How to dress for success

By Colleen Vest

Young Americans, especially college students and recent college graduates, use clothing as a form of expression and creativity. But in the corporate world, a fashion faux pas can decrease the chance of securing a job.

According to an August 2006 survey led by The Ladders Web site, an online job search and resource site for corporate and executive recruiters, future employers evaluate not only interview performance and experience, but also attire and cleanliness.

The survey also found that 60 percent of the 2,245 executives surveyed said future employees who dress in suits are taken more seriously.

Proper appearance helps exude confidence and maturity. Preeti Singh, a consultant at the Career Center, 715 S. Wright St., offers tips for what type of clothing should be worn to impress future employers.

“Well the rule of thumb is always to be very professionally dressed, which for boys and girls would be a business suit,” Singh said.

The suit should be dark colored, preferably black or blue and paired with a white or light blue long sleeve button down shirt, according to Seeking Success.com, a career advice Web site. A tie should be worn in a solid color or small pattern, nothing too distracting. Black dress socks and polished black dress shoes ensure a clean look from head to toe.

For corporate women, a business suit, skirt suit or pant suit is appropriate, the Web site said. Minimal makeup and jewelry should be worn, and hair should be neat and kept off the woman’s face. Save the stilettos for going out – office style requires closed toe dress shoes with a heel no higher than two inches.

To get an idea of how employees typically dress, it is all right to visit the job site before the interview, Singh said. If that is not possible, it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Not much can be done after arriving to an interview and realizing the dress code is more formal. Women should carry makeup, and men should carry a spare tie to avoid potential mishaps.

Without a specific dress code, career fairs are a little more difficult to prepare for.

“Career fairs, actually, are when you’re meeting your perspective employers who may call for an interview, so again it is always better to be dressed very professionally,” Singh said.

College students want to avoid making appearance mistakes before entering an interview or attending a career fair, Singh added. If perfume or cologne is worn, it should be clean and subtle. Shoes should be scuff free and newly polished. Good posture and a smile add confidence and respect.

Women should avoid heavy makeup and flashy jewelry. Bare legs are not office appropriate, and young women tend to forget that neutral colored stockings must be worn with a skirt suit, Singh said.

The corporate market is becoming more competitive, and first impressions are hard to forget.

“An interview should always be formal dress because college students applying for job positions in the actual corporate world want to be taken seriously, and professional attire does lend some credibility to you,” Singh said.