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Dress for the Job You Want

A head librarian in a small rural community recently told me, “I think people who interview for jobs at our library should pay more attention to the style of dress worn by the people who actually work here. For example, we all wear casual slacks or skirts, sweaters, and cotton-knit tops. No one wears suits. I don’t even own a suit, and I’m a bit intimidated by women who do. So a job candidate who comes in here wearing a navy blue pinstriped suit and a silk blouse, while they may look totally appropriate for a law office, is automatically at a disadvantage with me. I would be much more likely to hire an equally well-qualified candidate who came in wearing a nice sweater and khakis, because I would feel they’d be a better fit for our organization and our community.”

Does this mean that you should throw out all your silk and linen interview clothes? Not if the workers at the companies where you plan to interview wear them. But take a covert window-shopping trip to your target job site to see what other people are wearing – and when you go for your interview, dress just a little bit better than the other people in the job position for which you’re applying. For example, if they’re wearing denim, you might wear khaki; if they’re wearing an open-necked shirt, you might want to throw on a sports jacket. And of course, if they’re wearing suits, you should wear one too.

One note: regardless of what your potential co-workers are wearing, never, ever appear at an interview in jeans! And make sure your apparel is modest. Skirts with high slits, shirts with plunging necklines, or shorts of any kind are not acceptable interview attire because, with very few exceptions, they are not acceptable work attire. It’s also not a good idea to accentuate body piercings or tattoos, although there are certainly venues (such as beauty salons, coffeehouses or surf shops) in which displaying these types of body adornments might be acceptable once you’ve got the job.

So find out what your fellow workers wear and dress it up a notch. You’ll stand a much higher chance of landing the perfect job for you.

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