Half asleep, listening to the early morning news shows, I was struck by all the advice that “job experts” seem to dole out each week, that are inspirational, but seem to have little bearing on this new economy. Somehow dusting off your resume and donning your best suit seems so old school, and for some looking for work outside the corporate sector, this style might actually be working against you.
More and more we are hearing from members that they have not gotten a job because they were over-qualified. This might be the case, but in truth I don’t know many employers that would jump at the chance to have someone really on the ball take a position at their company, even if it seems crazy that they would want it. It’s like the nerd being asked out by the prom queen….who is going to say no? More often I think this excuse is used to overcome a perceived disconnect in work styles, which may be communicated through language and demeanor, but also might be something as simple as dress.
Who in this economy has not seen someone applying to a position at retail outlet or fast food establishment in a suit? It’s great that you want to look professional, but an employer wants to know that you can fit in, and so key to getting a job in this market, is dressing the part. This is not license to dress like a slob, but instead to make slight adjustments based on where you are applying. Here are some simple guidelines.
For the Men:
- A collared Oxford Shirt, Navy or Kahki Pants and Belt will serve you well 90% of the time. A polo shirt is also acceptable in warmer months, but in both cases take a minute to make sure that your cloths fit well and are free of stains and wrinkles.
- Add a tie only if seeking a managerial position, and a jacket/suit if you will be working in a more traditional corporate environment or with clients.
- Sneakers are not acceptable footwear, unless they fall into the hipster/camper category.
- Piercings, jewelry and visible tattoos should be removed or well covered
- Hair (on your head and face) should be well groomed
For the Women:
- Dress pants and a plain blouse or sweater are ideal for women 75% of the time. For more of a corporate environment, we suggest wearing a pencil skirt or dress that falls to just above the knee or below. Jeans are never okay, even the ones you spent an entire paycheck on. And like the men, it is important to check to ensure that the cloths are well fitting and neat.
- Flats or low heels are preferred footwear to wear to a first meeting. Dress boots are also okay, but should not have anything tucked into them. Sneakers are a no go.
- Makeup and jewelry should be kept to the bare minimum. Studs or small hoops for earrings, single bracelet or watch on wrists, lipstick, mascara, blush and just a hint of perfume. A little dab will do you.
- Hair should be nicely quaffed or pulled back, as my mother said people want to see your eyes.
- Facial piercings or visible tattoos should be removed or well covered. Bra straps should never be showing, nor should any cleavage or excessive leg.
In the end, employers want people working with them who not only represent their organization well, but fit in with themselves and their colleagues. So think before you walk out the door. First impressions do mean a lot.