13 – Dress for Success

13 – Dress for Success

Dress for Success

They say that clothes make the man – but can clothes also get the man, or woman, the job? Today’s podcast is titled “Dress For Success”. During this segment, eClips contributors will share their thoughts on how attire plays a role in the interview process.

Transcript

Marino: You don’t want to go in underdressed in a situation where you’re trying to impress people and put your best foot forward.

Polk: It’s just as important to be as professional when you’re interviewing for a job in fashion because you still want to be taken seriously.

Melchiorre: Just because we’re telling you to be conservative and just professional, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a personality.

Kristen: Welcome to “Sound Advice” – the brief audio download that brings the best of eClips to you. I’m Kirsten Barker.

They say that clothes make the man – but can clothes also get the man, or woman, the job? Today’s podcast is titled “Dress For Success”. During this segment, eClips contributors will share their thoughts on how attire plays a role in the interview process.

We’ll start off with a comment from Lori Marino. Marino is managing corporate counsel at Avaya, the telecommunications equipment company. She states that even though business attire has taken a more casual direction over the past decade, wearing a suit to the first meeting is always a good idea.

Marino: I think going into interviews, you need to make some assumptions about the place that you’re going and your assumptions maybe wrong, they may be way off but I think you need to make the assumption that where you’re going is a place that’s formal and that has an expectation that the people that are coming to work are going to show up dressed appropriately and so you will find a lot of companies today that are dressed casual, that are business casual, some are just casual on Fridays, some are just casual on Fridays during the summer, some are casual all the time now. I think you really can’t think about that when you’re about to step into an interview. You shouldn’t ask before you go in to the interview you know, oh, is your company casual or are you business casual because they might say yes, and if they do say yes, that’s a good piece of information to know but it’s probably not something that should factor into what you decide to wear that day. So my advice would be dress appropriately, dress… you know, put on the suit for the day, get in your nice clothes, it’s a lot easier to feel overdressed in a casual environment. I think also putting on a suit makes a lot of people and for me at least early in my career made me feel more comfortable, it made me feel more professional. It put me a little more on my game if you will, when you went in to the interview because you felt a little more put together and maybe a little less comfortable, which is a good thing in an interview and so my advice would be err on the side… err on the conservative side, err on the overdressed side, you never want to go in and feel like, even if you look like everybody else there, you don’t want to go in underdressed in a situation where you’re trying to impress people and put your best foot forward.

Kristen: So now you know you are going to wear a suit. Should you try to make a fashion statement? Amy Breitberg began her professional career in Citigroup’s Financial Division as part of their analyst program. She is currently working in the Strategy and Planning Department and shares her thoughts on what she expects from young professionals who are interviewing with her company.

Breitberg: Definitely a dark suit. Pants or skirt is fine I found. I think you can wear nail polish but I would keep it on the lighter side, something more of a neutral color. In terms of do … I believe makeup is fine too but just everything kind of toned down, don’t put on bright red lipstick and in the interview room, it might just be a distraction to the person who’s interviewing you as well. They’ll be focusing more on that than on what you’re actually saying.

Kristen: But what if you are interviewing for a position within the fashion industry itself? Should you wear something that shows an understanding of current trends?

Rasheedah Polk is a recent college graduate and is a Planner for Missy Sportswear at Lord & Taylor. She states that the interview is more about expressing your capabilities than your sense of fashion.

Polk: Especially for working in the fashion industry, a lot of women think that it’s okay to wear something that’s trendy and you know, could be a little more revealing or bright and I think you know, they get that impression because you work in the fashion industry that you want to show them that you are … you know, you’re aware of the trends and you know what’s in, but I think it’s just as important to be as professional when you’re interviewing for a job in fashion because you still want to be taken seriously and you want them to you know, know what your capabilities are in here and not necessarily what you’re wearing and it really is a distraction no matter where you’re interviewing.

Kristen: Following on this point, Maren Kasper, an Account Business Manager at Colgate-Palmolive, expresses her ideas on how to dress for an interview.

Kasper: I would say as conservative as you possibly can be. I would say absolutely a suit. It doesn’t matter if these people wear jeans to work everyday and you know that. I would say a suit unless they explicitly tell you, do not wear a suit, but if they leave it open-ended, we’re casual. You still may not know what that means, especially in New York. I would say, you know, button up shirts, button it as far as you can go, don’t choke yourself, but button it. I would say sleeves are a definite, long sleeves if possible, I just, you know, if you’re gonna play with your hair pull it back. That would be another tip I would give, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to take any sort of risk there. You know jewelry especially, tone down the jewelry, it won’t hurt you where it will hurt you is if it’s too much. So nobody’s going to ever say she didn’t have enough jewelry on, you could hear that was just a lot. It’s judgmental but it happens. So I think it needs to be taken into consideration.

Kristen: Does all this mean that you have to give up your individuality and become a corporate clone in a dark suit to get the job offer? Not necessarily, states Cheryl Melchiorre, a Manager at Deloitte Consulting. Melchiorre shares an experience from an interview she recently conducted where a little touch of individuality made the candidate more memorable.

Melchiorre: Just because we’re telling you to be conservative and just professional, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a personality. I recently interviewed a woman who wore a stunning black suit to the interview and her shoes were black pumps with a little bow that was leopard skin and it was fabulous and everyone of us in the interview, there was a ten panel and there were four sections of this interview, it was a very long day for the interviewees. Every one of us not only remembered what her articulation of our answers was but we remembered the shoes and that also made her stand out. So show a little bit of your personality.

Kristen: So dress conservatively and feel free to express a bit of personality in your attire but be careful how far you take it. Barbara Lang is a founder of RTR Ideas which helps culinary professionals take products from restaurant to retail. She also served for 17 years as a lecturer at Cornell’s Hotel School and in this lecture on Interviewing Skills, she shares a personal experience where she got some surprising signals from a student…

Lang: There was a student of mine at the hotel school that clearly… I am heterosexual but my god I was looking at her bust. I mean she was flowing, she was clearly sending a signal to every sex. I don’t know what it was but it wasn’t an appropriate signal. She didn’t get the job… that’s a whole other story. But that would be true. You want to be careful that your clothes are not too tight, that you’re not putting attention to that.

Kristen: We’ll close with a comment from Jacie Stivers. Stivers is the founder and owner of Commercial Investment Real Estate which is based in Florida. She adds that what you wear professionally remains important long after the initial interview and eventual job offer.

Stivers: I was at ICSC last May, which is the International Council of Shopping Center. It’s a huge organization, it’s the most successful real estate organization in terms of networking and education outside of the CCIM. But it’s much bigger. There are about 45,000 people who go to this convention every year and they had a women’s session and I was interested in going just to hear what would be said. So they had a panel of very successful woman and then they had a question and answer period. And there were three or four women who got to ask questions and out of those three or four women two of them said…stood up and said, I want to be accepted. I want to walk up to a group and say something and have the men listen to me. Rather than I say something, a man repeats it and everybody looks at the man and says, that’s a great idea. And then I looked at the women who were saying this…one of them had on flip-flops and Capri pants and another woman had on a sweat suit and it wouldn’t have mattered to me if that was a woman or a man that her presentation wasn’t professional and if it had been a young man who had walked up to me in surf shorts and a t-shirt and flip-flops at a convention I wouldn’t have…I wouldn’t have regarded his input very seriously either.

Kristen: Thanks for listening to this segment. If you are interested in hearing more from any of our featured speakers, or would like to hear more advice from our experts on how to successfully navigate the job search process, please check our website at eclips.cornell.edu.

That’s E-C-L-I-P-S. cornell.edu.

And remember, if it is a business topic of interest, eClips will bring you “Sound Advice”…


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