Monday, November 17, 2008

Dress the Part: Fashion Tips for Your Interview

It's recruiting season, which means the second floor of Ida Noyes Hall has been filled with students interviewing for full-time positions with a variety of organizations. In just a few months, it will be internship recruiting season, and that includes interviews for the Jeff Metcalf Fellows Program. Whether you're interviewing for a full-time job with a consulting firm or an internship position with a non-profit organization, you still have to prepare for your interviews as best you can - and that includes planning what to wear for each interview.

A recent article in the New York Times suggested that the "interview suit" is experiencing a resurgence. I say, the interview suit has always been among us - now it's just receiving the attention it deserves. While the NYT interview is geared specifically towards women (pants suit vs. skirt suit), the challenge of what to wear to an interview is something that almost everyone faces at some point in their professional career. While the article is correct in saying, "'There is no one right way to dress..." we still want to offer some advice to help you prepare for your upcoming interview - regardless of who it's with. These tips also apply for career fairs, Career Networking Nights and other events where you will likely be speaking with a potential employer - and want to look your best.

Here are some general tips for dressing the part and making a good first impression:
1. Yes, you really do need to wear a suit. Oftentimes, students will ask if they really need to wear a suit for an internship interview, since an internship isn't a "real" job. Trust us - an internship is a great resume builder, and can often lead to a full-time position in the future. You wouldn't be applying for the internship, if you didn't want to get it - so hedge your bets and wear that suit.
2. Ladies: pants vs. skirts. You're not going to get a definitive answer whether or not one is better than the other. Our advice - wear what you're most comfortable in - but if you favor skirts, be forewarned - no skirt that you wear into an interview should fall above your knee (no exceptions!), nor should it be too form fitting.
3. Gentleman: tie vs. no tie. If you're not sure if you should wear a tie into an interview, err on the side of caution and wear one. Unless you have definitive insider information (which you gained from using the Alumni Careers Network to learn more about the organization you're interviewing with - good thinking!) that a tie is not necessary, go with a more formal look. Please note: ties with cartoon characters are not considered formal, so please don't wear you're lucky Donald Duck neck tie into your first big interview.
4. Footwear: Ok, you've got your suit on and you look great. Now make sure your shoes finish the look. That means no gym shoes with your suit (yes, we've seen it), no flip flops, no strappy heels (the shoes you wore out dancing last weekend are not the same shoes that you should be wearing to an interview). Dark, polished, closed toe shoes are the way to go. Ladies, heels are great, but make sure you can walk in them first. And as one of the recruiters interviewed in the NYT article points out, "'There’s nothing wrong with wearing flat shoes and bringing heels...'"
5. Watch Your Scent: We know, you want to smell great when you go into your interview. But please do not over do it. Strong colonge or perfume, or hair gels or other products that have a strong scent, can irritate an interviewer's allergies or simply distract from your interview. Our advice - don't wear cologne or perfume into an interview at all.
6. Finishing touches: These may seem obvious, but are good tips to review - tuck in your shirt; comb your hair; and remember, no matter how nervous you are, SMILE.

For more information about preparing for an interview, including photos of what to wear and not wear, watch the CAPS "How to Interview Like a Pro" webcast.

Call CAPS at (773) 702 - 7040 to schedule an appointment with a CAPS Practice Interviewer and prepare for tough questions.

Comments, suggestions or questions about dressing for an interview? Post them here.


Career Advising & Planning Services (CAPS) said...

In the arts, whether a gallery or an administrative position in an ad agency or at an architecture firm, the dress code is no where as rigid than in the corporate sector. Rather, the ideal dress is to make a statement, not wear a uniform. One young woman, for example, wore a simple black dress and one important piece of jewery, a cheap, but beautiful large Indian bracelet. That's just about perfect: the clothes are a background for a piece of art. Just as our sign says, however, a statement isn't a kookie one, rather one that says you love art.

BullsOnParade said...


Thank you for the comment on the dress code of ad agencies, because I have this really dull matching suit and pants that I got way back when. And not sure whether I should wear that to an ad agency interview.

My other question is, let's say I have some documents that I uploaded in the old UChicagoTrak and would like to see if I can still access it to retrieve it. Is there anyway for me to access my old account?

Thank you.

Career Advising & Planning Services (CAPS) said...

Unfortunately, we don't have a way to access old UChicagoTRAK accounts, so you won't be able to access old documents from that system.

AVIL said...

This will help everyone at the time of their interview.
Very nice and informative post.
Thanks for you post.
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