We’d all love to think we’re judged by our actual accomplishments, but anyone who has ever been employed for more than a week knows that’s not really true. According to Colleen Sabatino, our resident Intern Coach, up to one-third of the success you’re likely to have in business is dependent on your image.
So if you’re not sure what the dress rules are at the job you’re interviewing for, always err on the formal end of the what you think it might be. I once showed up to a Louisiana newsroom on a full-on European suit, and looked totally stupid next to the editor in jeans and a beaten-up T-shirt. But hey, I’d rather be laughed at than offend someone. And yes, I got the job.
That said, here are some tips for men and women interviewing for a job or summer internship:
Men should wear a light (preferably white) ironed shirt with a simple and tasteful tie pattern. (That means no palm trees, LEDs or cartoon boobs. Or any combination of those elements.) Women can get a bit more stylish than men, but avoid low necklines (unless you want to intern for The Campus Socialite).
Men, wear dark pants. You’re not sailing the Caribbean today. And make sure your socks and shoes match them in all lighting conditions, not just the dim light of your closet lamp. These are unscuffed shoes that you’ve kept the wooden things in, right? Women, we know you have the right shoes somewhere — they’re the pricey ones that aren’t neon or animal print. And you can do a skirt or slacks, but keep skirt lines at or just above the knees.
Guys: A thin, simple, rectangular belt buckle that looks as un-Kenny Powers as humanly possible. Girls: Again, you get to be more creative and fashionable, but steer away from high-contrast belts. They’re supposed to be looking at your face.
Basically, don’t have too many of them. Women should keep jewelry to a minimum or don’t wear it at all. Go light on the perfume or cologne. I hope I don’t even have to tell you not to wear a hat, but I just did. I once saw a graphic designer wear three colored feathers on his ear and stop to explain the “eagle spirit” or something that each contained. DON’T DO THAT.
Other Than Clothes:
You’ll definitely want to bring your resume – in fact, bring five copies, just in case someone else asks for one. If you have personal business cards, put a few in your wallet. Writing important details in a small notepad will make you look like you care about the position. You can fit the resumes and notepad in a simple neutral-colored folder or a briefcase.
Essentially, your objective at most interviews will be to appear modern and classy, yet boring. If that’s something you have trouble with, maybe you should be working for Karl Lagerfeld, not PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Remember, if your work stands out and you get promoted, then you can eventually boss out and do all the crazy things that people in authority positions get away with.
On interview day, looking average is something to be proud of.