The Daily Illini

Career closet helps students better prepare for interviews

Mariel Elopre

Mariel Elopre

By Sabrina Lee, Staff writer

Being properly dressed is one of the key components to consider whilst preparing for an interview.

For the average college student, interview attire will likely be necessary at some point in their educational and professional careers. As important as the articles of clothing are, not everyone has access to appropriate attire. The Career Closet is a University Career Center resource that offers students free, gently-used interview clothing.

Located on Green Street in the Career Interview Suite between McDonald’s and Subway, the Career Closet uses donated clothing to provide students with a professional outfit for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. Every University student is allowed to use the service once. 

“It was started a few years ago with the goal of providing students with the professional attire that they are unable to get otherwise, free of charge,” Sparkle Sanders, assistant director of marketing, communications & event planning at The Career Center, said.

The closet’s contents consist of a wide range of garments from suits and blazers to casual sweaters and khakis. In addition to clothing, there are also a variety of accessories, including professional heels, dress shoes, cuff links and ties.

Clothing is received through donations, which are collected from people all over the Champaign-Urbana area, including University staff, students and community members.

Sanders said donations are accepted all year.

“We try to collect attire all year, and usually, we don’t have much leftover, but anything that is left at the end of the Spring semester is saved for the next Fall semester,” Sanders said.

Last year, the Career Closet provided about 500 students with professional attire.

“Typically, we are the busiest at the beginning of each semester and during career fairs,” Jessica Howard, recruiter assistant for the employer relations team, said.

When it comes down to sizing, Howard said the fit of the garment is better than needing to have a specific piece. It’s better to wear a nice blouse that fits well rather than a blazer that is too big, Howard said.

“You need to think about your appearance and what it says or conveys about you as a person,” Howard said.

In addition to the Career Closet, the Career Center also offers many other interview resources.

The Career Center website has a very detailed page on “How to Ace Your Interview,” which consists of tips and advice for situations like interviewing over a meal or interviewing for health professions.

Mock interviews are available to be scheduled all year long, and they consist of 30 minutes of the interview and 30 minutes of feedback. You even have to dress up for it.

“The mock interview is a really great resource to be utilized,” Sanders said. “The student gives us the details of the position and interview, and we set it up to prepare the student.”

Career drop-in hours and resume reviews are also offered, and students can set up 30 minutes appointments with a career advisor to discuss any questions they might have.

“We cater to all students, and we answer all questions from students questioning what careers they want to go into to students who don’t know what to wear to an interview,” Sanders said.

While all aspects of what makes up a good interview are important, dressing the part is something that students should take seriously. Sanders said that if there are two things to remember, it’s to be well groomed and go minimal.

“While the styles of attire vary between professions, generally, you want to go for neutral or more muted colors, and minimize flashy jewelry or anything that could be a distraction from you,” Sanders said.

The time for interviews and internships can be a stressful time for students, and The Career Center works to minimize the struggle of figuring out what to wear. Howard explained that she advises every student who needs help on how to find the best fit or style for themselves.

“Dressing for interviews or different formal events is always a bit difficult, I’m glad to know that there is a resource available to help,” Christine Han, freshman in LAS, said.

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