Top Job Recruiters Offer Grads Tips On Dressing For An Interview

Job Interview dress code
Graduates suit up for today's job interview.
REX Shutterstock.

Dress for success. It may sound like an old adage, but when it comes to landing that first job, first impressions can mean everything.

As the class of 2016 receives its diplomas and heads into the working world, the interview is the first step. While logo T-shirts and worn jeans may have been acceptable in college, it’s time to polish one’s image with interview-appropriate attire.

According to Sandra Goldman, VP and senior associate at Philadelphia-based Diversified Search, an executive search firm, candidates should dress according to the industry they’re targeting. For example, the scientific and academic worlds may be more casual than banking, said Goldman, who suggests men seeking opportunities in this arena opt for a button-down shirt with collar, but can leave the tie behind.

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When it comes to more formal work settings in the financial world, Goldman said candidates need to look the part. Here, accessories are key for men and include cuff links and a pair of freshly polished shoes. While classic cap toes and wingtips are a safe bet, a more modern approach is a pair of sleek Chelsea boots or monk strap on a bolder leather sole, especially when paired with today’s slimmer suit silhouettes.

Magnanni monk strap Magnanni’s fresh take on the classic monk strap. Courtesy of brand.

Since women have more fashion options than men, dressing for an interview requires a bit more work. Here, continues Goldman, suits are the way to go for more corporate jobs, footnoted by a closed-toe shoe. But, that doesn’t mean imitating a menswear look. Instead, a softly tailored jacket with slim skirt still gets the message across that you mean business. While Goldman didn’t weigh in on heel heights, leave those five-inch stilettos at home in favor of a more tailored three-inch slingback or pump.

At Menlo, Calif.,-based OfficeTeam, a temporary placement for administrative and office support professionals, regional president Melinda Alison said job seekers should air on the conservative side when it comes to their interview choices. “Hiring managers will not fault you for overdressing,” she said, so guys should opt for a conservative suit in navy, gray or black paired with dark shoes.

Women, on the other hand, can take more liberties, according to Alison. While a suit is a safe bet, a sheath dress worn with a jacket or cardigan is an acceptable option. “Women can vary their look with jewelry, perfume and make-up,” she said, “but don’t overdo.”

SJP Phoebe Suede Pumps SJP opened-up Phoebe pump. Courtesy of brand.

While Alison agrees sandals should be avoided, there are lots of peep-toe looks that are office appropriate, but make sure toes have been treated to a pedicure. And, she noted, bare legs are acceptable in the workplace today.

The bottom line, said Lindsey Thompson, senior associate within the office support and human resources divisions at The Execu Search Group in New York, “If your outfit stands out too much, you run the risk of distracting the interviewer from all the qualities that could make you the right fit for the role. Believe it or not, that more conservative ensemble could mean the difference between a job offer and a rejection.”