

Mail Call Ritual

Vegetables; are they really a necessity?

Going to the Show



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  1. This is all very good advice. I am not judging anyone, but I can tell you that as a hiring manager I saw a LOT of inappropriate attire being worn to interviews, and honestly, I had to wonder how well they would do if they didn’t even know how to dress for that particular job. Great article.

    1. Thanks Mike! Once I had a woman show up to the interview wearing rubber flip-flops. Yes, our company had a relatively casual dress code, but that was ridiculous!