Horizon guide: dressing for success

Kristin Kennedy, Staff Reporter

Imagine this: A person walks into a job interview wearing a wrinkled T-shirt, jeans and dirty shoes. Will the person get the job?

Chances are, the person will be out of luck.

According to Undercover Recruiter, 65 percent of bosses believe that clothes can be a deciding factor between two interview candidates. As a result, dressing professionally can impress potential employers or internship supervisors.

The importance of dressing professionally

Lynn Prinz, assistant director of the Career Development Center, said clothes help create a first impression in employers’ minds, so it is important for students to dress professionally when being interviewed for a job or for an internship.

“In my opinion, it’s very important to dress appropriately and professionally when you know you’re going to be with employers,” Prinz said.  “People are going to meet you for the first time, it is your first impression, and the first impression is what we remember.”

Christie Bowles, professor of elementary education, said dressing professionally for an interview or for a job is typically important.

“If you expect to be taken seriously, I think dressing professionally for an interview or for your everyday job just makes it easier for people to give you the respect that you need to get that job done,” Bowles said. “Even if you’re not necessarily in charge of other people, I think it sets the tone for that and I think it also helps you to feel more productive and more professional yourself.”

Brian Smith, business senior with a concentration in accounting, said it can be beneficial for students to dress professionally, even if they do not have a professional job or an internship.

“As a student, most of the time you don’t have to dress professionally, but there are those times when you never know if you’ll meet somebody that’ll take notice,” Smith said. “So sometimes it’s better to be prepared, because you never know when you’re going to run into somebody that you might want a job from later.”

Dressing professionally for interviews

Prinz said people should dress formally during interviews, no matter how formal or professional the job will be. According to the Career Development Center website, for interviews, men and women should wear:

  • A long-sleeved white or pale shirt
  • Polished shoes
  • Dark suits
  • Minimal perfume or cologne

Prinz said business suits can be expensive and tough to find, especially for women. “There are very few nice suits for young women out there, even older women,” Prinz said. “There’s very few nice business suits without investing a lot of money.

So the people I know that have done the best have gone to — and even that’s not cheap — gone to Banana Republic or Limited and tried to put together a nice suit.”

Prinz said clothes are not the only important factors when dressing professionally for interviews. For example, it is also important for people to have well-groomed hair. “Your hair should be well-groomed, especially women should have a hairstyle where they’re not going to be touching their hair,” Prinz said.

“Men should not have any facial hair unless they know it’s okay going in.”

Where to find professional clothing for jobs and internships

Smith said Men’s Warehouse and Joseph A. Bank are two stores that carry suits and other professional clothing items for men. “Men’s Warehouse and Joseph A. Bank both seem to be really good places to go, and they actually compete with each other so you watch their sales, and if you buy at certain times of the year you can get really good deals on a lot of clothing,” Smith said.

Bowles said she has found professional clothing items at several stores. “One of the places that I shop a lot is Kohl’s, because they do have nice, what I would consider work, clothes at pretty reasonable prices,” Bowles said. “I have found things at Target, I have found things at Walmart, I have found things at Dillard’s and other fancier department stores that are on the clearance rack or on sale.”

Prinz said consignment shops can contain clothes that are nice, clean and cheap. “I’m happy to say that I’ve found a number of nice clothes at consignment shops,” Prinz said.


Other tips for dressing professionally

Bowles said maintaining a neat appearance is the most important aspect of looking professional.

“You should always be neat and clean,” Bowles said. “That’s something you can always do. Your clothes don’t need to be expensive, but the first thing you can check is, ‘Am I neat and clean? Do these pants need to be ironed? Has this been thrown over a chair or has this been hung up?’ Because you want to give off the impression that you care enough about whatever activity you’re participating in, that you put some thought into what you’re wearing.”

Bowles said professional clothing should fit properly, and it should not be revealing.

“I think it doesn’t really matter as much how expensive your clothes are as that they fit well and they are appropriate to the situation,” Bowles said.

Bowles said she recommends that women should look for professional clothes in stores’ misses departments.

“If you just go across the aisle to the misses section, you can find nice, youthful, appropriate clothing that’s just going to be a little more modest and a little more professional looking than even the dressier clothes in the junior department are going to be,” Bowles said.

For jobs and internships, Prinz said wearing jeans is not advisable, but jeans could be acceptable in some circumstances.

“You shouldn’t wear blue jeans, unless you know it’s okay, and even if it’s okay to wear blue jeans, those blue jeans should be good blue jeans,” Prinz said. “They should not be faded out, they should not have tears in them.”

Smith said there are a few factors related to dressing professionally that men need to remember.

“Make sure your shoes are clean and shiny, make sure your belt’s not off to the side—that’s a big one I see people do—and for guys, your tie should be the right length, not too long, not too short,” Smith said. “Otherwise, it’s something that sticks out to someone who dresses professionally themselves.”

For more information about dressing professionally, especially for interviews, visit the Dress for Success link on the Career Development Center website.