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The Interviewing Uniform for Men and Women

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This is the simplest step to winning the interview, because there is only one interview uniform for men. Tested over time, it still works consistently:

  • Dark (preferably Navy blue) conservative two piece business suit. Single breasted. Any pattern should be subtle. Wool and wool blends look better and last longer. Have it custom tailored for the proper fit. When you look your best, you'll perform your best.
  • Gray may be worn, but save it for the second interview. Lead with the dark blue suit, and you'll be more likely to be back in the gray one.
  • White, long sleeved dress shirt. Laundered and starched commercially. Wear a fresh one for each interview. Your interviewer won't wear a monogram, so you shouldn't. Collar style should be current; and, if French cuffs are worn, cuff links should not be too large or reflect any religious, fraternal, or service affiliation. They should also be the same finish as your watch.

  • Dark, striped tie. Here, too, dark blue is best. A contrasting color (like red) is acceptable, but the predominant color should be the same as your suit. Silk or other thin fabrics are recommended.
  • Black dress shoes. Almost any style is acceptable, as long as they can be polished well, and are. Check yours for needed repair work. If they're old or odd, replace them.
These four items comprise the all American male look. Almost every image consultant agrees on its positive effect. I once appeared on a radio talk show with a famous designer who commented that when it comes to business wear, "men's fashion" is a contradiction in terms. There are no trends. Only tried and true (blue) tradition.

As for the rest of you (head and hands), your hair should be clean, neat, and conservatively cut. Keep any sprays or other hair dressings to an absolute minimum no "wet look." Nails should be neatly trimmed. Leave diamond rings and any religious or organization jewelry at home. Your wedding band or school ring is acceptable.

Although there is far more interview fashion flexibility for women, important guidelines exist.
  • A conservative suit or dress in a high quality, dark colored fabric is best. Navy and gray are rated high for sincerity. Brown and tan are not. Avoid high hemlines regardless of the current fad. Knee length is the highest your hem should be.
A suit should be paired with a business blouse or tailored shirt. While it doesn't have to have a "business bow," it shouldn't have a plunging neckline, either.
  • Shoes should be simple, heels not too high, real leather in a dark color that matches or complements your clothes.
  • Hosiery should be new, natural color or the color of your shoes.
  • Jewelry, if worn, should be kept to a minimum. Good, simple gold and silver accessories are okay. (No jewelry should reflect any religious or organizational affiliation.) Flashy fashion jewelry is out.
  • Handbag should not be too large, should be real leather, the color of your shoes, and in good condition. Don't stuff it until it bulges.
Women should show an awareness of current fashion, without being a slave to it. It will pay in the long run to invest in at least two well coordinated interview uniforms. Your look should be conservative even classic but current.
  • Don't wear much makeup or "mod" colors.
  • Don't wear heavy perfume.
  • Trim nails to an inconspicuous length and avoid bright nail polish colors. Invest in a professional manicure for the best look.
  • Hair should be clean, shiny, and neatly and conservatively styled. Long hair should be pinned up or back. Curls cascading below your collar give the wrong impression.
There is increasing evidence that extremely attractive women are not hired as readily by men or women. Don't flaunt or you'll flunk.

For both men and women, regardless of the position, a quality attaché case is a necessity. It is businesslike and helps you identify with the interviewer. Dark brown and burgundy are the most popular colors, but I prefer black for men because it matches the shoes.

The case should be stocked neatly with a small container of instant coffee (I'm about to tell you why) or a few regular tea bags, mouthwash, deodorant, cologne, nonsmoking tablets (if necessary), a comb or brush, a gold pen with black ink, a legal pad, six extra copies of your resume, a completed application, and a few samples of your written or published work, if applicable.

These are few and far between. Highly creative art, fashion, and entertainment jobs are about the only places you'll find them. However, looking the part of the job you hope to find is far less effective than looking the part of the person who will hire you for it.

Even in fad and fashion industries, human resources still prefer a conservative look. They often make their decisions in committees "clubs" consisting of other corporate clones. If you don't wear their middle class and middle management uniform, they'll think you belong with a rival gang.

Still, you can dress differently for an interview in such situations, if you know what the interviewer will be wearing. When in doubt, find out by a phone call to a receptionist.

Remember the internal balance I talked about earlier in this section? In addition to the right timing and preparation, giving a good interview performance requires the right fuel. You should appear for an interview rested and relaxed.

I highly recommend coffee to keep you alert. Caffeine has a predictable, positive, harmless effect for interviewing purposes. It causes the neurons in the brain cells to fire faster. This actually helps you store and retrieve information readily. It's also a metabolism booster that raises your energy level. Both of these effects improve your delivery.

If coffee doesn't agree with you, try regular tea instead. It's less powerful, but has fewer side effects. Over the counter tab lets should be avoided because their concentration of caffeine is higher or more dangerous drugs are used.

Eating a light snack about a half hour before the interview helps you avoid a stomach growl as you smile. It also prevents a sudden drop in your blood sugar level, which can make you snap or snore. The perfect snacks are those packages of cheese and peanut butter cracker sandwiches. They contain just the right proportions of carbohydrate, protein, and bulk. The salt reduces the diuretic effect of the coffee, so you won't have to leave for the restroom as the offer is being extended. Avoid fruit and candy; they accelerate the drop in blood sugar levels.

Then again, if you use breath spray, he or she probably won't get that close. Mints? They don't help bad breath and aren't even good ammo. Gum? Not if you want to get hired.
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