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JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire

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JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 22 Sep 2010, 17:11
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What Your Clothes Say About You:

In an interview (and in life) your attire plays a supporting role. Appropriate attire supports your image as a person who takes the interview process seriously and understands the nature of the industry in which you are trying to become employed. If you are primarily remembered for your interview attire, this is probably because you made an error in judgment! In some industries, customer contact and image presented to the customer are the most critical element. In such industries, your attire will be judged more critically.

Your attire should be appropriate and most importantly, well-fitting. It should not take center stage. Dressing nicely and appropriately is a compliment to the person you meet, so if in doubt, err on the side of dressing better than you might need to. Even if you are aware that employees of an organization dress casually on the job, dress up for the interview unless you are specifically told otherwise by the employer.

Changes in fashion may change some things, like the width of lapels, the cut of pants, or the colors of blouses available in the stores. Basic professional attire does not change with the whims of fashion. A good suit should last five to ten years, depending on its quality, how hard you wear it, how well you care for it, and if it continues to fit you well. You can express fashion's whims in your off-the-job clothes, and to some extent in your accessories.

Cost / quality: You are not expected to be able to afford the same clothing as a CEO, but you should invest in quality that will look appropriate during your first few years on the job. One good quality suit is sufficient for a job search if that is all your budget allows. You can vary your shirt/blouse and tie combination.

Attire Specifics for Men:
• Always wear a 2-piece suit in a conservative color. No double-breasted. No suit jackets with different pants. This is NOT a suit.
• Color/Pattern: Solid Navy or Dark Gray. (I would never deviate) Very subtle weave patterns or plaids (the kind that look solid across a room) are sometimes ok. Although commonly worn by many, black for men is considered overly formal (weddings, funerals, clubbers) or for the hospitality industry. Avoid Bold pinstripes.
• Fabric: Wool, NEVER polyester or anything that is a blend (typically add too much sheen and look cheap)
• Lapel: Standard notch, not peak or skinny lapels (too fashion forward)
• Ties: Select good quality silk ties. No Mickey Mouse or Corporate/university logos. This is also not the place for wool, knit, or skinny ties. I would go with 2.5" or wider. Stick with four-in-hand or half windsor knot. No double windsor (screams pompous).
• Shirts: Long-sleeved shirts, even in summer (you shouldn't even own short sleeve unless you were a missionary). Choose white or light blue solid cotton, that is it! No silk or fancy fabrics. Button-downs are less formal and inappropriate. Go with a simple straight collar, not spread unless conservative.
• Cuffs: Barrel cuffs, no French/double cuffs. Do NOT wear contrasting cuffs/collars. They scream executive, which you are not. They also scream Michael Douglas circa 1980s.
• Socks: Dark, matching socks, mid-calf length so no skin is visible when you sit down. No crazy colors or patterns.
• Shoes: Shined and clean Leather lace-ups. No slip-ons. No synthetics. No rubber soles. Black, dark brown, or cordovan. Plain toe, split toe, and cap toe are fine. Brogues and semi-brogues are typically more casual. Invest in a good pair; even if you don't wear them daily on the job, you'll need them for other occasions and you should expect to get lots of years out of good shoes. Your choice in footwear says a lot about you as a person in a very subtle (or not so subtle) way and is the most judged thing about you. This rule applies beyond just interviews, i.e. dates, meeting your girlfriend's family, meeting clients, etc.
• Belt: Leather and reasonable slim. Should exactly match your shoes. No crazy belt buckles. No suspenders/braces. (Again, 1980s)
• Accessories: Wear a conservative watch. Wedding ring is the only other piece that can be worn. No ear or face rings for men (duh). No tie bars. No cufflinks. Cufflinks are fine in everyday business wear, but I would NOT wear them for interviews at b-school or otherwise. Same goes with pocket squares, flashy socks, etc. I think cufflinks would be fine for something like an information session or something more casual. If I did, I would go with something like fabric knot links instead of flashy metal generally. No pocket squares. They scream fashion forward, not conservative.
• Details: Clean and well pressed. Suits typically have tacking stitches to hold vents — on the jacket back and on sleeves — in place before the garment is purchased. Cut them off if your retailer / tailor doesn't. If you buy off the rack, that tag stitched on the outside of your sleeve is not meant to stay there. Carefully inspect clothes dangling threads, etc.


Attire Specifics for Women (not absolutely positive on the rules here):

• Don't confuse club attire with business attire. If you would wear it to a club, you probably shouldn't wear it in a business environment.
• Suit: see above
• Suit - pants / skirts: Tailored pants suits are appropriate for women. Pants suits can be an excellent choice for site visits. If you wear pants, they should be creased and tailored, not tight or flowing. If you are pursuing a conservative industry and are in doubt, observe well dressed women in your industry on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, etc.
• Skirt lengths: Should cover your thighs when seated. Showing a lot of thigh makes you look naive at best, foolish at worst. A skirt that ends at the knee when you're standing looks chic and professional. Longer skirts are professional too; just make sure they are narrow enough not to be billowing, but not so narrow that you can't climb stairs comfortably. Don't purchase a skirt or decide on a hem length until you sit in the skirt facing a mirror. That's what your interviewer will see. Ask yourself whether it will be distracting or reinforce your image as a person who looks appropriate for a business environment or gathering. High slits in skirts are not appropriate. A small back, center slit in a knee-length skirt is appropriate. O n a calf length skirt, a slit to the knee to facilitate walking and stair climbing is appropriate.
• Color / fabric: Navy, dark gray, brown and black are safe. Solid or very subtle weave pattern or plaid (the type that looks solid across a room). Women generally have more options with suit color than men. For example, while a women could look conservative in a slate blue or light gray suit, these colors would be inappropriate for men. Wool, wool blends, and high quality blends and synthetics are appropriate for women's suiting.
• Shirt / sweaters: Underneath the suit jacket, wear a tailored blouse in a color or small print that coordinates nicely with your suit. A fine gauge, good quality knit shell is also appropriate underneath your suit jacket. Don't show cleavage.
• Jewelry / accessories: Wear a conservative watch. Jewelry and scarf styles come and go. Keep your choices simple and leaning toward conservative. Avoid extremes of style and color. If your industry is creative, you may have more flexibility than someone pursuing a conservative industry.
• Cosmetics: Keep makeup conservative. A little is usually better than none for a polished look. Nails should be clean and well groomed. Avoid extremes of nail length and polish color, especially in conservative industries.
• Shoes: Should be leather or fabric / micro fiber. Shoe styles and heel heights come and go. Choose closed-toe pumps. Regardless of what is in style, avoid extremes; no stilettos or chunky platforms. Make certain you can walk comfortably in your shoes; hobbling in uncomfortable shoes does not convey a professional appearance.
• Hosiery: Should be plainly styled (no patterns), sheer is most conservative (not opaque), and in neutral colors complementing your suit. Avoid high contrast between your suit and hosiery color.
• Purse / bag: If you carry a purse, keep it small and simple, especially if you also carry a briefcase. Purse color should coordinate with your shoes. You may choose to carry a small briefcase or business-like tote bag in place of a purse. Leather is the best choice for briefcases; micro fiber or fine wovens are also acceptable. Avoid purses that look like beach/pool totes, partyish, or little-girlish.


Tips for everyone:

• Hair: Should be clean and neat.
• Details: No missing buttons, no lint; and don't forget to remove external tags and tacking stitches from new clothes.
• Hands: Clean fingernails.
• Fit: Clothes should be clean, neatly pressed, and fit properly.
• Smell: Perfume or cologne should be used sparingly or not at all. Remember that some people have allergies/sensitivities; you'd hate for that to derail an interview. No odors in clothes. Don't smell like smoke.
• Pad folios: Preferred over a bulky briefcase. A small briefcase is also appropriate. But if you have no reason to carry a briefcase, don't; you risk looking silly.
• Book bags: Absolutely not. Leave it at home.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any specific questions or want advice or examples.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 27 Sep 2010, 19:49
Kudos! nice advice :)
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 28 Sep 2010, 06:38
Thanks, I hope others can get something from this, and by all means let's get a discussion going if you disagree!
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 01 Oct 2010, 07:26
Great advice. I never thought about the black suit but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense!
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 03 Oct 2010, 11:17
The major problem I see with suits for men is that 90% of people wear suits that are too big. So even if you hit the Armani store, make sure it's your size. Do not rely on the sales guy or gal to tell you how you look, they would sell you the ugliest clothes if they could.

ONLY the leg length should be retouched, nothing else. If the sales rep starts pinning you all over the place to retouch the belt, sleeve length and what have you, he is simply destroying the cut of the suit. So choose another suit or lose/gain some weight to fit the proportions right. Go for slim fit cuts.

Black is perfectly fine for business, it's all about the fabric, you'll want to go for Italian garment if possible. I find matching shoes with grey suit is much harder. Brown shoes ($200+ pick Italian or British marksmanship) work well with navy blue suits. Black shoes does not always work out with grey suits.

Wear french cuffs only if you feel completely relaxed and have the proper attitude or you'll look like a cheap gekko.

And for christ sake so do not walk in with a laptop bag hanging on your shoulder! You are destroying the shoulder foam of the suit and people will consider you as a geek.

Million dollar tip: leave the jacket pockets stitched! Under no circumstance you shall put anything in these pockets!

Always leave the bottom button of your jacket unbuttoned, and before sitting down, remember to unbutton or you might tear the jacket.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 03 Oct 2010, 11:58
"No double windsor (screams pompous)"......... not always, if its a tight knot single/doubles are hard to differentiate.

See the problem with your post is that you cant get away with one or two of no no's on your list but not all of them obviously.

What if everything is up to your post' standards( Most of which i agree with) but then i have a tie bar. Thats not a big deal. Also most would say tie bars are conservative.

If a have a paisley silk tie, w/ matching pink pin stripe shirt and pocket square then that may not be a good look.

And why does everything have to SCREAM? all of this is opinion,

A blue shirt with contrasting cuffs screams executive? come on, no ones gonna care about that.You need to stop watching Wall Street over and over. haha

I appreciate the effort though. Kudos for that!
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 04 Oct 2010, 10:58
jordanhendrix wrote:
A blue shirt with contrasting cuffs screams executive? come on, no ones gonna care about that.You need to stop watching Wall Street over and over. haha


When is the last time you saw someone wearing contrast cuffs and didn't think something negative to yourself? That look is too 1980s.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 04 Oct 2010, 12:42
The last time I saw one I told myself: "Damn they are coming back in fashion! I can't wear them anymore until people stop wearing them".
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 04 Oct 2010, 17:49
jbharris88 wrote:
jordanhendrix wrote:
A blue shirt with contrasting cuffs screams executive? come on, no ones gonna care about that.You need to stop watching Wall Street over and over. haha


When is the last time you saw someone wearing contrast cuffs and didn't think something negative to yourself? That look is too 1980s.


Sorry, I don't judge books by their covers or people by their shirts. That screams pretentious! Haha

Seriously though I know what you mean but have you ever tought that your sentiments towards a particular fashion trend may not be universal.

For what's it's worth I don't wear such shirts for no other reason than I don't like them. A shirt like that isn't make or break in anyway.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 04 Oct 2010, 17:56
jordanhendrix wrote:
jbharris88 wrote:
jordanhendrix wrote:
A blue shirt with contrasting cuffs screams executive? come on, no ones gonna care about that.You need to stop watching Wall Street over and over. haha


When is the last time you saw someone wearing contrast cuffs and didn't think something negative to yourself? That look is too 1980s.


Sorry, I don't judge books by their covers or people by their shirts. That screams pretentious! Haha

Seriously though I know what you mean but have you ever tought that your sentiments towards a particular fashion trend may not be universal.

For what's it's worth I don't wear such shirts for no other reason than I don't like them. A shirt like that isn't make or break in anyway.



You may not agree, and I respect that, but in a cut throat environment like B school and beyond, why temp your fate? I don't speak for every industry, but I know in consulting we judge our peers, our bosses, and our clients by how they present themselves. You can rest assured that if you show up in my office with dirty shoes you will not be getting hired. Just march over to a site like styleforum.net and you'll see a huge mix of different industries with successful executive management that will cast the same type of judgments. The points above are that it's an easy formula to follow, so why go against the grain, especially if you are targeting jobs in conservative industries?
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 04 Oct 2010, 20:17
Dirty shoes? That's neither here nor their. Would a big four firm axe me on the color of my cuffs alone? You're missing the point playing it safe is fine and recommended but your opinion of what that is, is just that, an opinion. Either way I stand by the kudos I gave you for the post and agree: dirty shoes = no. White cuffed blue shirt, not as bad.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 05 Oct 2010, 06:56
Look, we can debate fashion from now until eternity, but at the end of the day the only truth in fashion is that there are no absolute rules. There are, however, generally accepted standards for business style (which jbharris pretty well lays out in his original post). Do people deviate from those standards and still get a job, get promoted, etc? Yes. But, the more you deviate from those standards, the greater the risk that you will create a negative impression of yourself in the mind of the person sitting across the table from you.

For good or bad, the blue shirt with contrasting white collar is pretty much associated in younger people with type A banker types. If that's the impression you want to give someone, then go with it. But realize that that impression may not be favorable in all settings.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 05 Oct 2010, 07:24
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Jerz wrote:
For good or bad, the blue shirt with contrasting white collar is pretty much associated in younger people with type A banker types.


We had people dressed like that during my summer internship.

For older partners, directors etc dressed like that, we were like - "Hmm, classy look..."

To fellow interns, we were like, "What a douche..."

But this one intern topped it all when he showed up on a friday wearing a Louis Vuitton loafers.... and a bowtie.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 05 Oct 2010, 07:46
Thank you Jerz, I completely agree. These things are little more subjective than this shirt screams "douchebag" and this one screams "good worker"
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 05 Oct 2010, 10:51
As Jerz said, there are no rules - just conventions.

And the basic guideline is this: the lower you are on the totem pole of a company, the more you should stick to convention when it comes to attire, no matter how fashionable you may think you are. And if you have no fashion sense, then it's imperative you stick to convention.

Also, each industry will have a different set of conventions. If you're working on Wall Street (banking, PE, etc.) you can get away with french cuffs (but don't risk it in job interviews) even at the junior levels. In fact, bankers love to dress well (in the classic sense). So what the OP had mentioned is a good *general* guideline, but each industry will have a varying levels of conventions. In some industries, you can (or are expected to) be more fashion forward (fashion, advertising, media, film, music, tv). In others (like banking/PE) you are expected to dress classically well but not necessarily fashion forward. In others, if you dress a bit too well or too fashion forward, you'll stick out (read: tech, maybe some *ahem* industries in the midwest, etc.). And for some it's just casual and anything too formal will be "unconventional".

The more power/authority you have, the more leeway you have -- if you're Warren Buffet, you can come dressed as a chicken mascot and people will still take you seriously.

Fashion isn't just about individual self-expression. It's about showing a sense of respect for the context or circumstance - and without that respect for the conventions of the moment, you will come across as either "showing up" others (by being a little too decked out) or being disrespectful (by not dressing up enough). Think of funerals, weddings, graduations, etc -- and how you are expected to wear a certain kind of attire (that is also specific to a nationality/culture), otherwise you're showing no respect for the moment that is larger than your own individual taste and preference - you wear black to a funeral, and not pink because you want to make a fashion statement (or flip flops because hey, the guy's dead so what's the big deal).
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 06 Oct 2010, 12:21
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 16 Oct 2010, 21:06
I've studied fashion and worked in fashion, and I can tell you some flaws in your rules of dress.

The most glaring is telling someone not to wear slip on shoes and sticking exclusively to lace ups. The main reason being dress lace ups frequently come untied and shoes are one of the first things someone notices because they look you up and down and either start or end at your shoes. That, and slip on shoes are MUCH more in fashion than lace ups.

As far as accessories go, a class ring is more than welcome at a networking event and should be worn with the name of your school towards someone shaking your hand's perspective to see where you studied. Flashy socks are attention grabbers and when they match your tie, you look VERY put together. Pocket squares are in fashion right now and are a classic which won't go out of style.

As everyone else has mentioned, your tips are very conservative. Is this good? Sure, it's safe. Is it great? No. If you stick to a classic navy suit, you look like someone who went to JC Penny and asked someone to help you buy your first suit. You don't know how to dress if you only go conservative. You look like every other MBA who walks through the door and wishes he went to Harvard. If you show up to a marketing interview in plain ol' dress clothes, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Don't get me wrong, your tips are great for the typical MBA who doesn't know how to dress (I know the fashion police would have a field day at my school), but don't fall into the trap of conservative being better. These tips would work if this was 1970, but nowadays, recruiters don't mind excitement in clothing. If you're put together and fashion forward, you rock your look. If you show up with an orange Ted Baker tie on top of a green $20 George shirt, you'll look like an idiot. You can tell a cheap suit from a mile away.

And fashion does play a major part in your presentation. People make up their opinions of you in the first seven seconds of interaction. If you look boring, sorry to tell but, you're boring.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2010, 04:36
The thread is about Interviews, so it is preferable to drop the class ring. In a few of my past interviews I was wearing my big class ring, and I could tell the person in front of me kept staring at it. I wished I hadn't brought it.

Slip on shoes are fine, but I'm afraid people will buy "tasseled loafers" and look like idiots. It is preferable to have laces and tie a double knot. I have seen beautiful Hugo Boss loafers tough.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2010, 07:58
krussell wrote:
I've studied fashion and worked in fashion, and I can tell you some flaws in your rules of dress.

The most glaring is telling someone not to wear slip on shoes and sticking exclusively to lace ups. The main reason being dress lace ups frequently come untied and shoes are one of the first things someone notices because they look you up and down and either start or end at your shoes. That, and slip on shoes are MUCH more in fashion than lace ups.

As far as accessories go, a class ring is more than welcome at a networking event and should be worn with the name of your school towards someone shaking your hand's perspective to see where you studied. Flashy socks are attention grabbers and when they match your tie, you look VERY put together. Pocket squares are in fashion right now and are a classic which won't go out of style.

As everyone else has mentioned, your tips are very conservative. Is this good? Sure, it's safe. Is it great? No. If you stick to a classic navy suit, you look like someone who went to JC Penny and asked someone to help you buy your first suit. You don't know how to dress if you only go conservative. You look like every other MBA who walks through the door and wishes he went to Harvard. If you show up to a marketing interview in plain ol' dress clothes, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Don't get me wrong, your tips are great for the typical MBA who doesn't know how to dress (I know the fashion police would have a field day at my school), but don't fall into the trap of conservative being better. These tips would work if this was 1970, but nowadays, recruiters don't mind excitement in clothing. If you're put together and fashion forward, you rock your look. If you show up with an orange Ted Baker tie on top of a green $20 George shirt, you'll look like an idiot. You can tell a cheap suit from a mile away.

And fashion does play a major part in your presentation. People make up their opinions of you in the first seven seconds of interaction. If you look boring, sorry to tell but, you're boring.


There's a difference between fashion in the fashion industry and business fashion. While the advice you give is certainly applicable to certain business fields (advertising, for example), much of the business world is still very conservative when it comes to dress and many companies do, in fact, mind excitement in clothing. If you're interviewing at Goldman, you probably don't want to be remembered as the guy with the flashy socks.
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire [#permalink] New post 17 Oct 2010, 11:08
^^^ at least you'd give them a reason a smile for once :)
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Re: JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire   [#permalink] 17 Oct 2010, 11:08
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Interview attire. baer 10 15 Dec 2007, 16:52
Interviews, Presentations and attire 3underscore 15 20 Jun 2007, 11:42
Interview attire in cold cities gmatclb 18 03 Feb 2007, 21:38
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JB's Guide to Dressing & Interview Attire

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