by GRACE ORTELERE
The New Year may mean a new job. It’s that time, especially for college students looking for their first job or internship – interview time.
It is amazing how well education systems prepare us for that first interview. Advisers encouraged us to take an extra finance class, career services helped us format our cover letters, and teaching assistants helped us perfect our excel skills that we will use too often in the future.
However, all of that could be trumped by a failed first impression. Psychological studies show that hiring managers form opinions about your personality and intelligence within the first 30 seconds of your interview.
As a recent college graduate myself, the question of how I should dress for my interviews confounded me. My lawyer parents suggested I wear a suit, which for my field would have been too formal and awkward. But even my counterparts interviewing for investment banking jobs seemed to know next to nothing about what suit to pick and how to wear it.
For a more serious business interview, I happen to like solid navy suits for men interviewing. It surprised me to see my peers in their black suits for interview season. Don’t wear a black suit. If you don’t like navy, go with charcoal gray.
Wear a clean white dress shirt or a light blue shirt. Add a silk tie with a stripe. Silk ties make a nicer knot and dimple, and it will show in your interview. The striped pattern keeps the look conservative and professional.
Guys, I beg of you – wear calf-length dress socks. You do not want to flash your interviewers some of that naked, hairy leg when you sit down. If you can’t find your dress socks in the pile in your dorm room closet, run out and buy a pair that matches the color of your suit (navy or gray).
I love the confidence a white pocket square adds to a suit, but I think it’s too showy for an interview. You can look forward to wearing a pocket square for your first day of work and every day thereafter after you ace this interview.
Black shoes are boring with a navy suit. Go with a brown pair. Make sure they’re well-polished, and match the color of your belt to your shoes.
Maybe you’re not the next wolf of Wall Street and have a more relaxed interview. First, it is completely acceptable to ask the HR contact or your interviewer what people typically wear to the office. Dress one level above his or her response. For example, if the atmosphere is described as “business casual,” wear dress pants and a sportcoat. If they wear jeans, you wear natural colored chinos and suede chukka boots.
Play with prints for a more fashion-forward look. Stand out by wearing a blue gingham shirt instead of the boring white your poor investment banker friends have to live with. The other day, a coworker of mine wore a plaid shirt, polka dot tie and tie bar and looked impeccable. That’s the kind of look that gets you noticed.
Questions about an upcoming interview? Lessons you learned going through the interview process yourself? Share with us in the comments section below.