We hear this phrase all too often, but what does it mean in today’s job market? How are we expected to dress for a networking event? Does it vary from a first interview? A second interview?

How much impact does that first impression have and does it matter what you are wearing? The answer is absolutely YES, it matters. It matters a lot. Another cliché: you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that first impression is crucial when you are on the job-hunt. We’ve discussed in earlier issues how your résumé is your marketing tool, and it is indeed marketing a product, that product is YOU. Now how are you going to package that product?

When you go to the grocery store to buy a can of soup, do you buy the can that is perfectly intact or the one with the ripped label and a dent on the side? The contents of the cans may be exactly the same, but which one has the better chance of being purchased off the shelf? It may sound like a silly analogy, but think about it. Two equally qualified candidates with very similar résumés come in for an interview and one is neatly dressed in business attire, well-groomed and ready to make a positive first impression. The other has face piercings, slovenly clothing, hasn’t shaved and dirty fingernails. Hmmm… who will be considered for the job? While there are a few unique company exceptions and although internal dress codes may be more relaxed, there is still a standard for interviewing and that standard airs on the side of conservative.

One of the first things a potential employer sees when they meet you is your attire and it is important to be properly dressed. Statistically, 55% of another person's perception of you is based on how you look. While it may not guarantee you the job, it may give you the competitive edge and set a positive landscape for the interview process.

So how should you dress? The rule of thumb is that conservative is the safest scenario, but it never hurts to do your homework. Call Human Resources and ask what is appropriate. If you know someone who works at the company, ask what a typical day looks like at the office or if possible, go to the office and observe employees coming in/out. (Just make sure it’s not a casual or dress down day).
The following are some basic attire/grooming guidelines to keep in mind:

Both Men and Women

• Conservative two-piece business suit (solid, dark colors, navy and
charcoal grey are favorable)
• Conservative long-sleeved shirt/blouse (white is preferable)
• Clean, polished conservative shoes
• Well-groomed hairstyle
• Clean, trimmed fingernails
• No cologne or perfume
• Empty pockets
• No gum, candy, or cigarettes
• Light briefcase or portfolio case
• No visible body piercing (nose rings, eyebrow rings, etc.) or tattoos
• No religious symbols, crosses, stars, etc.


• Conservative necktie
• Dark shoes
• Dark socks
• Neat haircut
• Clean shave; no 5 o’clock shadows, and mustaches must be neat and trimmed
• No beards
• No jewelry except for wedding rings, college rings and remove earrings


• Suit with a jacket and skirt or slacks; no dresses, no short skirts
• Shoes with conservative heels, no spikes or boots
• Skin colored hosiery (even in hot weather)
• Well manicured nails with a conservative color and no chips
• Natural looking makeup
• No excessive jewelry, one set of earrings only

Consider the above before you go on your job interview. Not only will it enhance your chances for landing the job, the better you are dressed, the more confident you will feel and that will shine through. Remember that the first impression is irreversible.

Author's Bio: 

Michelle A. Riklan is an international award winning, certified professional résumé writer, career coach, employment interview consultant and published author. Her website is www.riklanresources.com. She can be reached at Michelle@riklanresources.com.