Good clothes credentials may cinch that new job


So many graduates; so few jobs. That's the tough reality facing the class of '91 this summer.

As the recession lingers and competition for employment becomes more intense, so does the need to be thoroughly prepared for those all-important job interviews. If you're going to succeed in beating out the next person, you'll need the right credentials in your briefcase but you'll also need to dress for success.

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

When all else is equal education, aptitude, experience appearance may be the deciding factor. The person who looks the most professional, competent and confident probably will land the job.

Unfair? Maybe. But that's the way it is in the real working world.

"Invest in the right interview outfit, and you'll be investing in your future," advised Jackie Walker, owner of Options Dressing, an image styling business in Tampa, Fla.

The "right" outfit for men and women is a classic suit. Traditional "power" colors such as black, navy or gray, teamed with a white shirt or blouse, conservative lace-up shoes or pumps, minimal jewelry and a businesslike briefcase make the best impression, said several personnel managers.

And although it's midsummer, the hot weather is no excuse for leaving your socks or stockings at home. Coming to interviews without hosiery is the No. 1 mistake young job-seekers make, the personnel managers said.

Leaving a wild and trendy hairstyle untamed is mistake No. 2. And No. 3 is the least forgivable: "They just don't bother to see that everything they wear, down to their shoes, is clean, pressed, polished," Walker said.

Before leaving home for a job interview, stand in front of a full-length mirror and check your appearance front and back. Say to yourself, "How will the world see me today for what I want to accomplish?" Walker said.

For some jobs, a little more flair or a little less formality may be acceptable "but it's always best to err on the side of conservatism," Walker said. There's plenty of time to "personalize" your outfit once you're safely entrenched in the job.

"Dress appropriately for the job you're seeking," she advised. "In corporate America banking, law and so on you need an image that projects seriousness. If you're going for something in the communications field real estate, teaching, advertising you can relax a bit, but not too much. In the creative field interior design, art, retailing you can go a little more high-style. The interviewer will be looking at your flair, at how you put things together creatively."

Do your homework, Walker said. "Go to the place of business ahead of time and check out what people are wearing. Use that as a guide for your interview."

Dress for the job you'd like to have five years from now, rather dTC than an entry-level position, Maile advised.

"And remember, the most important thing to wear is a smile along with strong eye contact and a power handshake. You want to appear energetic, happy and confident."

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