Q. Nylons or not? I am told by many women that nylons are out of fashion, and bare legs are appropriate in the office. Your thoughts, especially for an interview?
A. While these may not be the most important job search issues ever discussed, professional appearance does have an impact on how candidates are perceived and how seriously they are taken. In a toss-up between two qualified candidates, the person demonstrating good judgment will win.
Interview attire guidelines are not the same as the rules for work attire. The suggestions for interviewing are much more conservative than for people who have already made it through the interview process and are successfully employed. Your goal as a candidate is to look professional, current, appropriate, and to make sure you are memorable for all the right reasons (your attire should not be at the top of that list!). People who disagree say that interview attire, “isn’t how I would dress for work”. However, for example, doctors and nurses don’t interview in scrubs or lab coats. There is a uniform for interviews, so use your creative expression in other areas.
Situations for wearing hose (or not) continue to be discussed by many fashionistas. As an interview guideline, if you choose to wear a dress or skirt and jacket, I recommend wearing very sheer hose, in all seasons. In addition, a survey recently reported on Boston.com (“Workplace Attire No-No’s”) only 57% of people over 50 consider “no hose” acceptable, and 73% of men find the “no-hose-look” distracting. In an interview situation, offend the fewest people possible – you don’t know who you will be meeting.
And men need to mind their own hose selection. Match the trousers with socks that go over the calf with working elastic. Socks in a puddle on top of unpolished shoes do not represent anyone well.
A final accessory for discussion - your phone and headphones. Put them away before you enter the main building of the office where you are to meet or interview. Turn the sound off, turn the vibration off, power down. Do not distract yourself or the people you meet by having to take your headphones off as you are greeting the receptionist, or the person who will interview you. Be focused and let people know there is nothing more important than this interview, this company and the work you would be doing for them. While you wait, review the materials in the leather portfolio you brought. Enjoy the look of the extra copies of your resume and refresh yourself on the interview answers you have prepared, or the questions you want to ask. And of course you can always read the company literature on the end table in the waiting area.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.