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Sep 13, 2013

Landing a job interview is a huge step. It means your résumé has impressed hiring managers enough that they want to meet you, and it usually means you’re one of just a handful of applicants to make it from the application to a sit-down conversation. That’s definitely cause for celebration.

But that will come later. Right now, you’ve got to make sure your face-to-face meeting sets you apart from the other candidates for the position. One of the ways you can do that is in your appearance. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The way you look should let employers know you’re qualified for the job as much as your résumé does.

What to wear

Think professional. Men should wear suits in solid, traditional colors like navy or gray, a long-sleeved dress shirt, a belt and tie, dark socks and conservative leather shoes. Women should wear a suit with pants or a skirt. If you choose a skirt, make sure the length is appropriate. At or slightly above the knee is a good guideline. Add conservative shoes and wear nude hose. Both genders should have neat hair, clean hands and groomed fingernails. Go easy on perfume or aftershave.

Business Casual

While business suits are usually great for an interview, they may not work for every office. A good rule of thumb is to look at what others in the office are wearing. If you know someone who works there, ask them what you should wear. If not, ask the person scheduling the interview about the office dress-code. If it’s a less formal office, you might want to ditch the suit coat or pair your professional pants with a sweater. But it’s usually a good idea to dress a step above a casual dress code. If it’s a jeans-and-T-shirt office, a business casual outfit would be great for an interview. If employees normally come to work in khakis and polo shirts, a suit will help show the interviewer you’re professional and serious. When in doubt, overdressed in a professional manner is better than underdressed.

What to leave behind

Don’t wear anything torn, stained, ill-fitting, or flashy. If it shows too much cleavage, it’s not for your interview. Leave behind flip-flops, keep jewelry to a minimum and make sure it’s understated and elegant. A thin gold chain is fine; a sparkled plastic heart pendant is not. Make sure your outfit says “business” first and “casual” second.

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