Even just by taking what we already are wearing and changing it slightly can send a very different message. For example, a man coming straight from his office job to volunteer at a soup kitchen can show that he’s sincerely ready to jump in and help out simply by removing his tie and rolling up his shirt sleeves.
There are various occasions in our lives when we must be intentional in the statement we are trying to make with our clothing so that what's coming out of our mouth is consistent with what we are saying visually. One of those occasions is the job interview, which so many who are currently out of work are having to go through again.
Now, there are the obvious negative statements you can make with your interview attire. Dressing very sloppy says, "I don't care about how I look, therefore I won't care about your company's image or how I represent your company." Dressing too sexy and dressing too frumpy, even though opposite approaches, can send the same message: "I don't have faith or confidence in my inner qualities and talents, therefore neither should you." But this message is communicated in a different way among these two approaches. Dressing frumpy says, "Since I don't believe in my inner qualities, I'm not going to make an effort to show my inner beauty and talent. It's not worth it," which can send the message that this person also won't make an effort in their work because they don't consider themselves capable. Dressing overtly sexy says, "I don't trust people to accept me for my talents or for who I am on the inside, so I'll just do what's easiest to get their attention." This sends the impression that this person will cut corners in the job and always take the easy approach. Do these examples sound like anyone you would want to hire?
When considering what statements you should be making in your appearance at a job interview, it's important to know what employers are seeking in a potential employee. The overall top skills and traits that all employers look for regardless of the position give you a clue. Below is a list of some of those skills and traits, along with ways to express those skills and traits in your attire:
- Research/analytical skills: If you take the time to do your research on the industry as you should be doing in preparation for an interview, you should also research what is the acceptable type of attire for that particular industry and then dress the part for the interview. For instance, the music industry is more laid back and less conservative. Therefore, showing up for an interview in this industry dressed in a business suit would send the message that you lack those research skills necessary for the job with the music label. Show that you've done your research (and therefore possess those required research skills) by wearing what's appropriate for the particular industry.
- Detail-oriented: Including details in your attire such as a nice watch, up-to-date glasses frames, a nice pair of subtle earrings, etc., sends the message that you pay attention to the details. While in conservative industries less is always more, going into an interview with absolutely no accessories at all sends the message that you are not detail-oriented and that you just prefer to blend in with your surroundings. Remember that you are not the only candidate. You don't want to be forgettable.
- Organizational skills: You send the message that you are a highly organized individual when your clothing is pressed, your shoes are shined, and your hair is styled neatly.
- Flexibility/adaptability: Wearing appropriate layers that lets you have the option to change up your interview attire throughout the day (i.e. being able to go more casual for a plant tour or more dressy for a corporate evening event) says that you are flexible to change and adaptable in different environments.
- Interpersonal skills: You can show your people skills by wearing a blouse or a tie in a color that brings warmth to your face, which depends on your personal skin tone. Also, one of your accessories can be a sentimental piece or heirloom that, when commented on, you can share the story behind it which makes you more human and relatable.
- Leadership skills: Dark and navy blue are colors that project authority, so a navy blue suit is perfect for an interview for a position that is a leadership role in the company. Also, dressing one step above the job for which you are applying indicates that you have goals to move up into leadership positions in the future.
- Creativity: You can show your ability to be both professional and creative by adding a single statement piece to an otherwise conservative look, one that reflects your personal creativity. Having more than one statement piece is going overboard for an interview.