How to Dress for Success

by Colleen Kay Watson

There are many articles about how to dress for interviews. We want to share our "real world" experience that we have learned through many years and thousands of interviews. This is the reality of how to dress for an interview as told to us by the leading Twin Cities, Minnesota employers:

  1. Dress one level higher than the work environment. If you are uncertain as to the dress code; call ahead and ask the receptionist what the typical dress code is for the company.
  2. Business casual does not apply for interviews. Some employers wear open collars and khaki pants. They still expect you to wear a suit.
  3. Men: Suits are better than sport coats. Women: Skirted suites are better than dresses or pantsuits.
  4. Neatness counts more than usual in an interview. Press your clothes and polish your shoes. Wrinkles and scuffs show lack of attention to detail.
  5. You can be creative on your clothing budget. You can wear the same outfit to the second and even third interview, with a different shirt, tie, blouse, necklace, or other jewelry.
  6. Women: Body piercing should only accent the ears. If you have other piercing that is visible, remove any studs and rings from those locations prior to the interview. Men: Rings on fingers is the only acceptable jewelry you should wear to an interview. You can wear all of your jewelry after you get the job, but not a moment before.
  7. Don't wear perfume or cologne to an interview. Allergic reactions can put a damper on your interview. Also, what if you are wearing the perfume or cologne of the ex- girlfriend or boyfriend of the interviewer. Their memory can be most easily triggered by a fragrance and you don't want them to have unhappy thoughts while they are meeting you.
  8. When in doubt, dress on the conservative side. Remember that this is the best the employer ever expects you to look. They are thinking it's all down hill from here.

One of my favorite stories is about the candidate that thought fashion magazines where the "Bible" of "Dressing for Success". This young man was a victim of the 1970's and dressed like one of the "Wide and Crazy Guys" from S.N.L. He unbuttoned his flowered shirt to his waste and hung a large medallion on his hairy crest. He had bell-bottomed polyester pants and "Go-Go Boots." This candidate then went to an interview with Procter and Gamble. The personnel office called and said that while the candidate's credentials were impressive, they would not consider him for any future interviews.

Keep these tips in mind as you Dress for Success!

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About the Author

Colleen Kay Watson is CEO and Co-Founder of Career Professionals®, which helps job seekers find entry-level opportunities in Management, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Finance and Administrative positions. For more information about Career Professionals®, please go to or call 952-835-9922.

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