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What Does 'Looking Your Best' Mean For A Job Interview?

Posted by Peter Post  February 21, 2013 07:00 AM

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Here’s a quiz for you: You’ve been asked to come in for a job interview. You want to look your best. What should you wear for the interview if it is at:

1. A dot com company?
2. An ad agency?
3. A private bank?

Remember: What the right attire is for an interview at the dot com can be very different from what’s expected at the private bank or even at the ad agency.

Looking your best is an admirable goal. The real issue is: What is best? Best does not mean always dressed in business formal—a dark suit, white shirt and tie for men or a suit and blouse for a woman. It means being dressed appropriately for the business you are interviewing with and then kicking it up a notch.

Your goal is to look your best while also looking like you fit in. Wearing a business suit to a dot com might be as much of a problem as wearing jeans and a turtleneck à la Steve Jobs to an interview at a private bank. The best way to know what to wear is to find out what is considered appropriate at that business. In some cases, you might be able to stop by and observe what employees are wearing. However, with building security limiting access only to visitors with appointments, a phone call to the receptionist or HR department is a more likely approach.

Certainly for the private bank, dressing in business formal clothing will equate to looking your best. But for the ad agency, it may mean slacks and a more informal jacket, maybe a tie for men. At the dot com, it may even mean no jacket or tie.

Here are some things to be aware of regardless of the venue:

Clean: Clean means freshly laundered and pressed with no stains. It’s unfortunate, but every now and then you’ll get a coffee stain or other spot that won’t come out. In that case the shirt, skirt or pants is simply no longer appropriate as business clothing. A job interview is also the perfect time for a shoeshine.

Neat: One of the best clothing innovations to come along is the “no-iron” dress shirt for men and women. It’s the best. I used to iron my own shirts, and since “no-iron” became available, my iron has remained in the closet. Retire “no-iron” shirts when they lose their right-from-the-dryer crispness.

No Odor: Your clothes and you and your breath should be odor free. The shirt you wore yesterday may still be “clean,” but it may have a stale body odor scent to it. Wear freshly laundered clothing to the interview. Some companies have “no scent” policies, so this is a time to lay-off cologne, after-shave and perfume.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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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 Senior Vice President and Partner 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.